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TRACKING THE GRADS: Walton's 3-pointer caps historic comeback for UW basketball team
SEATTLE — Washington was down big, but not out, rallying from a 19-point deficit to beat San Diego State 59-58 on Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena. Talia Walton knocked down a long three in the final seconds to give UW the lead as the Huskies completed eighth-largest comeback in NCAA history.
Washington trailed by as many as 19 in the second half, but a late comeback brought the Huskies back within striking distance in the final moments.
That set the stage for Walton, a Federal Way High School graduate, who undoubtedly knocked down the biggest shot of her young career.
"I told Jazmine with three minutes left, the person guarding me on defense doesn't really get to me until five seconds," said Walton. "I told her in transition, I will go right to that spot and she can find me there. She didn't the first time, but the second time she looked like she was in trouble so I screamed her name and she got it to me and I just shot it. It felt good leaving my hand."
Walton's shot was setup by a Mercedes Wetmore jumper that brought UW within two with 19 seconds remaining. Washington then fouled and San Diego State missed the front end of a 1 and 1. Walton rebounded the miss and hit Jazmine Davis with the outlet. Davis rushed up the floor eventually finding Walton at the top of the key as she trailed on the play.
"We had a play drawn up, and we knew what we had to do in transition to get a good shot," said head coach Kevin McGuff. "It was great to see us go out and execute, put ourselves in position, and get a good look at it. Talia stepped up to take a big shot."
Asked for one word to describe the game, McGuff paused and responded, "Clutch."
"That is kind of Talia's thing, though. She is not afraid to take a big shot. I think that is going to serve her well and I think she can be really special, partly because of that mindset."
Walton finished with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Wetmore, an Auburn Riverside grad, had a season-high 13 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field.
San Diego State did its best to keep Washington's leading scorers Davis and Kristi Kingma frustrated throughout the game, but Walton and Wetmore, along with Aminah Williams picked up the slack. Williams had her third double-double of the year, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
She credited the Huskies effort for the big comeback.
"I think the key was just coming and putting up effort," said Williams. "Coach always talks about the team who plays with the most effort finishing on top. I think just giving effort so when shots weren't going our way, we still were on the boards and causing turnovers. I think that helped."
The Aztecs led 31-23 at the half and increased its lead as the second half wore on. SDSU's 19-point lead came with 12:31 to play as Washington looked as it couldn't handle the Moutain West Conference Champs and NCAA Tournament team of a year ago.
However, a 8-0 run with threes from Davis and Williams brought UW back within 11 as the defensive stops began to pile up. Washington held San Diego State without a field goal from the 8:51 mark in the second half to the 2:28 mark. Before the bucket at 2:28, the Dawgs trailed by just two as Walton and Davis had completed making back-to-back 3's.
San Diego State refused to roll over, scoring twice in a row and regaining a six-point lead with 1:54 to play. Walton then scored three the hard way, making a contested jumper that drew an and-1 call.
Davis then spilt a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining to make it 56-54, before San Diego State regained a four-point lead when UW was forced to foul and the Aztecs made their free throws.
That set the stage for the big jumper from Wetmore, the Aztecs missed free throw and the eventual game winner from Walton. San Diego State did have a final possession, but ball pressure from the Huskies forced a hurried shot that clanked off the iron.
The win moves Washington to 6-1, matching its best start since 2002 when the Dawgs began 9-1. San Diego State fell to 4-3, although both players and coaches referred to the Aztecs as the best team it has seen thus far and a probable tournament team.
Washington now moves into a bit of a layoff for final exams and will not play again until December 15 and 16 when UC Santa Barbara and Idaho come to town. The back-to-back weekend will feature a pair of 1 p.m. games at Alaska Airlines Arena.