For the Washington Huskies, a mostly solid first game effort led to a 87 -74 win over an overmatched (but aggressively competitive) Utah Tech that competed until the end.
The Washington Huskies got off to a slow start in the first quarter of their season opener against Utah Tech, allowing the Trailblazers a 9-0 scoring run in the first three minutes.
Utah Tech finished the quarter with a 21-20 lead over the Huskies.
Washington came out stronger in the second quarter, as the Huskies’ 6-0 run gave UW a 31-26 lead which they rode to a 39-35 halftime lead.
The Huskies avoided a repeat of last season’s notorious 3rd quarter blahs by starting the third quarter off with a 7-0 run, ultimately finishing the third with a 67-53 lead over the Trailblazers — UW outscored Tech 28-18 in the third period.
Unfortunately, the Huskies were not as strong in the fourth quarter — Washington allowed Utah Tech to start the fourth quarter with a 6-2 run and only out scored Utah Tech by one point in the final period.
However, the Dawgs reasserted their dominance down the stretch and went home with a 87-74 victory.
For the game, Washington outrebounded Utah Tech 44- 29, as well as shooting 61.9% on two-pointers (26 for 42) and 25% from three-point range (8-32) demonstrating that their inside dominance was the difference in the game.
Washington Graduate transfer Emma Grothaus led the way with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
A double-double on her first night as a husky? We see you @EmmaGrothaus 👀🔥
Likewise, the Huskies shot a favorable 33% from three-point range (3 for 6) in the first 10 seconds of their offensive possession.
Overall, the majority of UW’s offensive possessions (45.7%) resulted in a shot between the 10-20 seconds mark of their 30-seconds offensive possessions – suggesting efficient ball movement as well as player movement.
The Huskies were highly successful shooting 66.7% on two-pointers (10 for 15) during this time period, which overshadowed their three-point struggles — 23.1% shooting and 3 for 13 from long distance.
Mostly Solid Defense
Defensively, the Huskies looked much more aggressive than last season, instead of just the usual defensive stalwarts, i.e., Jayda Noble, TT Watkins and Haley Van Dyke.
Darcy Rees received limited playing time but demonstrated her usually solid post defense, including recording a blocked shot down low.
Notably, the Huskies received a stellar defensive effort from frosh Elle Ladine.
Laura Schwartz showed noticeably improved player-to-player defense.
Promising Freshmen Contributions
In 18 minutes of play, Elle Ladine had a significant positive impact on the Washington victory. Ladine shot 66.7% on two-pointers ( 2 for 3) and 25% from three-point range (1 for 4).
More importantly, Ladine grabbed four rebounds and dished out five assists (with only 2 turnovers), as well as being a disruptor on defense.
Elle Ladine looks like she will be a key player off the bench for the Dawgs.
In 22 minutes, Hannah Stines showed why she was such a coveted recruit with a very mature floor game for a freshman that was not fully reflected in the box score.
Although Stines was only 1 for 4 shooting from the field (all three-point attempts), her shot selection was good and UW should expect better shooting from Stines in the future.
Stines also had three rebounds, one steal and one block in a pretty solid outing.
(Defensively, however, Stines’ defensive play is an area needing improvement as she lacked PAC-12 level aggressiveness in the passing lane and on-ball.)
UW’s Transition Defense Needs Improvement
Washington’s early shot clock defense was not good, especially defending the three-point line as Utah Tech shot 75% (6 for 8) from three point range in the first 10 seconds of their offense.
UW’s transition defense must improve, particularly in finding and putting pressure on opposing three-point shooters.
More Dalayah Daniels Needed
The good news is the Huskies managed to win with a subpar performance from 6’4 transfer Dalayah Daniels.
The bad news is that is not a likely scenario during PAC-12 play.
In 20 minutes of play, Daniels totaled eight points and two rebounds.
Dalayah Daniels shot a strong 42.9% on two-pointers (3 for 7) but only had seven shot attempts overall.
To her credit, Daniels did not force any shots and was efficient with the few opportunities she had — i.e., she handled it like the pro she will eventually be.
However, when the Huskies began running their offense, Daniels was often buried deep in the low post and surrounded by two or three defenders, — clearly, it was Utah Tech’s defensive gameplan to make other Huskies beat them and it was effective.
The effectiveness of Tech’s defensive gameplan is demonstrated by Dalayah Daniels’ low usage rate of 23.8%.
To (lightly) explain, a player’s usage rate is a good measure of how much they are the primary offensive option for their team.
Generally, a player’s efficiency decreases as their usage rate rises — ideally, a team’s best players operate efficiently at higher usage rates which allows supporting players to shoulder less of the load with lower usage rates.
To be blunt, a 23.8% usage rate is too low for a player of Dalayah Daniels’ caliber and it results in a greater burden being placed on her teammates, who fortunately answered the call against Utah Tech.
For comparison’s sake, Trinity Oliver (23.3% usage rate); Emma Grothaus (22.0%) and Elle Ladine (22.0%) all had similar usage rates to Daniels; while Darcy Rees had a higher 37.5% usage rate (yet highly efficient six points in seven minutes on 50% shooting overall and 60% shooting on two-pointers).
All of this matters for the team’s long-term success, so that when the Huskies face PAC-12 level defense UW can operate its offense as close to peak team efficiency as possible.
Letting Daniels move around the floor to take advantage of her inside-outside versatility will be key to putting the most pressure on PAC-12 defenses.
At the same time, a dominant Daniels can facilitate other talented Huskies (e.g., Haley Van Dyke, Darcy Rees and a multitude of versatile wings) elevating their games so that Daniels is not the sole target of opposing defenses.
Ultimately, for the 2022-23 Huskies to be the best version of themselves, UW will need to find ways to get Dalayah Daniels more ball touches and shots in their offense.