On Thanksgiving day, the Huskies showed up to the Puerto Rico Clasico basketball tournament and cooked Iona’s goose (turkey?) with a fairly dominant 65 -34 win.
Iona’s 34 points was its lowest scoring output this season, as well as the fewest points by a Washington opponent since 2010.
The Huskies offense was led by Khayla Rooks, who scored a career high 17 points (6 of 8 field goals) along with 3 rebounds and 1 assist.
Washington put forth a balanced effort with Haley Van Dyke and Amber Melgoza each contributing 12 points for the Huskies.
Melgoza also led Washington with 4 Assists (plus 2 Turnovers) and a very good 2 to 1 Assist to Turnover ratio.
Darcy Rees was a force on the boards, leading the Huskies with 5 total rebounds — 3 defensive and 2 offensive.
But the headline was Rooks shooting 5 of 6 from three-point range, amid her impressive scoring spree that occurred mostly in the third quarter.
Third Quarter of Doom
The Huskies defense limited the Iona Gaels to just five points in the third quarter (2 of 13 FG shooting).
Meanwhile, Khayla Rooks single-handedly outscored Iona by tallying 11 of Washington’s 19 third quarter points.
Most importantly, Rooks played a confident all-around floor game.
Rooks was an active ball-handler showing good decision-making, in particular, not forcing passes as she has sometimes done in the past.
For the Huskies, Rooks’ performance is a promising indicator of her progress as a player since last season.
Good Defensive Effort with Room for Improvement
The Huskies defense generally smothered the Gaels offense with superior depth, length and athleticism at every position, preventing Iona from scoring in double digits in any quarter.
Washington entered the game ranked in the Top 20 of the statistical category Opponents Points Allowed at 50.0 per game.
Limiting Iona to only 34 points was a statistical home run by the Huskies, who deserve full credit for the final result.
However, if we look closer at the Huskies defensive effort we can still find areas of concern, some mild and some major.
The Huskies forced 19 turnovers from Iona, well short of UW’s average of 26.8 forced turnovers per game.
Furthermore, Iona came into the contest averaging 20 turnovers per game, so Washington forcing one less turnover than Iona’s average is worthy of some concern.
As we indicated in our game preview,
Iona’s #14 Morgan Rachu is their best shooter*, so the Huskies defense will need to keep track of her on the court.
Rachu led the Iona Gaels with 12 points, the only Gael to finish in double figures; and Rachu was also the Gaels’ leading rebounder with a game-high eight rebounds. Rachu was averaging 13.8 points per game so it is a (minor) win for UW’s defense to hold her 2 points below her average.
On the other hand, Washington was holding opponents to an average of 9.0 assists per game, but Iona managed to record 10 assists. However, limiting an opponent to only 10 assisted baskets is still a very good effort and another win for the UW defense.
Overall, the Huskies held the Gaels to just 26.8% FG shooting, significantly better than their season average of limiting opponents to 32.3% FG shooting.
However, our game preview identified the Huskies’ ability to defend and deny Iona’s three-point opportunities as the main point of concern entering the game:
On paper, Washington is far superior in almost every offensive category with a glaring exception — Iona ranks 4th in the nation with a 44.1% 3-Point rate; meanwhile the Huskies defense is allowing opponents a 3-point rate of 29% which ranks them 187th. (per HerHoopStats)
A 15% difference in three-point shot production between offense versus defense is substantial and it is a sure sign that the Huskies defense must emphasize denying Iona three-point shot opportunities.
Iona’s 44% 3-point rate — a measure of what % of a team’s shots come from long-distance — was even higher against the Dawgs — 48.7% ; and much greater than the Huskies defensive average of 29%. This is a major concern.
The Huskies defense did not do a good job limiting Iona’s three-point opportunities, and that is a defensive vulnerability that PAC-12 caliber teams can and will exploit.
Against the Dawgs, the Gaels shot 30% (6-20) from behind the three-point line, better than the Huskies defensive average of 26.7%, but still not a great percentage– thereby, letting the Huskies defense off the hook.
For example, last season many PAC-12 opponents averaged well over 30% from three-point distance, including Oregon (41.3%); Oregon State (37.6%); California (37.5%); Stanford (34.8%); WSU (34.9%) — and that is only their average, not what they shoot against bad three-point defense.
It’s not all bad, presumably Iona only shot 30% because Washington was able to affect the quality of Iona’s three-point opportunities by contesting or hurrying their shots with defensive pressure.
The UW Huskies domination of Iona with a very good defensive effort shows promising progression, yet the Huskies must challenge themselves to achieve an even greater defensive performance to sustain their success.