March 21, 2001
REGIONAL: West, semifinals.
TIME: Saturday, 12:37 a.m. EST.
SITE: Spokane Arena, Spokane, Wash.
A two-game losing streak to end the regular season forced Washington to travel more than 3,000 miles for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Since then, the Huskies have earned the right to play their first regional semifinal game since 1995 much closer to home.
The Huskies hope to continue their dramatic turnaround season in Spokane, Wash., where they will face No. 2 Oklahoma.
"It would have been a real disappointment to have the Sweet 16 regional in our backyard and not be in it," Washington senior guard Megan Franza said after the Huskies stunned third-seeded Florida 87-75 on the Gators' home court Sunday.
After squandering their opportunity to capture the outright Pac-10 crown with the back-to-back losses, the Huskies snuck past No. 11 Old Dominion 67-65 on Loree Payne's buzzer-beating jumper and defeated Florida to leave the East Coast as an unlikely participant in the round of 16.
Washington was 8-22 last season and was picked by many to finish at the bottom of the Pac-10 again this season. But the Huskies made the biggest turnaround in conference history, earning a share of the league title with Stanford and Arizona State.
"Resilience is the word," Huskies coach June Daugherty said of her team. "We had two losses at the beginning of the season, and a lot of people thought we were done. But then again, we fought back with our resiliency, and we bounced back big going back to Spokane for the Sweet 16. We're real excited about it."
Despite the familiar surroundings, the Huskies should be in for a major battle with a formidable Oklahoma team.
Faced with a size mismatch at every position against 10th-seeded Stanford on Monday, the smaller Sooners nevertheless overwhelmed the Cardinal en route to a 67-50 victory and their second straight appearance in the regional semifinals.
LaNeisha Caufield scored 18 points and teammates Caton Hill and Stacey Dales added 14 apiece as Oklahoma outworked Stanford for a startling 52-34 rebounding advantage.
"Every player on our roster was smaller than them," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "That should give you some indication of why I'm so proud of these kids."
The Sooners don't figure to face the same height disadvantage against Washington, which employs a smaller lineup.
Oklahoma lost 102-80 to eventual national champion Connecticut in last season's regional semifinal and has never advanced beyond the round of 16.
Washington has not made it to a regional final since 1990.
The Huskies beat the Sooners 83-64 in Seattle during the 1987-88 season, the only meeting between the schools.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Washington - F Andrea Lalum (8.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), F LeAnn Sheets (7.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Payne (10.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg), G Franza (16.4 ppg, 3.7 ppg), G Giuliana Mendiola (10.8 ppg, 6.3 apg). Oklahoma - F Jennifer Cunningham (6.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), F Hill (12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg), G Sunny Hardeman (6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg), G Caufield (16.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), G Dales (16.4 ppg, 5.3 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Washington - At-large bid, Pac-10, def. Old Dominion 67-65, first round, def. Florida 86-75, second round. Oklahoma - At-large bid, Big 12 Conference, def. Oral Roberts 70-64, first round, def. Stanford 67-50, second round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Washington - 13-12, 13 years. Oklahoma - 6-3, 4 years.