LAS VEGAS -- After winning just two games during conference play, Missy Peterson and her Washington teammates were thrilled to pull off the only upset of the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Peterson matched her career-high with 23 points and the 11th-seeded Huskies beat six-seed Utah 64-54 on Thursday night.
"Wins in this conference or Division I basketball period is huge," Peterson said. "Nobody is an easy game. We knew Utah was going to be hard. We weren't ready for it to be our last game. We wanted one more."
Washington (10-20) trailed 26-24 with 4:35 left in the second quarter before scoring the final 10 points of the half. Peterson had the first eight points of that burst. The Huskies kept the momentum going in the third quarter, scoring the first six points to extend their advantage to 40-26. The lead grew to 18 before the Utes (20-10) rallied to within 57-50 in the fourth quarter with 2:17 left, but Peterson hit a foul-line jumper to stem the tide and end all hopes of the miraculous comeback.
"Getting wins at this level isn't easy to do," Washington coach Jody Wynn said. "We hadn't performed well enough to get the wins that we all want. It's big for our program."
The Huskies will face third-seed Oregon State on Friday night in the quarterfinals. It was only the second time a team came to the Pac-12 Tournament with two or fewer conference wins and pulled off a victory. The Beavers were the only other team to do it, accomplishing that feat in 2010.
Megan Huff led Utah with 10 points and 17 rebounds. The team's leading scorer for the season, averaging 20 points a game, was just 3 for 15 from the field.
It's been a rough last six weeks for Utah. The Utes had risen to No. 14 in the Top 25 after beating Stanford and were 18-1 on the season. Then the team was hit hard by injuries. Utah dropped eight of its final 10 regular-season games. The team lost three players to knee injuries, including freshman standout Dre'Una Edwards in the last meeting with the Huskies. She was averaging 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. The Utes also lost senior Daneesha Provo, who was averaging 13.5 points in the first 13 games this season.
"We squeezed everything out of this group that we can," Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. "They squeezed it out of themselves as well. Adversity happens. The future's bright and I'm excited to see where we can take this thing."
With so many injured players, Roberts made it clear that her team wouldn't play in a postseason tournament unless the NCAA came calling, which she didn't expect to happen.
"We're not in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament at this point," she said. "Today was the nail in the coffin there. They called us I'm sure we'd accept. Anything else, we're tired and we've got freshmen playing. We're worn down, you could see it today. ... Our job as administration and coaches is to look out for our student-athletes first. I look into their eyes and they're tired. We're going to rest up and get healthy and use this to springboard us into the future."
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