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Originally published Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Guards Jazmine Davis, Mercedes Wetmore give Washington a fighting chance

Washington freshman guard Jazmine Davis began Tae Kwon Do training as a toddler. Backcourt mate Mercedes Wetmore, a sophomore, competed against boys in youth wrestling.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Friday

Portland @ Washington, 7 p.m.

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Some mix Tae Kwon Do and wrestling and get a UFC fighter.

Washington gets a formidable backcourt for its women's basketball team.

Sophomore Mercedes Wetmore once wrestled competitively against boys. Freshman Jazmine Davis began Tae Kwon Do training as a toddler. Together, they're an unexpected combo leading the Huskies (5-2) to their best start since 2005.

"They both handle the ball well and they both have the ability to push the pace for our team," said first-year Washington coach Kevin McGuff, whose team hosts Portland (5-4) at Edmundson Pavilion on Friday. "In today's game, having two people who can handle the ball, pass and make plays is important. I like the way they're playing with each other."

Hired in April, McGuff was uncertain how his team would mesh with his up-tempo system — or who would run the offense.

Wetmore worked during the summer to be the starting point guard, replacing Sarah Morton. But when leading scorer Kristi Kingma (15.6 points) suffered a season-ending knee injury during UW's tour of Scandinavia, Wetmore was shifted to shooting guard and Davis became the starting point guard. The pair has started every game, the only consistent part of McGuff's lineup.

"It's a different look, but it's working and I'm enjoying it," said Wetmore, who adds that their shared background helps her and Davis deal with the physical college game. "It's fun to penetrate in and give a nice dish down into Regina (Rogers). It's also nice to catch the ball in transition and pull the trigger for a three. It's just a different feeling. I feel like I'm playing the point-guard mentality and the two."

Wetmore, who averages 9 points and 3.3 assists, also assumes a lot of the leadership role as Davis adjusts to the college game.

Wetmore shares her wrestling moves, too.

"She'll get me in some kind of weird wrestling-move lock," Davis said of Wetmore, who first pulled the stunt during the Scandinavian tour in August. "It's just so funny when she does it, I can't fight back to that.

"We have a great relationship. Usually after an error, when we get to the top of the key, she pats me on the back and says, 'Hey, you're doing well, just calm down and play your game.' She comforts me and lets me know if I've made a mistake (to) get over it. The game's not over."

Davis is the team's second-leading scorer (11.9). The play of the two guards could be pivotal against Portland. The Pilots have attempted more than twice as many three-pointers (163) as the Huskies (70) this season. Portland made 15 in an 88-78 loss to Oregon.

Senior ReZina TecleMariam, who played at Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma, runs the point for Portland and Howard transfer Natalie Day is the leading scorer (19 points), shooting 50 percent from the field.

McGuff has stressed to his team the importance of playing smart defense. Portland will be another test, especially for the young backcourt.

"They can really make shots," he said.

"It's good to win games and we've certainly won a couple recently. But I don't think we're anywhere close to what we need to be. Watching film, we make a lot of mistakes on both sides.

"For us to close out the next three games of nonconference on a successful note and to have a successful Pac-12 campaign, we've got to get a lot better. I was hopeful we'd be a little bit further ahead defensively."

McGuff has two fighters in the backcourt to help the Huskies get there.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JaydaEvans

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