In today's matchup (6 p.m., ESPN2), the battle inside between the Huskies’ Chantel Osahor and the Sooners’ Vionise Pierre-Louis will likely decide which team advances to the Sweet 16.
Any time Kelsey Plum is on the court, the nation’s leading scorer and NCAA all-time points leader usually plays a major role in determining the game’s outcome.
However, when No. 3 seed Washington hosts No. 6 Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA tournament 6 p.m. Monday, the matchup inside between the Huskies’ Chantel Osahor and the Sooners’ Vionise Pierre-Louis will likely decide which team advances.
The game at Alaska Airlines Arena will be televised on ESPN2.
Oklahoma @ UW women, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Osahor leads the nation with a 15.4 rebounding average and 28 double-doubles. The 6-foot-2 senior center is second in scoring for UW, averaging 15.8 points, and she’s often the catalyst in a high-scoring offense, dishing out 4.1 assists per game.
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“Chantel is a really big guard that sometimes goes to the block and uses her size to score,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said.
Meanwhile, Pierre-Louis, a 6-4 junior center who averages 12.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, is the interior force in Oklahoma’s four-guard lineup.
In Saturday’s 75-62 win over No. 11 seed Gonzaga, Pierre-Louis nearly recorded a triple-double. She finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and blocked nine shots, which set an OU record for the NCAA tournament.
“It wasn’t a focus,” Pierre-Louis said when asked about the nine blocks. “My focus was more on offense and not getting beat on defense because they were quick. And also getting back on transition, so I wasn’t really thinking about having nine blocks.
“The ball literally just came to my hand and it was just a reaction so I didn’t think about it.”
Washington coach Mike Neighbors has often said the Pac-12 has prepared the Huskies for any and everything they might see in the NCAA tournament.
Seemingly, Pierre-Louis is a mix between Stanford’s Erica McCall, Arizona State’s Sophie Brunner and UCLA’s Monique Billings – each an All-Pac-12 performer.
The key to slowing down Pierre-Louis is being defensively versatile.
“You’ve got to do something different to her over a period of time,” Neighbors said. “I don’t think you can let her get comfortable. … Chantel is pretty hard to move around inside. (Maryland’s) Brionna Jones found that out.
“I think we’ll have a variety of matchups on her. We’ll double-team her some on the catch. We’ll double-team her some on the dribble. We won’t double-team her some. We’ll keep her guessing a little bit. That’s it. That’s as specific as you get. We’re going to throw a lot of different looks at her.”
There’s familiarity between the Huskies and Sooners.
Washington lost at home to Oklahoma 71-68 last season and suffered a 90-80 defeat two seasons ago in Norman, in which Plum scored a then-career high 45 points.
When asked about the most recent matchup against Oklahoma, Osahor, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, said: “I don’t remember.”
Still, when pressed for a scouting report on the Sooners, Osahor said: “They’re very well-coached. They don’t make many mistakes. They run their stuff really well. They execute well and even if they don’t have a lot of stuff, they execute well.”
Pierre-Louis came off the bench in the contest and wasn’t much of a factor in the most recent game against UW while tallying six points and seven rebounds.
The Sooners believe she’ll play a larger role this time.
“I’m confident in V.V. and her abilities,” OU guard Maddie Manning said. “She just needs to play her game and not worry too much about what’s on the other side. If V.V. is poised and attacking in her way, then I don’t know if there are too many people who can guard her effectively.”
With a win, the Huskies travel to Oklahoma City to play No. 2 seed Mississippi State (31-4) on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Monday’s game will be the final home farewell to Washington’s senior class that includes Plum, Osahor and forwards Katie Collier and Heather Corral. However, Corral, a fifth-year senior, plans to petition for a medical redshirt and hopes to return next season.
“It’s bittersweet,” Osahor said. “It’s going to be great in front of another great crowd and I get to play with three of the best seniors I’ve ever played with, so it will be fun.”
|NCAA records at stake|
|Washington’s Kelsey Plum is poised to become the NCAA single-season scoring leader. She’s also chasing the 32-year-old NCAA career free throw record. Here’s a look.|
|1. Lorri Bauman||Drake||1981-84||907||1,090||83.2%|
|2. Kelsey Plum||Washington||2014-17||898||1,019||88.1%|
|1. Jackie Stiles||Missouri State||2000-01||35||1,062|
|2. Odyssey Sims||Baylor||2013-14||37||1,054|
|3. Kelsey Plum||Washington||2016-17||33||1,042|