The 24th-ranked UW women's basketball team, which hosts No. 9 Oregon State on Friday night, has knocked off three top-10 teams at home in the past two years.
A few days after becoming the fastest women’s basketball player in Pac-12 history to score 2,000 points, Washington junior guard Kelsey Plum was this week preparing for what she says is traditionally her biggest challenge — No. 9 Oregon State.
The Beavers, the defending Pac-12 champions, forced Plum into the worst shooting performance of her career last year in Corvallis, when she went 3 for 16 from the field, scoring just 10 points in the Huskies’ loss.
The Huskies found some answers a month later, knocking off then-No. 7 Oregon State, 76-67, UW’s third consecutive upset of a top-10 team at home.
Two years ago, in Mike Neighbors’ first season as the UW coach, the Huskies upset No. 3 Stanford at home, 87-82. Last year, UW beat No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 7 OSU at home, signature victories that helped propel the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years.
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On Friday night, the 24th-ranked Huskies (16-5, 7-3 Pac-12) get another shot against a top-10 team, and the Beavers (18-3, 9-1) come to Seattle boasting the nation’s top-ranked field-goal defense. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. for a Pac-12 Networks broadcast.
It’s the first women’s game at Alaska Airlines Arena featuring two top-25 teams since Feb. 19, 1998, when No. 5 Stanford beat No. 21 UW 71-59.
For Plum and UW’s high-scoring offense, it’s another challenge to find answers. The Huskies averaged almost 75.0 points per game, third in the Pac-12; Oregon State, meanwhile, allows opponents to shoot just 30.9 percent, and Plum said the Beavers usually defend her better than anyone.
“It’s a big game and we’re excited,” Plum said. “I think we look at it as an opportunity. There’s no pressure. They’re a great team … and we’re just going to try have a lot of fun.”
On Sunday, Plum scored her 2,000th point for the Huskies, needing just 88 games to do so. She enters Friday’s game with 2,025 points, just two behind Jamie Redd for second place on UW’s all-time list.
The commonalities, Plum said, in UW’s three top-10 upsets have been solid defense and rebounding, plus a passionate home crowd.
“There’s an energy in the building when you play a top-10 team; it’s different,” Plum said. “But we know what it takes, and it’s just whether we can put it together.”
Neighbors said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck and his staff scout opponents as well as anyone. UW will introduce some new plays this week, but it will take more than that to pull off another upset.
“They do a great job,” he said. “They are very scout-specific. They are going to know every single one of our set plays that we have in until this point. He already knows them, but he knows we’re going to put some new stuff in (this week).
“They’ll defend it and they’ll adjust, so you can’t rely on plays against Oregon State. You’ve got to rely on players playing.”