No. 6 seed Oregon eliminated the No. 3 Washington women’s basketball team 70-69 on Friday night in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
Kelsey Plum didn’t score 57 points like she did in her last outing, but she had 34 while Chantel Osahor set a Pac-12 tournament record for rebounds — and somehow the Huskies still lost.
They led by nine points in the final nine minutes in front of a record turnout at KeyArena — the first sellout in tournament history — and the team with the best closer in basketball whiffed at the end.
Plum missed her final seven attempts, including a potential game-winner as time expired, and the No. 3 seed Washington women’s basketball team made an unexpected early exit from the tournament after a 70-69 upset loss to No. 6 Oregon on Friday night.
“We didn’t handle the end of the game as well as we would have liked,” coach Mike Neighbors said. “We haven’t been in a lot of close games. As hard as it is for the kids in that locker room … but I do think and it’s not coachspeak, it’s going to help us.
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“I wish it had been in the finals. I wish we’d gone deeper in this tournament, but there’s pain that hurts and there’s pain that changes you. This is pain that’ll change us. We’ll be sharper next time.”
The Huskies will have a long time to think about this one, which isn’t a good thing.
Washington (27-5) must wait until the March 13 NCAA tournament selection show to discover where the Huskies will land in the 64-team bracket.
The Huskies finished the regular season ranked 11th in The Associated Press poll and were in line to host NCAA tournament first- and second-round games at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Before Friday, ESPN bracket guru Charlie Crème projected UW to be a No. 3 seed in the Oklahoma City region. The loss likely lowers the Huskies to a No. 4 seed, which still means they will likely begin the Big Dance in Seattle on their home court.
“Going in I thought if everything worked out just right for us we could get as high as a No. 2 seed,” Neighbors said. “There was a lot to be gained this week. … There still is. We’ll learn from this.”
Few had expected an early exit from the Pac-12 tournament for Washington.
Certainly not the partisan sellout crowd of 9,686 in KeyArena that turned the building into a deafening din.
“Our kids are going to feel bad that they let everybody down, but they didn’t,” Neighbors said. “They played their hearts out. Just came up short.”
There was no doubting Plum, a senior point guard, was going to deliver a dazzling display in her final Pac-12 tournament.
Six days after setting a personal, school and Pac-12 record with a 57-point performance in a game in which she broke the NCAA all-time scoring record, the UW guard scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the first half.
However, the Huskies trailed 32-31 at the break.
They struggled to separate from Oregon until early in the fourth period when Plum drained a three-pointer that put UW ahead 60-51 with nine minutes left.
The Ducks answered with a 13-4 run that knotted the score at 64 at the 5:13 mark.
From there neither team led by more than three points.
Washington appeared to take control when Plum drove into the lane and dropped a bounce pass to Osahor, who sank a difficult layup in traffic despite being fouled. She drained the ensuing free throw to give UW a 69-66 lead with 3:05 remaining.
Lexi Bando nailed a jumper that cut the Huskies’ lead to one before freshman Aarion McDonald was called for an offensive foul with 50 seconds left that gave the ball to Oregon.
On the ensuing possession, Sabrina Ionescu drew a foul from McDonald and drained two free throws to give Oregon the lead for good. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year finished with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Huskies had just 3.9 seconds to run a play and Plum ran into two Oregon defenders at the top of the key. She managed to get off a shot, but it was partially blocked and fell way short of the rim as time expired.
Osahor finished with 27 rebounds and 12 points, while McDonald had 10.
Ducks reserves ran on the floor and celebrated the first upset in a tournament in which the higher seed had won the previous seven games.
Oregon (20-12) advances to face No. 2 Stanford (26-5) in Saturday’s semifinals.
The 8:30 p.m. game on the Pac-12 Networks will follow a 6 p.m. pairing between Oregon State (28-3), the No. 1 seed and defending champion, and No. 4 UCLA (23-7).
The Ducks also received a big performance from Bando, who scored a team-high 23 points and was 5 of 7 on three-pointers. Ruthy Hebard had 13 points and nine rebounds while Maite Cazorla added 12 points.
“Tough loss,” Neighbors said. “Not what we had planned.”
Friday’s Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals between No. 3 seed Washington and No. 6 seed Oregon drew a record crowd of 9,686 to KeyArena. Here’s a look at the top five crowds.