The seventh-seeded Huskies defeated the second-seeded Terrapins 74-65 in College Park, Md., to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Of all of her key plays Monday night, none sent Washington women’s basketball guard Kelsey Plum into the same life-affirming giddiness as her game-sealing pass to Talia Walton.
With time winding down and the Huskies clinging to a five-point lead, Plum drove the lane, absorbed contact and found Walton on the left wing for an open three.
Walton let fly for a Washington’s final field goal in a 74-65 second-round victory over the heavily favored Maryland Terrapins at their Xfinity Center. And Plum high-stepped down court in celebration, reveling in Washington’s first trip to the Sweet 16 in 15 years.
32 Points by Kelsey Plum
20 Points by Talia Walton
15 Rebounds by Chantel Osahor
“It was a feeling that, I can’t really describe it,” said Plum. “I think it’s just like all the doubters that have told our team that we’re not good enough, or all the people that told me that Washington was the wrong school or (Mike) Neighbors was the wrong coach. I just think in that moment, God said, you know what? Nope, you’re right where you are and you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”
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Plum finished with 32 points — her 21st game scoring 30 or more in her career — and added seven assists for the seventh-seeded Huskies to continue a sensational junior season that is an ode to the road less taken.
It will continue Friday, as Washington leaves one home court environment for another to face Kentucky in the Lexington Region semifinals. A victory would give Washington its third regional finals appearance, and its first since 2001.
Walton had 20 points, and Chantel Osahor grabbed 15 rebounds and scored nine points to help Washington end second-seeded and fifth-ranked Maryland’s bid for a third consecutive Final Four appearance.
Huskies sixth-man Mathilde Gilling scored all six of her points during a crucial third-quarter stretch before she had to be carried off the floor in the fourth with an apparent leg injury. She’ll have an MRI Tuesday, Neighbors said.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 17 points and Brene Moseley had 16 points for Maryland, which falls short of the Sweet 16 for the first time since it lost to neighboring Georgetown in the 2011 tournament.
The Terrapins struggled to impose their identity of depth and physicality, getting outrebounded 40-38 by the Huskies. Star center Brionna Jones scored six points and grabbed only four boards.
“I think it will sink in a little bit longer after it’s over,” Neighbors said of the upset. “We’ll look back on it and I think we’ll understand the magnitude of it, because not too many 2-seeds don’t advance to the Sweet 16 on the women’s side of the bracket. And I think that will start to hit us whenever our phones stop (buzzing).”
A teammate of Walker-Kimbrough on the youth international level, Plum could’ve chosen any number of higher profile programs coming out of high school.
And she could’ve changed her mind when former UW coach Kevin McGuff took a job at Ohio State before her freshman year.
“She chose to come to Washington during a time when we weren’t making the NCAA tournament,” Neighbors said. “She was one of the first McDonald’s All-Americans in the country to choose a place that didn’t have NCAA tournament pedigree. She wanted to go someplace and be a part of something really special and building that.”
Now she’s already the program’s all-time leading scorer, en route to one of the best scoring careers in NCAA history. And following Monday’s victory, that program-building vision is coming to fruition.
“A lot of credit goes to Kelsey’s tremendous growth,” said Walton, whose last three made it 65-57 with 1:25 to play and commenced a game-ending foul shooting competition. “She’s probably made two wrong decisions all year. … I’ve just got to give a lot of thanks to her and my teammates for believing in me, to kick it out to me, for allowing me to hit that shot.”