The Huskies cruised past Missouri 79-66. Next up is No. 1 Notre Dame on Sunday.
A depleted Washington women’s basketball team — dealing with the loss of two injured starters — finally faced adversity this season.
It hardly mattered though as the 17th-ranked Huskies claimed a third straight blowout victory to remain undefeated and cruised past Missouri 79-66 on Thursday in the WNIT semifinals at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Next up: No. 1 Notre Dame.
UW @ Notre Dame, noon
The Fighting Irish improved to 3-0 with a 71-67 win over Green Bay in the tournament’s other semifinal, setting up Sunday’s big showdown in South Bend, Ind.
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It’s Washington’s first meeting against a No. 1-ranked team since losing 109-51 to Connecticut on Dec. 18, 2008.
“It’s great,” coach Mike Neighbors said. “It’s why these kids came here, because they knew we would get it to a place to be able to do things like that (and) go play the No. 1 team.
“There’s a lot of the top teams we tried to play (in the nonconference season) and we couldn’t get any games. This worked out great for us.”
Since agreeing to play in the WNIT last year, Neighbors had hoped to play a high-caliber team like Notre Dame to provide an early measuring stick for UW, which advanced to last season’s NCAA tournament Final Four and has Pac-12 title aspirations.
However, the Huskies were careful not to overlook Missouri.
The Huskies appeared vulnerable early because senior forward Katie Collier (knee) and junior Kelli Kingma (hand) sat out due to injuries. Collier is expected to return Sunday.
Washington trailed by seven late in the first quarter — their largest deficit this season — and was down 26-21 heading into the second, which stunned the crowd of 1,701.
“I knew they would punch us in the mouth early, and I’m proud of the way we responded,” senior guard Kelsey Plum said. “I knew it was going to be more of a Pac-12-type of matchup.
“Once we settled in and made adjustments, started hitting shots that we normally make in practice, got the ball moving and got the ball into Chantel (Osahor) at the three- and free-throw line, we got in our rhythm.”
Plum and Osahor combined for 11 points when Washington outscored Missouri 25-13 in the second quarter to take control. Osahor’s trademark set-shot three-pointer from the top of the arc put the Huskies ahead 27-26, and they never trailed again.
UW led 46-39 at halftime, then put things out of reach with a 24-15 third quarter.
Plum finished with 32 points on 10-for-23 shooting, including four three-pointers and seven assists in 39 minutes. She moved into third place on the Pac-12’s all-time scoring list.
“Surgical,” Neighbors said when asked to describe Plum. “She picked her moments. She’s going to be the first one to tell you that she doesn’t think she played good … but that’s what makes her Kelsey.”
Osahor added 18 points, 16 rebounds and a personal-best-tying six assists in what Neighbors called “the best overall game that she’s ever had.”
Meanwhile, Heather Corral and Natalie Romeo, a first-time starter, each had 12 points for Washington (3-0), which converted 15 of 33 three-pointers.
In their previous game — a 101-68 win over Colorado State — the Huskies tied a school record with 16 makes behind the arc. They made 10 three-pointers in a season-opening 100-52 victory.
On Thursday, every UW starter including Hannah Johnson, who made her first start, made at least one three-pointer. Three Huskies had four treys.
“We’ve got good shooters,” Neighbors said. “We work on it. It’s a part of our culture. We want everybody shooting threes. We do it in practice. We shoot.”
Missouri (2-1) received a team-high 16 points from sophomore forward Cierra Porter, the daughter of UW men’s assistant Michael Porter Sr. He watched the game behind the Tigers bench with his son Michael Porter Jr., who signed with the Huskies, and family members.
|Two to go|
|UW’s Kelsey Plum moved past former Stanford star Nnemkadi Ogwumike into third place on the Pac-12’s all-time scoring list.|
|1. Chiney Ogwumike||Stanford||2011-14||2,737|
|2. Candice Wiggins||Stanford||2005-08||2,629|
|3. Kelsey Plum||Washington||2014-present||2,508|
|4. Nnemkadi Ogwumike||Stanford||2009-12||2,491|