Washington holds the Bulldogs to just four points in the fourth quarter as Kelsey Plum scores 30 points and Chantel Osahor pulls down 22 rebounds.
Mike Neighbors has seen a lot of basketball during his 22-year coaching career, but he’s never witnessed anything quite like what he saw Sunday afternoon.
The 17th-ranked Washington women’s basketball team nearly shut out Fresno State during a dominant 26-4 fourth quarter that turned a relatively close contest into an 85-54 rout in front of 1,887 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Never seen the flip of a switch like that,” Neighbors said. “Our defense led to offense and they switched to zone (defense). … That helps us when people go to zone. Then our defense got locked in.”
Cal State Northridge @ Washington, 7 p.m.
It was the fewest points in a period for a UW opponent and a stunning reversal for the Huskies, who had difficulty shaking free of the Bulldogs.
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Washington led 49-48 with 3:31 left in the third and carried a 59-50 advantage into the final period.
The Huskies, who entered the matchup having beaten teams by an average of 28.8 points, had only been seriously challenged once in the second half this season.
So in many ways, Neighbors was thrilled to see his team overcome a challenge.
“We’ve had to fabricate adversity with a tough schedule, with back-to-back road games and with little or no preparation in turnarounds,” he said. “We didn’t have to fabricate any adversity tonight. Fresno State provided plenty of that.
“They really forced us to go to the second and third (options) of our offense. … Once we settled in and got to options two and three and moved the ball a little bit, our shot quality went up.”
The third option Sunday was junior guard Natalie Romeo, who exploited a Fresno State defense intent on stopping seniors Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor, the nation’s leading scorer and rebounder, respectively.
“I don’t really consider it as the third option,” said Romeo, who finished with 18 points to offset five turnovers. “I think we all just kind of play together. It’s great that we have two awesome players. I think we work together really well.
“They’ll find me when I’m open.”
Romeo canned consecutive three-pointers to start the fourth quarter and sparked a 22-0 run. Including the third period, the Huskies scored 25 unanswered points.
With UW’s starters on the bench, the Bulldogs tallied their first basket in the fourth with 1:49 remaining.
“We came out swinging,” Osahor said. “We made shots. Nat made shots. We were just on fire. That’s all I can say. I really don’t know.
“I don’t think any of us knew they didn’t score. We were just playing.”
It’s almost a given Washington will receive a big scoring performance from Plum, who finished with 30 points — one more than her scoring average — on 11-for-21 shooting.
And it’s just as certain the Huskies will get a resounding rebounding effort from Osahor, who collected a career-high 22. She also chipped in 13 points for her eighth straight double.
Katie Collier also added 10 points, three blocks and two steals for Washington (8-1), which captured its fifth straight win since a 71-60 loss at No. 1 Notre Dame two weeks ago.
But when Romeo drains 4 of 6 three-pointers the way she did Sunday, the Huskies are virtually unstoppable.
“I’m glad I don’t have to guard us,” Neighbors said. “I don’t know what I would do. I really don’t. You feel like you’re doing a great job and you should be fired up and you look up and you’re down nine.”
Fresno State gave UW fits early with guard Candice White (19 points) and center Bego Faz Davalos (11 points and 13 rebounds).
“Games like this, it helps us,” Osahor said. “We can’t really start as slow as we’re starting now. We’re becoming a second-half team.
“Other teams are going to punch us in the face like Notre Dame did and it’s good for us that we learn from this and start attacking more in the first and second quarters.”
The Huskies, who host Cal Sate Northridge at 7 p.m. Wednesday, could slide into the top 10 in The Associated Press and USA Today/coaches rankings this week due to recent losses by No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 9 Ohio State and No. 7 Louisville.
• Senior F Heather Corral injured ligaments in her right hand diving for a loose ball last week at Portland and has missed the past two games. It’s unclear if she’ll play Wednesday.
• Freshman G Aarion McDonald, who missed the first seven games due to a lower-back injury, tallied six points, three steals and two assists in 20 minutes off the bench.
|With 22 games left in the regular season, and with additional games in postseason tournaments, Kelsey Plum is likely to become the 12th player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points, and she has a chance to pass Jackie Stiles as the leading scorer in NCAA history.|
|1. Jackie Stiles||SW Mo. State||2001||3,393|
|2. Brittney Griner||Baylor||2013||3,283|
|3. Patricia Hoskins||Miss. Valley St.||1989||3,122|
|4. Lorri Bauman||Drake||1984||3,115|
|5. Jerica Coley||Fla. International||2014||3,107|
|6. Rachel Banham||Minnesota||2016||3,056|
|7. Elena Delle Donne||Delaware||2013||3,039|
|8. Maya Moore||Connecticut||2011||3,036|
|9. Chamique Holdsclaw||Tennessee||1999||3,025|
|10. Cheryl Miller||USC||1986||3,018|