Kelsey Plum sets NCAA record for most points in a season as the Huskies defeated Oklahoma 108-82 on Monday to advance to the Sweet 16.
If the sports world was looking for a worthy challenger to prevent Connecticut from winning a fifth straight national championship, then Kelsey Plum and the Huskies stated their case.
With Plum smashing NCAA, team and personal records, the No. 3 seed Washington women’s basketball team unleashed an offensive flurry on No. 6 Oklahoma that turned Monday’s 108-82 victory in the NCAA tournament second round into a raucous send-off for seniors Plum, Chantel Osahor and Katie Collier.
Mississippi St. (31-4) vs. UW (29-5) at Oklahoma City, 4:11 p.m., ESPN2
“I thought about (this game) a lot,” she said. “I visualized it. I thought about it and dreamed it. Whatever you can call it, I thought about it. And there was no way I was losing this last game on my home court.”
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Plum, who scored 38 points and dished a career-high 11 assists, made sure of that.
The 5-foot-8 point guard from Poway, Calif., gave the 7,579 at Alaska Airlines Arena one last memory to cherish while carrying the Huskies to a familiar place and unprecedented heights.
For the second straight year, the Huskies return to the Sweet 16, where they’ll play No. 2 Mississippi State (31-4) at 4:11 p.m. PT Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The win gave Washington (29-5) the most victories in a season in Husky history and snapped a two-game losing streak to Oklahoma, which beat UW in each of the previous two seasons.
“For those kids to leave Hec Ed with a win, in a fashion like that against a program that’s been to 18 straight NCAA tournaments, I’m really at a loss for words — which I very rarely am,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said. “Super proud of the whole team, I thought we got contributions all up and down the lineup.”
It started – like it usually does – with Plum.
However, she was more dangerous as a playmaker early and missed four of her first five shots.
Eventually, Plum got going and broke UW’s NCAA tournament record she set last year on a night when she converted 12 of 21 shots from the floor. She also made 6 of 9 three-pointers and was 8 of 10 on free throws.
“Kelsey Plum is an unbelievable player,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “There are not enough adjectives to use to describe her skill set as an offensive basketball player.
“She’s had an amazing career that’s obviously not over yet.”
The Washington star also took another record away from former Missouri State standout Jackie Stiles. Last month, Plum captured the NCAA all-time scoring record that Stiles set 16 years ago.
On Monday, Plum moved past Stiles and became the NCAA single-season scoring leader with 1,080 points.
It was a fitting way for Plum to say goodbye to Seattle.
“What I’m going to remember from this night is the win,” Plum said. “And the feeling with my teammates. That’s it. And that’s not a disrespect to the individual record. It’s really not.
“It’s not something I pay attention to.”
Osahor dominated an anticipated matchup against Vionise Pierre-Louis. She finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists while holding the Oklahoma junior center to six points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies received 20 points from junior guard Natalie Romeo, who connected on six three-pointers, and freshman guard Aarion McDonald added 18 points.
“I say all the time, if we can get Natalie and Aari doing stuff that they did tonight, we are unbeatable,” Osahor said. “What they did and when you add Katie and Heather (Corral) to the mix, it is something special to watch out there.”
Washington’s 108 points were the team’s most this season, a team record for the NCAA tourney and six shy of UW’s all-time record.
The Huskies set a NCAA tournament record while sinking 18 of 30 three-pointers – one fewer than their season high – and shot 56.3 percent from the field.
“If they play like this … they can beat anybody,” Coale said. “I heard that Connecticut shot similarly to this tonight, so who knows? They are really good.”
This game had a little bit of everything, including Neighbors verbally sparring with an OU fan and an impromptu dance off on the sidelines between the reserves on each team that was broadcast on the arena’s giant screen and had fans and players howling in delight.
“I was cracking up. I thought it was awesome,” Osahor said.
Plum added, “I think we lost though.”
Maybe so, but in the contest that mattered most, the Huskies were firmly in control.
Oklahoma made things interesting in the second quarter when the Sooners (23-10) took their first and only lead at 31-30.
The Huskies, who led for nearly 39 minutes, answered with a 13-0 run that put them ahead 43-31. They never trailed again.
“No pressure, just playing basketball,” said Plum, when asked about briefly losing the lead. “It’s March Madness. It’s going to be competitive. It’s going to be tight — that’s why it’s fun.
“So we know those moments, we’ve had experience in big games in Pac-12 play and last year’s run, so I feel that that big game experience really helped us. I feel like the last two times we played Oklahoma we hadn’t been in those tight situations and we hadn’t maybe handled it as well, but third time’s the charm.”
Washington had little difficulty with Oklahoma’s trap and stymied the Sooners at times with a 2-3 zone that forced 12 turnovers, which led to 21 points.
The Huskies led 54-47 at halftime and put the game away in the third while outscoring Oklahoma 30-14 to go ahead 84-61 before the fourth.
It’s the second time in three years the Sooners were knocked out in the second round by a Pac-12 school with a chance to return home for the regional.
Near the end of a 26-point dismantling that was reminiscent of UW’s November nonconference blowouts, the senior starters retired to the bench amidst a standing ovation and the Black Eyed Peas “I Got a Feeling” blaring over the loudspeakers.
Plum, Osahor and Collier hugged each other on the sideline while savoring their final home game one last time.
“It’s great to have that moment,” Neighbors said. “I always tell them to just listen to this place, listen to the cheers and remember what it felt like as freshman here.
“That is part of the legacy that they’ll have to remember.
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