Starting Friday, the Huskies travel to Utah and Colorado, the only Pac-12 trip where they will fly between games.
Mike Neighbors provided a peek inside his number-crunching mind when he offered an observation from Kelsey Plum’s 44-point performance against Stanford.
“I need to get her more touches,” he said about the nation’s leading scorer who converted 17 of 27 field goals, including 7 of 8 three-pointers, in 36 minutes during a 72-68 loss to the Cardinal. “When you look at how many (shots) she did it on, I probably should have had it in her hands more.”
Apparently, Neighbors believes you can never have too much of a good thing.
And this season, Plum is as good as it gets.
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“We’re based heavily on efficiency, and she is very efficient,” Neighbors said. “That’s not saying that happens every night, but on nights like that I’ll look back on a couple of plays I tried to get her off the ball and I probably should have kept it in her hands.”
In hindsight, that might have been a good idea on a night when every other UW player combined to make just 6 of 37 field goals.
Several days later, Neighbors harbors a few regrets from Sunday’s epic battle between top-10 ranked teams that drew a record 10,000 fans to Alaska Airlines Arena and the first sellout in UW women’s basketball history.
The Huskies led by 18 points late in the second quarter, but were outscored 39-23 in the second half. Four UW players had at least four fouls, and Plum fouled out for the first time since her sophomore year.
“It’s easier to look at a film like that than when you’ve (been) dismantled by 25 points and you can’t find enough answers,” Neighbors said. “The answers here where pretty simple. A couple of turnovers here. A defensive assignment there.”
And a little more Plum.
Neighbors still second-guesses his decision to shuttle the UW star in and out of the game in the fourth quarter after she collected her fourth foul.
“I probably should have trusted her with a little more time,” he said. “I don’t know. She and I need to have the experience with her picking up her fourth foul with eight minutes left in the game. That’s never happened.
“So we kind of settled in on that five-minute mark and I don’t know I arbitrarily picked five minutes. Obviously the way she was playing and the way she was attacking the basket in that game, another 2-3 minutes with her on the floor may have been the difference.”
Neighbors believes Washington has recovered from the emotional letdown in a battle of Pac-12 powerhouses that had the city buzzing about women’s college basketball.
Now the Huskies have to ramp it up again during a challenging two-game trip that begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Utah.
“Obviously, we’re not playing in front of 10,000 people so you’re not going to have that shot of adrenaline,” Neighbors said. “So you’re going to have to get that from someplace else, especially with your lungs collapsing from the elevation.
“Based on how they’ve done in the past, we don’t let the scoreboard dictate how we feel.”
Since Neighbors took over in 2013, Washington is 5-3 against Utah and 1-2 at the Huntsman Center.
As much as the Huskies (20-3, 8-2) need to battle the Utes (14-7, 3-7), they’ll also have to contend with Salt Lake City’s 4,226-foot elevation.
On Sunday, UW travels to Colorado where the elevation is 5,430. By comparison, Seattle is 518 feet above sea level.
“You can downplay it all you want, but your lungs are built a certain way and they react a certain way when you get to altitude,” Neighbors said. “The travel between the teams is the most challenging that we have to do. … We change hotels. We have to fly between them. Everywhere else we go, we have to bus between. It’s a unique one.”
It’s also a rare occasion for the Huskies to recover from a setback.
Washington ripped off an 11-game winning streak after its first loss, a 71-60 defeat at Notre Dame. The Huskies also won six in a row following a 73-70 setback at Oregon State.
“Based on how they’ve done in the past, we don’t let the scoreboard dictate how we feel or how we prepare,” Neighbors said. “We’re a pretty veteran team that way.”