Not only do the Huskies have the nation’s leading scorer in Kelsey Plum and leading rebounder in Chantel Osahor, they also have a style that entertains as much as it wins.
About 20 minutes after she scored her 39th point, on a day in which her team attempted 36 three-pointers, Huskies point guard Kelsey Plum fielded a question about the home crowd.
The 12th-ranked Washington women’s basketball team had just beaten ninth-ranked UCLA 82-70 in front of 4,446 people — the second-largest attendance of the season — and a reporter wanted what to know what that atmosphere felt like.
Plum’s teammate Katie Collier chimed in first, replying “so awesome!” while wearing an ear-to-ear grin. But before Collier could finish her answer, Kelsey offered the media her two cents.
“It’s about time,” she said.
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You know what? Plum is right.
If Seattle is the sports city I think it is — a town that packs its stadiums and arenas to support its championship-caliber teams — it should be flooding Hec Ed to watch the UW women. And if any Seattleites are suffering withdrawal symptoms from a lack of quality hoops, then the Huskies can provide them their fix.
This isn’t just about the Huskies being 16-2 overall, 4-1 in the Pac-12 and nine months removed from the program’s first Final Four appearance. This isn’t just about Washington vaulting to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll Monday, either.
This is about UW providing as entertaining a basketball product as this city has seen in years. And I don’t mean “entertaining as far as women’s hoops goes” — I’m talking pure, objective fun.
Take Sunday’s first quarter, for example.
In a 10-minute span, the Huskies hiked up 13 three-pointers against the Bruins and knocked down six of them. Sometimes it was Plum flinging a cross-court pass to Heather Corral, other times it was Collier kicking it out to Chantel Osahor at the top of the key, and once it was it Plum pulling up off a ball screen and drilling it from 22 feet.
If you were looking for a period personifying a team that leads the nation in three-pointers made (203) and is sixth in three-point percentage (40.3) that was it. And if you’re wondering how the Huskies could get away with chucking so many deep balls (they finished the game 12 of 36 from distance), Corral has the answer.
“If we don’t shoot, Coach will pull us out of the game,” she said.
Washington coach Mike Neighbors always wanted to play for someone who gave him a 10,000-watt green light to shoot, but that never happened. So he decided he would be that coach when he came to UW.
Neighbors sees the extra jumpers his players hoist before and after practice, so he figures if they’re going to put in work at the gym, they should be allowed to put it up in the game.
The result has been a borderline unguardable offense that might yield the Huskies their first Pac-12 title since 1988. Washington has four players (Plum, Corral, Osahor, Natalie Romeo) that are shooting better than 40 percent from deep while taking at least 50 attempts.
And when opponents decide they’re not going to leave any shooters open, the Huskies just post up Osahor and let her barbecue the poor soul that has to guard her one-on-one. It rarely ends well.
So go watch.
Go watch the ball-movement ballet that seems to always lead to an open triple or backdoor layup. Go watch Collier set up Osahor — the nation’s leading rebounder — for her patented, flat-footed set shot. Go watch Romeo from the left corner, Corral from the right, or Aarion McDonald pushing it in transition.
And if none of that works for you, shoot — just go watch Plum.
Kelsey’s 30.7 points are six more per game than any other player in the country. At the rate she’s going, she’ll set the all-time NCAA scoring record by Washington’s first game in the Pac-12 tournament.
She also leads the conference in free-throw percentage (90.2), is shooting a career-high 45.1 percent from deep, and despite being 5 feet 8 with average speed, is projected as the No. 3 pick in this year’s WNBA draft. Probably because she’s as skilled as any college-basketball player, regardless of sex.
Even so, if you look at the top 25 attendance figures in UW women’s hoops history, none came this season. The Huskies haven’t been able to draw the 5,835 fans necessary to crack that barrier, and that justifiably baffles Neighbors.
“I love the fans that have been coming out, and all I can say is bring a friend next time, and we’re gonna get it,” Neighbors said. “But we do have to play in front of a top-25 crowd before we’re done, or I’ll feel like we’ve let them (the seniors) down … they deserve it.”
Yeah, they probably do deserve it. The Huskies are a top-10 team with two All-America candidates that play video-game style hoops.
But it’s not just about them. If you’re a sports fan in this city looking for 40 minutes of fun, then you deserve it, too.