Kelsey Plum scored 18 points and Washington routed Colorado 68-47. The Huskies (20-9, 11-7 Pac-12) clinched fifth place in the conference standings, and padded its NCAA tournament resume after winning three of its last four regular season games.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the Huskies had already delivered one message, and emphatically so. En route to their 20th win of the season, they led Colorado by 20 points, looking poised and primed for the start of the postseason.
And yet Mike Neighbors wasn’t satisfied. Washington’s third-year coach sent another message by keeping his starting lineup on the floor for most of the fourth quarter as the Huskies closed out a 68-47 victory over the Buffaloes in their Pac-12 women’s basketball regular-season finale Saturday afternoon.
“We wanted to step on their throats,” UW’s Katie Collier said, “and make a statement.”
Washington (20-9 overall) finished 11-7 in conference play, matching its record from last season, and earned the Pac-12’s fifth seed for the conference tournament starting Thursday at KeyArena. UW will open with a rematch against 12th-seeded Colorado (7-22, 2-16).
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Leading by as many as 29 points in the third quarter, Neighbors didn’t want to take any chances against a Colorado team that had scored 35 points in one quarter against UW in their first meeting in early January. The Huskies held on for a 76-74 victory in that first matchup, and Neighbors wanted breathing room this time.
“Knowing that if we did win we had a chance to play those guys again (in the Pac-12 tournament), I wanted to make sure we finished the game with momentum and confidence,” Neighbors said. “It worked out great.”
UW star Kelsey Plum, who has logged more minutes and absorbed more fouls than anyone in the Pac-12 in each of the past two seasons, played all but the final 42 seconds of the fourth quarter, finishing with a game-high 18 points in 36 minutes to lead a balanced offensive performance.
Junior Chantel Osahor showed no ill effects from a minor knee injury suffered in Thursday’s victory over Utah, recording seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals in 32 minutes.
The victory secured, Neighbors was able to sub out his three seniors — Talia Walton, Alexus Atchley and Mathilde Gilling — one by one in the final few minutes, each receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of 2,376 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Walton, the fifth-year senior from Federal Way whom Neighbors called “the most underrated player” in the Pac-12, had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals in her final home game.
Atchley, who transferred to UW from Colorado three years ago, had 11 points, and Gilling had seven points in 15 minutes off the bench. They were each honored during a ceremony after the game.
“We played really hard for our seniors, man,” Plum said. “We wanted to send them off right.”
The Huskies never trailed and built a 32-16 lead by halftime, their 2-3 zone defense limiting Colorado to 20 percent (6 of 30) shooting in the first half. The Buffaloes finished with 20 turnovers, to UW’s 15, and the Huskies had a 43-38 rebounding advantage.
UW opened the third quarter by scoring on nine of its first 10 possessions, including back-to-back three-pointers from Atchley, and took a 48-19 lead on a Walton three.
The strong finish continues what has been a solid finish to the regular season, with Neighbors feeling like his team has played its best over the past three weeks. He believes UW is firmly in the NCAA tournament field; he wants momentum going into the postseason, and the Huskies have it.
“We feel pretty good going into the Pac-12 tournament,” Plum said. “It looks like we’ll be playing Colorado again, and it’s a chance for us to remodel what we just did. … We’re excited for the opportunities that are about to come.”
|Kelsey Plum and Talia Walton are the two active players on UW’s top 10 career scoring leaders:|
|Saturday’s resultsUtah 75, Washington State 69Washington 68, Colorado 47|