No. 9 Washington blows out cross-state rival Washington State 94-63 in Pac-12 opener in front of season-high 4,635 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Hard to tell what pleased Mike Neighbors more Tuesday night.
Perhaps it was No. 9 Washington’s 94-63 over cross-state rival Washington State in the Pac-12 opener. The Huskies improved to 13-1, 1-0 in Pac-12.
Or maybe it was the breakthrough performance from junior guard Natalie Romeo, who struggled in the four previous games, before scoring a season-high 25 points, including seven three-pointers.
But Neighbors admitted, he really enjoyed seeing the season-high crowd of 4,635 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
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“It was noticeable by our kids,” he said. “In the pregame locker room for the first time since I’ve been here they were like, the crowd is already here. We’ve had some late-arriving crowds, but they were already here. And they were engaged. And it gave us a huge boost. It’s what we’ve been hoping for.
“We know they support (women’s basketball) in Seattle. It’s been done in the past. I’ve been on a crusade to let Chantel (Osahor), Katie (Collier) and Kelsey (Plum) to at least play in front of a top-25 crowd at some point in their life. They’ve gotten our team back into the top 25, let’s give them a top-25 crowd. And 4,600 a couple days after Christmas is awesome.”
As hundreds of fans lingered after the game and long lines formed at postgame autograph tables with players stationed on the floor, Neighbors went to every Husky and told them: “We got tomorrow off so y’all stay as long as you want.”
Normally, the postgame UW tradition last about 10 minutes. But this time, Plum was scribbling on posters and a little girl’s jersey nearly an hour after the game.
“Love, love, love it,” Neighbors said. “Would like to see it again.”
Here are a few quotes from Neighbors.
(On Romeo’s big game) “That’s how she does play. She played 27 minutes. She guarded the other teams’ best three-point shooter and held her to only three attempts. … To be able to play that many minutes, not turn the ball over and stretch the defense. And if you (double) Kelsey she’s standing there wide open and she’s going to make 7 of 12. If you let her take those same 12 shots, she’s going to make seven every night. She’s that good of a shooter. Kelsey is looking for her every time down the floor.
(More on Romeo) “We needed it out of her this game. I said before the game it would be great to get Bug going right here going into the Pac-12. Get her back to where, because I think the ball just hasn’t found her the last couple of games. The way we play with our motion offense and with our attack, sometimes the ball just doesn’t find you. We don’t run a whole lot of set plays and when the ball doesn’t find you there may be a game or two where you only shoot it 4-5 times. I was OK with that because I thought it was all within the flow. But it was great to have the ball find her tonight.
(On if UW made a statement) “People are going to see this scoring and are going to go huh. I will say we played really well and when we make 16 3s the score can get out of control. I don’t know if it’s a statement, but I certainly think maybe a little bit of validation against another good team that we can make shots against good teams and continue to score without turning the ball over.
And here’s video of the postgame interview with Neighbors.