Plum entered the game needing 53 points to match the record. She entered the fourth quarter needing 16. By the four-minute mark, Plum had scored more points than any woman in NCAA history.
Kelsey Plum woke up Saturday without much of a voice and feeling under the weather.
The Washington Huskies star wasn’t thinking this would be the day she’d become the all-time scoring leader in NCAA women’s basketball. She was more concerned about grabbing bites of applesauce during timeouts.
But then, Plum has always had a flair for the dramatic.
Pouring in a career-high 57 points that carried No. 11 Washington to an 84-77 victory, the 5-foot-8 senior point guard from Poway, Calif., surpassed former Southwest Missouri State standout Jackie Stiles on the career scoring list on a day unlike any other at Alaska Airlines Arena in front of 6,775.
“In the most respectful way possible, I’m glad it’s over,” Plum said. “It was getting to a point where it was starting to be disheartening in a way because people expect so much.
“I understand. I’m grateful for it. We’re going to talk about it and give it credit. But now that it’s behind us, I’m grateful for that too.”
Perhaps fittingly, she delivered a performance for the ages on UW’s Senior Day, which paid tribute to the team’s four seniors (Chantel Osahor, Katie Collier, Heather Corral and Plum) during a postgame ceremony.
“It was pretty special,” Plum said when asked about breaking the record. “It was kind of icing on the cake. Getting the win on Senior Night with my family here. And then that ceremony after just kind of put it into perspective. This was an amazing day.”
It had become a fait accompli that Plum, the nation’s scoring leader who entered the game averaging 30.7 points, would break Stiles’ record at some point this season.
Certainly not her mother Katie, who made the trip to Seattle with about a dozen family members and friends.
“I didn’t see this coming, but I’m so happy it happened today because most of the family is here and they wouldn’t be around next week,” Katie Plum said. “To be able to do it here is so special because she loves this building. So to do it in this city and in front of these fans, she couldn’t have written a better script.”
Plum began the regular-season finale against Utah needing 53 points – eight more than her previous personal best — to catch Stiles.
The UW star had 10 points in the first period and 22 by halftime, when the Huskies led 40-35.
After three periods she was at 38 — 16 from the record — and conditions were ripe for a history-making performance.
With eight minutes left, Utah closed within eight points (62-54) when UW star Chantel Osahor (14 points and 11 rebounds) fouled out.
That’s when Plum took over the game and did what she’s always done during her spectacular four-year career: She scored. And scored and scored.
“I was in the flow of the game,” said Plum, who scored 19 points in the fourth. “When Chantel got into foul trouble, I knew I had to be aggressive. My teammates were awesome. They were trying to find me and set screens whenever they could.”
Every time Plum got the ball in the fourth period, the crowd collectively held its breath and watched in amazement as she zipped around defenders for layups or pulled up for three-pointers.
“Utah knew what we were doing, they knew we were going to set a ball screen at some point and time and Kelsey was going to drive it,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said. “And you still can’t stop it. When you can do that, that is that zone I’ve heard people talk about.
“We weren’t going to call a play that was going to go anywhere other than making sure she got a chance to make the decision.”
Plum converted 19 of 28 field goals, including 6 of 11 three-pointers. She was 13 of 16 on free throws and finished with eight rebounds in 39 minutes.
The Huskies needed scoring in the final minutes, but Plum also understood the bigger context of what was happening because teammates — particularly Osahor — kept a running tally of what she needed to break the record.
“My teammates wanted me to be super-aggressive,” Plum said. “They kept feeding me the ball and coach kept calling my number. I wasn’t exactly sure like points-wise, but I knew that it was getting closer and closer.”
With 4:57 remaining, Plum scooped in a layup on the right side of the basket that gave her 53 points and tied Stiles.
Seconds later, she darted through the lane and sank an off-balance lefty floater over 6-foot-3 forward Wendy Anae at the 4:06 mark that moved her past Stiles.
“Golly, I didn’t think I was going to shoot it on that play,” Plum said. “I knew the shot clock was starting to go down. I just tried to get my feet under me real quick and put it up there and it went in. I was like, OK, we can win this game.”
The basket put Washington up 79-61 and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Utah (16-13, 5-13 in Pac-12), which received 22 points from Paige Crozon, rallied after that but Plum was too good.
The win keeps the Huskies (27-4, 15-3) in the hunt for a share of the Pac-12 title, but they need Oregon State (26-3, 15-2) to lose to California on Sunday.
Plum left Saturday’s contest with 44 seconds remaining. Her 57 points were the most points scored at Alaska Airlines Arena in a men’s or women’s game. It was also a Pac-12 women’s record and three shy of the NCAA women’s mark.
“You don’t do something like this by yourself, and hopefully I make that very clear,” Plum said. “This is an individual record, but it’s broken by a village of people. It’s broken by every teammate that I’ve ever had. Every coach that I’ve ever played for. Every trainer and doctor. My parents. My sister. My brother. It’s this university. It’s the support I’ve been given. I’m very grateful.”
Before walking off the court, Plum waved, blew kisses to the fans and repeatedly said, “Thank you, guys,” while Alicia Keys’ “This Girl Is On Fire” blared over the loudspeakers.
After the game, congratulations poured in from all over the sports world.
Stiles sent the new record-holder a text that read: “I just wanted to tell u how amazing I think u and your game are! Well deserved and make sure u enjoy every second of this journey u are on, u deserve it! Keep getting buckets! Rooting u on from afar! Your #1 fan, Jackie #10.”