In as entertaining a game as they have produced all season, the Huskies routed visiting Oklahoma 108-82 in an NCAA tournament second-round game and in essence sent a thank-you note to fans for their support.
There were 2,421 empty seats at Alaska Airlines Arena on Monday, and for those who opted not to show — you blew it.
It was the last time Kelsey Plum would knock down a three on her home floor, the last time Chantel Osahor would rip down a rebound, the last time the most entertaining team in program history would enthrall the Hec Ed fans.
Priority 1 was to beat Oklahoma and advance to the Sweet 16 — which Washington did easily in its 108-82 victory. But in addition to winning, it’s almost as though the Huskies said “if we’re going to host a regional, we might as well host a party, too.”
Seriously, if you didn’t have fun watching UW Monday, you have a legitimate basketball allergy. Washington figured out a way to make a 26-point blowout one of the most compelling games of the season.
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It had everything from season-highs to scoring records — even an impromptu dance-off. In their final game in Seattle, the Huskies sent the Sooners home and sent their fans off in style.
“Games have been sold out to almost sold out, so we knew that coming down the stretch, if we play together, if we play our style of basketball, run in transition, shoot threes, play really hard, play as a team, it’s fun to watch,” said Plum, who had a game-high 38 points and a career-high 11 assists. “That’s what the fans want, and that’s what they got tonight.”
It’s hard to think the Huskies have had a better start this season than the one they had Monday. They got stops on their first two defensive possessions, scored on their first three offensive possessions, and took a 7-0 lead that forced Oklahoma to call a “Lord have mercy” timeout. And when play resumed — as has so often been the case this season — a left-handed Huskies guard took over the game like an All-American. Only difference is, this time, her name was Aarion McDonald.
Yes, for the first seven minutes of the game, Plum and Osahor were Pips to McDonald’s Gladys Knight. The freshman scored 13 points in the first quarter before her second foul forced her to the bench.
It was an omen to what would be the fondest of farewells for the Huskies, a great-bye game if you will. Fans have been supporting UW in record numbers this year, so the Huskies wrote them a thank-you note they might never forget.
Plum, unsurprisingly, penned most of the paragraphs. Her 38 points came on 12-of-21 shooting (6 of 9 from three) while her 11 assists accounted for 30 points. She also (yawn) broke Jackie Stiles’ season scoring record of 1,062 points and now has 1,080. The fact that you’re reading about this 450 words into the column speaks to everything she accomplished at UW.
But Monday wasn’t just about the nation’s best women’s basketball player. It was about Natalie Romeo nailing six threes en route to 20 points. It was about Osahor falling three dimes shy of a triple-double (16 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists) and watching a three-ball die on the back of the rim before rolling in. It was about the Huskies connecting on 18 of their 30 three-point attempts — including a bank shot from Heather Corral on a night that wore out the nylon.
After the game, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale was asked if it felt like every shot the Huskies threw up got a UW bounce. She said it did.
But Coale also agreed that the Huskies could have beaten anybody the way they played Monday. Their season-high 108 points were six shy of the program record, and their 30-14 run in the third quarter all but assured their spot in the Sweet 16, which will take place in Oklahoma City. It was perhaps the team’s most electrifying period of the season — although the highlight didn’t even take place between the lines.
Early in the third, as officials were reviewing whether a foul on Chelsea Dungee was flagrant, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” started blaring on the speakers. And that’s when Oklahoma’s Ijeoma Odimgbe decided she would bust out her air guitar and start rockin’ out. Corral responded with some air piano for Washington, which the big screen captured, and when the tune switched to Lil Jon’s “Turn down for what!” a full-fledged dance contest emerged between the two benches.
This was an NCAA tournament game, mind you.
“I laughed about it,” said Coale. “It is a game, it is supposed to be fun. We forget that sometimes.”
Added Plum: “I don’t think we won, though.”
No, the Huskies lost that contest within the contest, but they’re OK with that. After their most dominant game of the season, they’re the ones still dancing.