Washington women beat Oregon to advance in the WNIT
Huskies will be home Wednesday against San Diego in the third round
Special to The Seattle Times
EUGENE, Ore. — Washington just doesn’t want its season to end.
The Huskies kept it going for at least one more game by rallying for a 93-85 victory over Oregon on Monday night at Matthew Knight Arena in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, earning Washington a 7 p.m. home game Wednesday against San Diego.
“If we’re not going to have spring break, we might as well go all the way,” said Kelsey Plum, the freshman who led the Huskies with 31 points, 21 in the second half when Washington outscored the Ducks by a 59-39 margin.
That output also raised Plum’s season total to 680 points for a Washington season record, bettering the 661 by Giuliana Mendiola in 2004. Talia Walton added 24 points and Jazmine Davis chipped in 22 as the Huskies came back from 11 points behind in the second half.
“We were really locked up defensively,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said. “I thought we were really good in the second half on a good offensive team.”
The Ducks were the nation’s top scoring team, averaging 93.4 points entering the game Monday, but the Huskies limited Oregon to a .357 shooting percentage, and only .293 (12 of 41) in the second half.
Neighbors said there were two keys: clamping down on Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne on the inside — she was only 2 for 9 from the field in the second half — and mixing in more inside offense by the Huskies so they weren’t overly reliant on the three-point shot as they attempted 23 in the opening 20 minutes.
“We were settling (for threes) in the first half,” Neighbors said of Washington’s offense. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re a good three-point shooting team and I was OK with them. The problem was when we missed, they were turning it into transition (points) on us.”
Trailing 57-46, Washington went on a 12-0 run that concluded with Plum’s layup off a UO turnover as the Huskies took their first lead of the game with 13 minutes remaining.
Oregon momentarily regained the advantage at 60-58 and there were then two ties, the last at 65-65, before Plum’s two free throws gave the Huskies the lead for good with 8:47 left.
Davis then scored on the inside and followed it with another three-pointer to push the advantage to 72-65, and it reached 76-67 when Walton scored twice off nifty feeds from Chantel Osahor.
“Osahor is as good a passer as you’re going to see, regardless of position,” Neighbors said.
Washington finished with 24 assists on its 29 field goals, with Mercedes Wetmore credited with nine of them.
Ariel Thomas led five Ducks in double figures with 24 points.
In addition to 14 points, Alleyne pulled down 25 rebounds for the Ducks, raising her season rebound total to 519 as she became only the fifth player in Division I women’s history to record 500 rebounds in a season.
Plum set the Washington points record for a season with a three-pointer early in the second half as she made 5 of 8 from outside the arc, not that she was keeping track of any points except the totals showing on the scoreboard.
“That’s really cool,” the freshman said of being the top season scoring leader for the Huskies, “but honestly, my biggest focus is winning this game and keeping going.”
There was little time to celebrate as the Huskies headed for their bus and a late ride home.
The preparation time will be limited to get ready for San Diego (24-8), which won 60-57 at Montana on Monday to earn the trip to Seattle.
“We’re used to a one-day turnaround” in the Pac-12 season, Neighbors said. “This is a group of kids that has had to play a tremendous number of minutes on quick turnaround all season. I don’t worry about them.”
Agreed, said Plum.
“It’s not that quick of a turnaround,” she said. “We like playing. Shoot, let’s play tomorrow.”