The No. 9 Washington Huskies opened Pac 12 play Tuesday night with yet another dominant performance, crushing arch rival Washington State, 94-63, in front of a raucous crowd of 4,635. It was the tenth straight win for 13-1 Washington.
Natalie Romeo led the Huskies with 25 points, including five three-point shots in the first half, and Kelsey Plum added 21 points – a season low for her. Chantel Osahor had her eleventh double-double of the year with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman Aarion McDonald added 11 points.
Coach Mike Neighbors said the large crowd turnout got his players excited.
“They were engaged, and it gave us a huge boost,” Neighbors said. “It’s what we’ve been hoping for. We know they support (basketball) in Seattle. I’ve been crusading to let Chantel, Katie (Collier), and Kelsey at least play in front of a top 25 crowd at some point in their lives. They’ve gotten the team back in the top 25, let’s get them a top 25 crowd. This was a great start!”
Romeo, a junior transfer, was 9-14 and 7-12 from three point range.
“If you let her take those same 12 shots, she’s going to make seven every night. She’s that good of a shooter,” Neighbors said.
Plum said the Cougars guarded other players, and Romeo made them pay for it.
“She (Romeo) was money tonight,” Plum said. “Across the board, you have to guard Chantel on the perimeter or she’ll make you pay. You have to guard Katie down low, otherwise it’s a wide open layup if you don’t. You have to give up something and tonight they gave up that (Romeo’s open three-pointers) and tonight she made them pay for it.”
The first quarter saw Washington grab a 10-2 lead before WSU answered with their own rally to tie the game at 14. The hosts responded with a 13-4 run to end the first quarter with a 27-18 lead.
The Cougars went ice cold in the second quarter, and missed their first eight shots. After shooting nearly 50 percent in the first quarter, they shot just 20 percent on 3-15 shooting in the second. Meanwhile, the Huskies were red-hot, knocking down five three-pointers and scoring 23 unanswered points.
The stand out play of the second quarter was when McDonald stole the ball and went coast to coast for the layup to put Washington up twenty, 38-18.
WSU started the third quarter off with a 5-0 run, which forced Neighbors to call a quick timeout. Romeo then went on a 5-0 run of her own that included another three-pointer and an impressive fast-break layup, which came from an amazing bounce pass by Plum. The Cougars did have their best quarter of the game in the third, outscoring the Huskies, 20-14. But the last period of the game was all Washington.
Chanelle Molina and Cameron Fernandez each had 11 points for WSU, while Ivana Kmetovska added 10 points.
The Huskies won the rebounds battle, 50-35. Osahor said the statistic was crucial.
“For me personally, it’s my job to get boards,” she said. “Everyone did well today. You don’t get 50 rebounds without it being a whole team effort.”
Neighbors pulled the starters with about seven minutes left to play in the game, but his team still outscored their opponents, 21-19 in the fourth quarter.
Washington heads to Oregon this weekend to play Oregon and Oregon State.