The No. 12 Washington Huskies bounced back from an upset loss five days earlier to top Southern California Friday, 77-67, in their home court Pac 12 opener.
Washington used a strong defensive effort in the first half to limit USC to just 25 total points, and they were able to hold off a fourth-quarter Trojan rally to claim the win. Last Sunday, on the opening weekend of conference play, the Huskies were upset by Oregon State.
Kelsey Plum dominated the USC match up with a lot of dribble penetration, to lead all players with 34 points. She also had five assists, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocks in Washington’s 15th season victory. Chantel Osahor had her 13th double-double on the year with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Heather Corral added 10 points on 3-5 three-point shooting.
Plum said her team came out ready to punch first.
“We knew we needed to come ready to play, especially in the Pac 12…..so anything can happen. That was the emphasis, come out and execute, get great shots, and play good defense,” Plum said.
“We ran our sets really well (in the first quarter). We got good shots. Defensively our post players did a really good job on (USC post player Kristen) Simon. Whether that was throwing double teams at her or mixing up our defensive schemes. We got to the basket and got them in foul trouble early. We were locked in.”
After having a poor shooting game against the Beavers (8-23 for 35 percent shooting), Plum bounced back with a great game shooting 13-24 for 54 percent and 3-6 from three-point range.
The Trojans spaced their defense to try and limit Washington’s long-range shooting, so the hosts drove to the rack instead.
“They weren’t coming off our shooters too much, so it left me lanes to the basket,” Plum said.
Despite a slow first half, USC did an admirable job of keeping the game close in the second half, where they out-scored the Huskies, 42-38. Minyon Moore came off the bench to lead the Trojans with 18 points, and Courtney Jaco had 16 – including a buzzer-beater half-court shot at the end of the third quarter. Sadie Edwards added 12 points for the visitors. Simon, who is averaging a double-double this season, was held to nine points and four rebounds.
USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke acknowledged trying to defend the three-shot.
“We wanted to do different things defensively to keep them off balance on the offensive end, because we knew they score quite a bit of points and they shoot a lot of three pointers,” she said. “We tried to limit them from doing what they wanted to do. And I thought we did a reasonably good job.”
Washington was only 7-21 from beyond the arc in the game. But Cooper-Dyke was not as pleased with her team’s offense, as they scored only 10 points in the second quarter.
“We need to execute better,” she said. “They double and triple teamed Kristen Simon, so we need to make that extra pass to get the ball to our shooters. We were finally able to do that in the third and fourth quarter and make some big shots.”
“Basketball is a team sport. When a team takes away something you need to be able to counter with an extra pass or dribble penetration. We need to share the ball. We only had six assists for the game, and that is unacceptable.”
But Cooper-Dyke appreciated the Trojan’s fight down the stretch.
“Well we are resilient. We never gave up and continued to fight all game long,” she said. “I think what is says is we’re pretty talented when we play together. We just need to do that more consistently.”
There was a bit of a disparity between free throws in this game. The Washington Huskies got to the line 27 times and made 20 of those shots. While the Trojans only shot half as many, making 10-14. Both coaches had their views on that.
“Free throws are an indicator that the dribble drive is working. If you can get to the foul line, that means you’re in attack mode. We got it inside to Chantel a bunch tonight. That was the key. (The attempts) were all up and down the lineup. That’s your best chance to score,” Neighbors said.
Even still, one of Washington’s best players, Katie Collier, was in foul trouble early in this game and was limited. She sat out a good part of the Oregon State game, and it allowed the Beavers to pull away. Against USC, Collier picked up her second foul with 5:38 left to play in the first quarter, and she didn’t play the rest of the half.
“The whistles have found her again. She’s got some tough match-ups,” Neighbors said. “We ask her to guard some really tough people. I’ll do some things to help her there because we need her on the floor for a lot of minutes that she hasn’t been able to do because of the foul trouble.”
Cooper-Dyke didn’t make any excuses for her team, but hinted that the fouls could have been called more evenly.
“I thought we were also pretty aggressive going to the basket. I don’t know that we got the same amount of calls, with the same contact that they got, but that’s how the ball rolls and how the game is played,” she said. “Sometimes you get the calls and sometimes you don’t. As a result of that, you have to make adjustments. I thought we let it frustrate us a little bit and we shouldn’t have.”
Neighbors said his team’s 80 percent shooting to begin the game set a good tone.
“We were moving the ball (in the first quarter),” he said. “We were scoring at will. We were very crisp with what we were doing (on offense).”
Both teams struggled to score in the second quarter, as the shooting went cold for both sides. While it didn’t always result in points or assists, Osahor made several beautiful passes, and her court vision was on full display.
Neighbors didn’t seem too concerned about being out-scored in the second half.
“I changed the ball screen defense. We started going under on Jaco and she banged two threes in a row,” he said. “Then we got a little tentative. She scored 10 straight points. That got their momentum going. That’s all on me. That’s why it’s important that we have those stretches where it’s 25-15 to start the game, so we can weather those (runs).”
The Huskies out-rebounded the Trojans, 43-32, but only had two more second chance points with a 9-7 edge.
Next up for Washington is the premiere match up with No. 9 UCLA Sunday. The Bruins were upset by Washington State Friday.