Seniors lead No. 12 Washington past No. 9 UCLA, 82-70

Seattle, Wash. – The highly-anticipated showdown between the top two teams in the Pac 12 turned into a mostly one-sided affair Sunday, as No. 12 Washington easily-dispatched No. 9 UCLA, 82-70.

Kelsey Plum led the Huskies with 39 points – her second 30-plus outing in two days. Fellow senior Chanel Osahor added 19 points and 16 rebounds for her NCAA-high 14th double-double on the year. Senior Katie Collier had eight points and a career-high 15 rebounds, as the performances of all three players brought the crowd of 4,446 to their feet for most of the last two quarters.

UCLA lead by two in the game’s first 40 seconds, but after that it was all Huskies, who were hard to guard with threats both on the perimeter and inside the paint. They limited the usually-quick Bruins to no fast break points, and Plum was perfect from the free throw line. Osahor and Collier combined for 31 of Washington’s 45 rebounds.

“We knew we were going to have as hard of a time tonight against (UCLA post) Monique Billings,” Husky coach Mike Neighbors said. “We wanted to make sure she felt like she had to go through a crowd to get one (rebound). Collier and Osahor’s focus and ability to double-team together was big. Katie got eight offensive rebounds. We don’t win that game tonight if we don’t out-rebound them.”

Plum said rebounding was key to the win.

“Everything was a magnet to their hands,” she said of her teammates. “It was honestly one of the best rebounding efforts between two people combined, I’ve ever seen in a game.”

For Neighbors, it was his team’s three-point shooting effort that made the difference. Five different players took a turn shooting behind the stripe for buckets.

“Three point shooting was definitely the huge difference in this game,” he said. “They started the game 0-11. We made 27 field goals and they made 26, free throws were about even and it was still a double-digit win.”

Washington got off to a quick start in the first quarter, going 6-13 from beyond the three-point arc. Meanwhile, UCLA went 0-8 from downtown, and the Huskies built a lead that kept growing.

Despite building double-digit leads throughout the game, the Bruins never backed down. For every 7-0 run the Huskies had, the visitors responded with one of their own. Both teams played almost dead even through the final three quarters of the game, but UCLA couldn’t overcome the earlier deficit.

Monique Billings led the Bruins with 17 points and 9 rebounds, and Kennedy Burke and Kari Korver added 14 and 13, respectively. Jordin Canada had 12 points before fouling out in the fourth period.

UCLAs coach Cori Close said she liked her team’s resilience, but wished it had been enough for the win.

“I liked our mentality,” she said. “There was never a time where we hung our heads. We showed a mental toughness to stay the course and believe we could win. Our team didn’t come here to just play even for three quarters. We came to win. But Washington was the better team tonight.”

Close said Washington is a hard team to guard.

“They’re really good. We had to make them shoot two’s instead of three’s and the first part of the game we just did not do this, so we dug ourselves a hole by not executing the game plan. They spread you out so far,” Close said.

Billings was held to just two points in the important final frame of the game, and Close expressed some regret on that.

“I don’t think we got her (Billings) the ball enough in the second half,” Close said. “Part of that is our guards and part of that is she got worn down a little bit. She’s got to learn what it takes to play this kind of game against that physical of a player in Osahor for an extended period of time.”

The Bruins were able to cut Washington’s lead down to just six points with 7:34 to play with a 9-0 run. However, Plum then knocked down back-to-back three pointers to seal the game for the Huskies. She said she knew she had to turn up the energy down the stretch.

“I think the key was staying aggressive,” Plum said. “You’re not going to beat a team like that by being passive with the last five minutes left of the game. We knew we needed to get a stop, a score, and another stop.”

UCLA’s Close talked about what makes Plum such a unique talent.

“Kelsey’s work ethic makes her special. She’s really exciting to watch. We have a saying in our program that I think she lives out really well. ‘What you do in the dark gets revealed in the light.’ Kelsey Plum doesn’t just show up for the bright lights. She does all this work in the dark to make herself special for the big lights.”

Neighbors does not envy other teams and coaches that have to try and come into Alaska Airlines Arena and beat this Washington team.

“They can’t double Chantel because she’s too good of a passer,” Neighbors said. “And if you don’t double her, she puts on a clinic. I know it makes us hard to guard. Believe me, I wouldn’t trade jobs with anybody in America and have to try and do a scouting report. I have no idea how you stop this team if we’re making 12 three’s, getting to the foul-line twenty times and only committing six turnovers against a team that normally forces 22. We’re going to be really hard to beat.”

Washington hits the road next to take on the Arizona schools.