Seattle, Wash. – The Arizona Wildcats proved to be little competition for the No. 10-ranked Washington Huskies Friday night, as the hosts went wire-to-wire with a 91-55 blowout victory.
Kelsey Plum led Washington with 22 points in just 29 minutes, and had seven assists and five rebounds while going 8-8 from the foul line. Chantel Osahor added another double-double – her NCAA-leading 21st of the season – with 14 points and 19 rebounds. She shot 6-7 and might have padded her stats more if she hadn’t gone to the bench in foul trouble in the first quarter.
LaBrittney Jones was the only player for Arizona to score in double figures, with 18 points.
USC upset conference-leading Oregon State last night, which gives Washington sole possession of first place, at the moment.
“To be 13 games into the Pac 12 season and to be tied for first place with five games left – it feels really good for our team,” Husky coach Mike Neighbors said. “It also shows how deep our league is. On game night, anybody can beat anybody.”
Washington got out to a quick start against the Wildcats, and outscored them 30-4 in the second quarter. Plum and Osahor sat most of the second half, allowing the team’s newer players to accrue valuable playing time – experience they will need if they hope to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s good for our young players and the players that are on the bench,” Osahor said. “You just never know when your name is going to get called. So for them to get this opportunity and play well is really good for them and our team as a whole.”
“If you look at the box score, there’s contributions from everybody. That’s why we won by a lot. I think we honestly need more of these games (balanced scoring). It takes the pressure off of other people.”
Natalie Romeo and Aarion McDonald each added 13 points for Washington, as as four of five starters scored in double figures.
Arizona coach Adia Barnes was the Huskies’ assistant coach until last spring, when she left to take the Wildcat job, her first as a head coach. Her return to Alaska Airlines Arena was exciting for the Washington veterans, who had been close to Barnes.
“I think there were a lot of emotions with Adia coming back,” Neighbors said. “(The Wildcats) played really, really hard for her in that first quarter. And our kids became very businesslike in that second quarter. We were so efficient. Our defense buckled down, getting stops and then we ran in transition. That was probably the most efficient first 30 minutes of a game we’ve had all year.”
Washington limited Arizona to just 29 percent shooting on 21-73 from the floor, including just 3-18 from three-point range.
“I think Chantel and Natalie are the two best defensive players in our conference,” Neighbors said. “Chantel had 16 defensive rebounds. She finishes stops. Those are stops when she gets a rebound. And the job Natalie does. They went 1-12 from the floor tonight, the players she guards.”
Osahor had lead the NCAA in rebounding all season long, and broke the conference single-game rebounds record last month with 30 boards.
“I haven’t taught that to her,” Neighbors said. “I think other players can see it and learn from it. It’s hard to teach, you’ve either got that or you don’t. That has become HER ball and she takes it personal. She gets hit every possession, but she’s conditioned her body to be so strong, she doesn’t move. She can get frustrated. But I love seeing her get like that because I know she’s going to get every single rebound that comes off in her area.”
Barnes said her young team was outmatched, and she praised her former squad.
“They were hitting three’s and we weren’t making shots. They got to the bucket a lot. I don’t think we did well with our transition defense,” Barnes said. “They were getting coast to coast layups. And just couldn’t score.”
“What makes Washington so special is they have so many weapons from the outside. They have so many shooters. You can’t double. You can’t help with Kelsey too much because she’ll find open shooters. They have a lot of weapons and it makes the team really dangerous.”
After the game Neighbors gave props to his former assistant.
“(I told her) Your kids are playing really hard for you. That was obvious,” he said. “They were trying to get every rebound and every basket they could in that game. That’s a testament to the job her and her staff are doing down there. I just told her to keep doing what she knows is right. It’s only a matter of time before this game’s margin is not going to be what it was tonight.”
Next up, Washington hosts the Arizona State Sun Devils Sunday.