A longshot to even reach the Sweet 16 after finishing fifth in the Pac-12 Conference, the University of Washington women’s basketball team instead finds itself in historic territory. The seventh-seeded Huskies made the Final Four Sunday for the first time in program annals with a wire-to-wire, 85-76 win over No. 4 seed Stanford as Chantel Osahor dominated the Cardinal with 24 points and 18 rebounds. All-America selection Kelsey Plum contributed 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds (box).
“I could not be more proud of what this team has accomplished,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said after the Huskies (26-10) toppled their conference rival at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. “I would have been proud even if we had lost. We faced a Stanford team that was never going to quit, and we didn’t quit, either. And now we’re going to Indy!”
The lowest-seeded women’s team to reach the Final Four since Minnesota also made it as a No. 7 in 2004, Washington will play Syracuse, which routed Tennessee 89-67 Sunday in a national semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Sunday in Indianapolis.
The Huskies and Syracuse met Nov. 27 at the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas. The No. 23-ranked Orange won 66-62 after trailing by 21 points in the first half. The loss was Washington’s first of the season.
Osahor, Washington’s 6-foot-2 center, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute as the Huskies stormed to a 12-0 lead. The Cardinal played nearly the remainder of the contest burdened with a double-digit deficit.
Stanford closed to 78-73 with 1:03 remaining when Lili Thompson nailed a 3-pointer. But Plum made four free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“I’m almost at a loss for words. No one picked us to do this, but everyone in our locker room believed, and that’s all that matters. I just want to say we didn’t take no for an answer. You can do whatever you want when you put your heart to it. Chantel (Osahor) was the MVP of this game. She got the rebounds, hit the big shots and controlled the tempo.”– Plum
“This is what happens when you play together as a team. Everybody doubted this team, but we never worried about doubters. It didn’t matter what anybody said. We played as one. That’s exactly what we were — one. Honestly, this is so rewarding” — UW forward Talia Walton
The Cardinal could not defend Osahor, who went 8-for-11 from 2-point range and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. Sixteen of her 18 rebounds were defensive . . . Walton added 12 points and Alexus Atchley 11 . . . The Huskies shot 49.2 percent from 2-point range and 42.1 from 3-point range while holding the Cardinal 34.3 and 42.2 . . . Stanford hit 14 3-pointers . . . Washington improved to 6-8 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, recording wins over No. 17 UCLA, No. 25 USC, No. 11 Stanford, No. 5 Maryland, No. 12 Kentucky and No. 13 Stanford, which finished 27-8 . . . Washington reached the Final Four by defeating No. 10 seed Penn (65-53), No. 2 seed Maryland (74-65), No. 3 seed Kentucky (85-72) and No. 4 seed Stanford (85-76) . . . Sunday’s game marked the first in women’s tournament history featuring a No. 4 vs. a No. 7 seed in a regional final . . . Thompson led the Cardinal with 19 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Erica McCall added 19 and 15 rebounds, and Karlie Samuelson 12, all 3-pointers before fouling out.