TUCSON, Ariz. — Kesley Plum became the 12th player in women’s college basketball history to top 3,000 career points and didn’t seem to think it was that big of a deal.
“I mean, it’s an honor to be part of that list,” the Washington senior guard said, “but I was really concerned about the win. You know, the Pac-12 is tough. Any given night anything can happen and this is not a game we wanted to give up.”
There wasn’t much chance of that.
Plum scored 36 points and the No. 8 Huskies rolled past Arizona 90-73 on Friday night.
The nation’s leading scorer at 31 points per game, Plum made 12 of 19 field goals and 10 of 11 free throws to lead the Huskies (17-2, 5-1 Pac-12) to their third straight conference victory.
Plum became the first player, man or woman, to top 3,000 points since the conference became the Pac-12 and the first woman from a Pac-12 school to do it since Cheryl Miller of USC in 1986.
“Everything we’ve ever asked her to do, she’s done it, and she keeps improving,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “The records mean nothing to her, the wins do. But the fact that she’s been able to do it, set records, while raising the level of play on our team and in our league, I think is the true beauty of what she’s been able to do.”
Arizona’s first-year coach Adia Barnes couldn’t help but be proud to watch Plum’s performance. Barnes was an assistant at Washington before getting the job in Tucson.
“We have a ton of history,” Plum said. “She recruited me in high school. We’re from San Diego. I can hear her talking the whole game. She’s just been awesome in my development as a women’s basketball player. It was kind of a weird feeling to see her on the other side, you know, the bad guys, but it was cool at the same time.”
Barnes was pleased her team played so hard throughout against a Washington squad she knows so well.
“It’s good to see their success,” Barnes said about the Huskies. “I wish Kelsey wouldn’t have had so much success against us, but she’s a great player. She’s a tough matchup. We threw different looks at her and she did her thing. That’s why she just scored over 3,000 points, why she’s one of the best players in the country. She’s going to be a great pro.”
LaBrittney Jones scored 20 points for Arizona (10-6, 1-4).
Washington was without starter Heather Corral after she injured a knee in the shootaround Friday.
The Wildcats led only at 2-0 and were last tied at 8-8.
The Huskies were up by as many as 18 points in the first half and 25 in the second.
Washington led 46-31 at break, as usual thanks to their 3-point shooting. They made 8 of 19 3s, led by 4 of 5 from Natalie Romeo.
Arizona scored the first five points in the second half, aided by a flagrant one foul against Washington’s big Deja Strother for an elbow to the face of Destiny Graham, and Breanna Workman’s 3-pointer cut the Huskies’ lead to 46-36.
Washington responded with a 19-2 run. A 3-pointer by Aarion McDonald followed by an inside basket by Osahor put the Huskies ahead 63-38 with 3:57 left in the third.
The Wildcats cut it to as few as 14 in the final minutes.
Neighbors said his immediate goal was to get Plum to reflect a bit on her accomplishment.
“My biggest challenge with her is to enjoy moments,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to make sure she enjoys tonight as long as she will, which is about until we get to the hotel.”
Neighbors was right.
Plum was already talking about Sunday’s big game at No. 19 Arizona State.
“I have never beaten Arizona State in my career, she said.
Beating the Sun Devils, Plum said, “would mean twice as much as 3,000 points.”
Washington: The Huskies were never in real trouble in what amounted to a tuneup leading into a game at Arizona State Sunday, a matchup of two of the seven Pac-12 teams in the Top 25.
Arizona: The Wildcats, among the five have-nots in the conference, couldn’t match the Huskies’ inside strength or outside shooting ability but kept up their big effort throughout.
Washington: The Huskies go to Tempe to face No. 19 Arizona State on Sunday night.
Arizona: The Wildcats are home against Washington State at noon on Sunday.