Pac-12 Feature: Washington in Plum Position

UW Athletics

Washington coach Mike Neighbors was walking through Alaska Airlines Arena on the way to a reception at 5:45 p.m.

As he passes through, there’s one player in the gym putting up shots. He didn’t have to look to know it was Kelsey Plum.

“Of course it’s her,” Neighbors said. “She’s down there shooting right now. It’s what she does all the time.”

Plum, the junior guard, is on her way to one of the greatest individual seasons in conference history. She leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 26.8 points a game and in free-throw percentage at 89 percent from the stripe.

For much of the season, she’s been the national scoring leader, but currently ranks third.

There might be only a few players in the Pac-12 who have scored 26 points in a game this season and that’s her average,” Neighbors said. “It blows me away, it really does. I’ve never been around a kid that consistently averages that kind of production.”

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season against Utah and Colorado, Washington has positioned itself well for the postseason with Plum leading the way. The Huskies are 18-9 and 9-7 in conference play, tied for fifth with upstart Oregon.

“Every game is important at this point, every day is a chance to get better at things, Plum said. “At this point, we aren’t just playing to get into the tournament, but for seeding and the best position.”

Neighbors has maintained that the Huskies need more than Plum in order to succeed. He cited Sunday’s loss at No. 8 Arizona State, in which the Huskies were ahead at the half, but were outscored 49-27 in the second half. Plum finished the game with 25 points. Talia Walton was the only other player on the Washington team with double-digits scoring.

“We needed to play 40 minutes against a team the caliber of Arizona State. Twenty minutes wasn’t going to do it,” Neighbors said. “We just need her to play consistently. We don’t need her to do anything she hasn’t done. But obviously that’s a lot.”

Plum’s consistency at scoring the basketball is all the more impressive considering that she is the target of every opponents’ defensive game plan.

“Sometimes I need to score more and sometimes I need to give it up more,” Plum said.  “I always think that if I keep chipping away, the basketball gods will take care of you.”

Plum called it a “gunslingers” mentality. She just keeps firing, and eventually she will wear the defense down.

“Fitness has a lot to do with it,” Plum said. “When the other team gets tired, I can take advantage.”

Plum said when the season began, she didn’t embrace the new change from two halves to four quarters.

“I didn’t like it at all,” Plum admitted. “But now I really like it because if I have a bad first quarter, I get to start over 10 minutes later. And I love that.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. 

 
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