Lexington, KY -- A sea of blue at Rupp Arena wasn't enough to float the No. 12 University of Kentucky Wildcats to the Elite 8. The seventh-seeded Washington Huskies were victorious in the NCAA Women's Tournament Lexington Regional Semifinals, posting an 85-72 win over Kentucky.
"We were uncharacteristically out of position tonight defensively," Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "They were prepared, they played hard, and we wish them well as we move forward."
Junior guard Makayla Epps put the Wildcats' first points on the board with a quick three-pointer, followed by a fitting bow and arrow celebration. Kentucky went on a 6-0 run late in the first quarter, holding Washington scoreless for three minutes, before senior forward Talia Walton, who led all scorers with 8 points, ended the Huskies drought with a three-pointer from the top of the arc.
The Huskies' 50 percent three-point efficiency, compared to the Wildcats' 13 percent, gave Washington a 16-11 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
"Our focus was really good against a really talented team," Washington head coach Mike Neighbors said. "As good as we've played, we've peaked at the right time."
Runs and droughts controlled the second quarter, where the ball bounced back and forth between both teams' courts. The Huskies went on a 9-0 run holding the Wildcats scoreless for three minutes, before Epps, who led all scorers with 13 points, drew the foul to get to the charity stripe.
Kentucky responded by going on a 7-0 run, forcing Washington to go 0-for-7 for three minutes. A layup by junior guard Kelsey Plum got the Huskies back into rhythm, and 10 points from junior forward Chantel Osahor drove Washington to a 35-30 halftime lead.
"We know how good we are, and we have a chip on our shoulder," Osahor said.
Kentucky junior forward Evelyn Akhator opened the second half with a quick bucket to cut the Wildcats' deficit to three, but not before Osahor responded with a quick layup herself. A 7-0 run by Washington propelled the Huskies to a 12-point lead halfway through the third quarter.
The Wildcats increased their three-point shooting to 29 percent, in an attempt to catch up to the Huskies 40 percent efficiency, but 10 points from Walton, who led all scorers with 20 points, and a tough three from Osahor at the buzzer put Washington up 63-49 heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
"It was good," Osahor said on entering the fourth quarter after hitting the buzzer beater. "I knew it (the shot) was coming."
Osahor continued to dominate, opening the fourth quarter by drawing a foul and sinking one of two free throws. A three-pointer by Epps, who put up 30 points, cut the margin to 10. However, the Huskies wouldn't allow the Wildcats to take over, bringing their lead back up to 14 within two minutes.
Washington finished shooting at a 49 percent field goal efficiency and 39 percent from the three-point range, compared to Kentucky's 40 percent field goal efficiency and 24 percent efficiency from beyond the arc. Walton recorded 30 points and five rebounds alongside Osahor, who finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
"We've had a motto throughout the whole tournament," Plum said. "'What's next?'"
Washington will advance in the NCAA Women's Tournament to play the winner of tonight's game against Notre Dame and Stanford.