Lexington, KY -- The Washington Huskies will advance to the 2016 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four for the first time in school history with an 85-76 win over the Stanford Cardinal in the Lexington Regional Final at Rupp Arena.
"Couldn't be more proud of our entire team," Washington head coach Mike Neighbors said. "For us to be here validates so many things for what we work on a daily basis, and we're not done yet."
The ball was in Washington's court for the first quarter, where the Huskies opened the game strong with a 12-0 run. After a scoreless three minutes, Stanford junior guard LiLi Thompson hit a three-pointer to end the Cardinal's drought. Washington went 10-20 from the field, while holding the Cardinal to an 18 percent efficiency (3-for-17).
Huskies' junior forward Chantel Osahor and senior forward Talia Walton led all scorers with 6 points each as Washington held a 22-7 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
"Unfortunately, we dug ourselves too big a hole in the first quarter," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We just for some reason did not come out with the intensity and aggressiveness that we needed to."
The Cardinal started the second quarter on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 10, though the Huskies would only allow them to come within an eight-point reach. Stanford increased its overall shot efficiency to 29 percent, with Thompson adding 8 points, leading all scorers with 13.
However, Washington continued to dominate, capitalizing off points in the paint, which marked 14 of their 37 first-half points. The Huskies held a 37-26 at the half.
"Stanford has not fallen off; we've just raised," Neighbors said. "The first time we played Stanford I had a terrible offensive game plan and defensive game plan ... Stanford is still a standard bearer for us. It's a tribute to what they have done there, for the rest of our coaches to use them as that standard to raise our level."
Stanford came out of the locker room ready to battle, opening the half with a three-point play after junior forward Erica McCall drew the foul on a tip in. Washington junior guard Kelsey Plum responded with a quick jumper followed by a three-pointer that sparked a beyond-the-arc battle between both teams.
The Cardinal hit four three-pointers, before their best shooter, junior guard Karlie Samuelson, went to the bench with four fouls. The Huskies added 3 three-pointers of their own. Osahor, who was named the region's MVP, led all scorers with 23 points and 12 rebounds as Washington took a 63-51 lead into the final 10 minutes of play.
"Yeah, that was very disappointing," VanDerveer said. "Karlie getting four fouls in the third quarter, we're in trouble without her out there."
"It feels good," Osahor said on being named MVP. "It's my teammates, though. They had confidence in me to hit those threes and shoot the ball. They kept telling me to shoot the ball and Coach kept telling me to shoot the ball. We're all MVPs; I just got it, but we're all MVPs here."
Four straight three-pointers by Stanford cut the Huskies' lead to 4 within the first three and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. Washington responded by holding the Cardinal scoreless for three minutes, and Samuelson fouled out finishing with 12 points, going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Osahor pulled down her 15th rebound, marking 400 on the year and a new Washington single-season school record. The Huskies finished with a 49 percent efficiency from the field, while holding the Cardinal to 34 from the same range. Plum led all scorers with 26 points and 5 rebounds, followed by Osahor with 24 points and 18 rebounds.
"We're not done yet," Neighbors said. "'Whats Next?' has been our motto and its going to continue to be all the way through Indy."
The Washington Huskies will head to the Final Four in Indianapolis.