COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Kelsey Plum and Washington finally got going on offense and prevented an Ivy League surprise in the women’s NCAA Tournament, with the nation’s third-leading scorer producing 24 points and seven assists Saturday in the Huskies’ 65-53 victory over Penn.
Like the rest of her team in the first-round game, Plum did not shoot all that well — 9 for 25, including 1 for 8 on 3s — but she took over when it mattered most, scoring or assisting on Washington’s first 14 points of the fourth quarter, breaking open a tight game.
Talia Walton added 18 points for No. 7 seed Washington (23-10), which faces host Maryland on Monday in the second round of the Lexington Regional.
Penn (24-5), seeded 10th, led 25-24 at halftime in its bid to become only the third Ivy League school to win a game in the history of the women’s tourney.
It actually happened a year ago at this site, with Princeton making it to the second round. And there were moments the Quakers appeared capable of another such upset.
Washington could hardly have been more out of sorts on offense early and trailed 13-7 after the first quarter. Facing Penn’s tricky 2-3 zone, the Huskies shot 3 for 18 in that period, missing their first six attempts and final seven.
Michelle Nwokedi, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward for Penn, blocked four shots in the first quarter alone and finished the game with six, along with 10 points and seven rebounds. Sydney Stipanovich led the Quakers with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
But Washington began the second quarter 3 for 4, and Alexus Atchley’s 3 provided the Huskies their first lead at 15-13. A fast-break basket by Plum made it a 10-0 run and a 17-13 edge.
Still, Kasey Chambers’ 3 at the buzzer pushed Penn into its halftime lead. Over the first 20 minutes, the teams combined to shoot 18 for 61, a tad under 30 percent.
That is what the Quakers do to opponents. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense at 51.6 points, and third in blocks, averaging 6.4.
But Plum and the Huskies eventually figured things out, and Walton’s corner 3 with 9 seconds left in the third quarter put Washington up 42-40 entering the fourth.
Penn: Coach Mike McLaughlin recorded his 500th career victory when Quakers beat Drexel in December, making him 30th active Division I coach with at least that many. … Most recent NCAA berth came two years ago, when Penn also was sent to College Park. As a 12th seed back then, the Quakers lost to No. 5 Texas in the first round.
Washington: Plum averages 26.2 points a game. … Second year in a row in NCAAs; before that, hadn’t been to the Big Dance since 2007. … As a No. 6 seed in 2015, lost to No. 11 Miami in the first round. … Now 4-0 all-time against Ivy League teams.
Penn: Season over.
Washington: Plays No. 2 seed Maryland in the second round on Monday.
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