LEXINGTON, Ky. -- There might be Huskies in the Final Four that everyone expected to see. There will be Huskies that few outside of the Pacific Northwest thought they would see in Indianapolis.
No. 7 seed Washington is going to its first Final Four after a 85-76 win against fourth-seeded Stanford.
In clinching a place in the Final Four even before those other Huskies from Connecticut have a chance to do the same, Washington becomes the first No. 7 seed to reach the semifinals since the Minnesota team of Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville got there more than a decade ago.
Kelsey Plum led all scorers with 26 points and added 8 assists and 5 rebounds.
More to come from Lexington, but here are some initial thoughts on Washington's win.
Player of the game: When did the sport of chess ever get advertising this good? All weekend in Lexington, Washington coach Mike Neighbors described Chantel Osahor as someone who plays chess on the basketball court, always one step ahead of teammates, opponents and even him. Osahor completed a sensational regional with a commanding performance, totaling 24 points, 18 rebounds and 2 assists. Her early 3-pointers helped put Washington in front, and her rebounds, passing and low-post presence kept the underdog there.
How it was won: Let's start at the beginning because the winning team did. Washington began the game on a 12-0 run that set the terms for the rest of the engagement. Emotionally, a team riding a wave of momentum in the postseason is more likely to stay there if it plays from ahead. Tactically, playing from behind only makes it that much harder for opponents to show patience against Washington's zone and avoid shooting themselves out of games.
That early margin allowed Washington to play its own game and not worry about the stage.
Turning point: Time and again in the third quarter, Stanford cut the margin to seven, eight or nine points -- just beyond a couple of possessions. And time and again, Washington pushed it back to double digits. But after Plum uncharacteristically missed an open shot at the basket right after a beautiful dribble to split two defenders, Lili Thompson hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to six points early in the fourth quarter. Then Marta Sniezek hit a 3-pointer that cut it to five points. And Erica McCall hit a 3-pointer that cut it to four points.
The Cardinal were finally in range of completing the comeback. But Talia Walton, running hard all the way, followed a Plum missed layup in transition, and Alexus Atchley hit a layup out of a Washington 30-second timeout, and the lead was eight points again.
Stanford made the final minutes interesting, but it never could get back to within a single possession.
X factor: Washington got the contributions it needed from stars Osahor, Plum and Walton, but they also got 23 points from Atchley, Katie Collier and Kelli Kingma, the role players in a short rotation. Atchley's confident drive just seconds into the game got the Huskies off on the right foot. And Kingma's two first-half 3-pointers, matching her total in the team's previous 11 games, helped stabilize the lead.
Stat of the game: Washington led Stanford by 15 points after the first quarter. That meant that after trailing Penn after 10 minutes in the opening round, the Huskies led No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Kentucky and No. 4 Stanford by a combined 28 points after opening quarters in successive rounds.
What's next: Washington will play the winner of the regional final between No. 4 Syracuse and No. 7 Tennessee in a national semifinal next Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Washington lost to Syracuse 66-62 on a neutral court in late November, the final score hiding what was at one time a 21-point lead for the Orange. Plum and Walton combined for 41 points but also 13 turnovers. The teams combined to hit fewer than a third of their shots. Washington's only meeting with Tennessee, a loss, came well before any current players were born.