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Washington Huskies Defeat Montana State University 91-63 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament

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Washington is able to fend off a scrappy Montana State University team, finishing in a 91-63 victory

NCAA Womens Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament-Washington vs Oregon State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In front of a sold-out Hec Ed, the Huskies were able to wear down a very admirable opponent, the Montana State University Bobcats. The Bobcats gave everything they had, and for 27 minutes stayed within striking distance of the Huskies. Only with 8:00 left in the fourth quarter did the Huskies achieve the 22-point spread that the experts had predicted. At that point things kind of fell apart for the Bobcats, and they were unable to continue their high level of play.

In the first quarter the Huskies had difficulty containing Big Sky MVP Peyton Ferris. Because Ferris is so versatile, MSU Head Coach Tricia Binford had Ferris play down in the post. It seemed unusual to have the 5’9” Ferris cover the much larger Osahor (6’2”), but the move was brilliant. The Huskies’ post players were completely unable to cover the much smaller Ferris, who was able to score easily and get Katie Collier into foul trouble in the first half. At the end of the first quarter the Bobcats led the Huskies 17-16, with Kelsey Plum a shocking 0-3 on her 3-point attempts and ending the quarter with just four points.

The second quarter continued like much of the first, with Peyton Ferris scoring like a machine and the Huskies not really having an answer for her. Kelsey Plum continued to be off on her long range shots but was able to drive the left unimpeded and score fairly easily. Aarion McDonald was all over the floor, supplying a lot of energy and points for the Huskies. The quarter ended on a high note when Kelsey Plum finally made a 3-point shot with ten seconds remaining. At the end of the quarter Kelsey was 1-6 from 3-point land, and the team on a whole was 4-22 from that distance. Horrible; when you live by the three you die by the three. However, the Huskies weren’t dead, and ended the half with a 38-27 lead.

Surely over halftime, I thought, there would be a change in the defense. It seemed ridiculous to continue to let the post players try and defend Ferris, who ended the half with 19 of the Bobcats’ 27 points. I was wrong.

The third quarter started with a Ferris jump shot, followed immediately by a McDonald jump shot, and that was when Plum and Osahor finally started to heat up. With an undersized Ferris, Osahor was able to take advantage. Very rarely was Osahor double-teamed, as it seemed the Bobcats were much more concerned with the whereabouts of Plum. The Huskies took fewer 3-point shots and instead were driving the lanes, which led to points. The Huskies were able to end the third quarter with a 63-47 lead. Defensively they were able to slow down Ferris, who only accumulated 9 points that quarter, but it was still impressive she had 28 points with a quarter to go.

In the fourth quarter, the Huskies really started to pull away. The Bobcats continued to battle, but it was obvious they were worn down and it was difficult for them to contain the high-powered Huskies. Ferris tried to continue her scoring spree, but was too exhausted and beaten up, scoring just five more points to finish the game with a personal record 33 points. Both Ferris and Riley Nordgaard fouled out of their final collegiate game. Ferris’s spectacular performance singlehandedly kept the Bobcats in it for most of the game.

The Huskies continued to push the ball. At this point all players were involved in scoring and were successful at finding the bottom of the basket. Coach Neighbors pulled the starters with about four minutes left to go. The bench players came in and were able to get some good Tournament experience. The Huskies finished off the Bobcats with a final score of 91-63.

In researching the Bobcats, it was very obvious that they had a one-two punch similar to what the Huskies have in Plum and Osahor. Their combo came in the forms of Peyton Ferris and Riley Nordgaard. Tonight it was all Ferris, as Nordgaard was unable to score effectively with only 10 points and 7 rebounds. As we have seen with our own dynamic duo, you cannot win the game with only one being effective.

End-of-game statistics:

Montana State- FG 22-68 (32.4%), 3PT 7-34 (20.6%), FT 12-14 (85.7%), REB 40

Washington- FG 31-76 (40.8%), 3PT 7-29 (24.10%), FT 22-27 (81.5%), REB 51

This game was exciting in a sour-stomach type of way. It is concerning when one player can dominate to the extent that Ferris was able. I was very worried that if Nordgaard was able to get free, we would have a repeat of the Oregon game. Fortunately we did a good job containing Nordgaard and the rest of the Bobcat team.

Things still seem a little off for Plum in regard to her long-distance shooting, as she was only 1-7 from 3-point tonight. Everything else was spot on. Plum was perfect from the line, 8-8, and her overall FG made was 10-20. She ended the game with 29 points.

Osahor made 7-14; 2-6 in 3-point attempts and 0-1 from the line, finishing the night with 16 points and 19 rebounds. This was her 28th double-double of the season.

Aarion McDonald was also a big player in tonight’s game. She provided tons of energy flying around the court. McDonald made 6-11 attempts, including 0-2 from 3-point and 3-4 from the line.

All of the Huskies participated tonight, which was a good thing since Plum was a little slow off the blocks. They provided excellent defensive support in the first half and scoring enough to initially keep things close. The second half showed the difference between a Power-5 and a mid-major team. Physically the Huskies just were bigger, stronger, and faster. I have to give the Bobcats serious props, though; they fought hard and they fought the whole game.

The next opponent the Huskies face will be Oklahoma, who have a very dominant post player and a couple good outside shooters. The Huskies will have to be on their game when they face them and Plum is going to have to be a bit sharper from distance. Oklahoma is definitely a step up from Montana State in physicality and they are going to give us a great game.

On to Round 2! Go Huskies!