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Plum’s second half blitz powers Huskies to win

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Freshman point guard Kelsey Plum led the Huskies with 32 points in a rout of Concordia to start the UW’s season in an exhibition game. The former McDonalds All-American scored 24 points in the second half.

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

The Washington women’s basketball team gave its fans a bit of a scare on Halloween night, struggling to extend its lead over a lower-tier team in the first half of its season-opening exhibition game. But a strong performance in the second half allowed the Huskies to get the job done.

For the second straight year, the UW beat Concordia at Alaska Airlines Arena in its first matchup of the season, using a dynamic second-half performance from freshman point guard Kelsey Plum to win, 87-40.

The Huskies cruised to a 19-2 lead behind eight early points from Plum, but Concordia fought back and trimmed the margin to 12 by halftime. Plum then torched Concordia for 24 second-half points, and finished with a game-high 32.

“It felt amazing to be out there,” Plum said. “It was an amazing environment, and I think it’s just going to keep getting better.”

Plum played with a noticeable swagger in her UW debut. She looked loose during pregame warm-ups, then the freshman hit on her first three attempts from the field.

Plum’s counterparts in the backcourt were productive as well. Senior Mercedes Wetmore had 11 points and five assists, while junior Jazmine Davis chipped in nine points and four assists.

“Jazmine and Mercedes have been huge,” Plum said. “They really helped me get in the flow of the offense. They’re not the type of people to bark at you … and it really helps because they believe in me.”

The Huskies played man-to-man defense to start the game and mixed it up with a zone to force Concordia into outside shots. The Cavaliers were 5-of-28 from beyond the arc Thursday night.

Freshman Katie Collier played her first game in a UW uniform after overcoming leukemia and a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Collier wore a brace on her left knee for Thursday night’s game, but the former McDonalds All-American looked healthy and dominated Concordia’s post players. Her 6-foot-3 frame proved to be too much to handle for the Cavaliers, as she finished with 13 points and 12 boards.

“It felt so great,” she said. “Even if I messed up, it was like, ‘I’m out here playing basketball, and I love it.’”

For first-year head coach Mike Neighbors, who helped recruit Collier to the UW under former coach Kevin McGuff, the moment was a great start to the season.

“I teared up a little bit just seeing her in the starting lineup,” Neighbors said. “Just to have her on the court motivates everybody. It was fun to see her get a double-double.”

After pulling down 20 rebounds against Concordia last year, Aminah Williams finished with 19 boards for the Huskies on Thursday.

Sophomore forward Talia Walton was absent for the UW’s matchup with Concordia after getting surgery on her broken hand earlier in the day, and her status for the upcoming regular-season opener is unknown.

The Huskies hope to have Walton back for their regular-season opener Nov. 8 in Moraga, Calif., against Saint Mary’s, which lost to the Huskies 70-68 last year on a Davis layup in the final seconds.

Reach reporter Justin Lester at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JustinDLester

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