SEATTLE -- Kelsey Plum saved the best for last.
The Washington senior entered her final regular-season home game Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena needing 54 points against Utah to pass Jackie Stiles as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. Plum got there with a historic effort, scoring a school-record -- men's or women's -- 57 to help the Huskies beat the Utes 84-77.
Washington coach Mike Neighbors called it the greatest performance he has seen in Plum's standout four-year career.
"Utah knew what we were doing," he said. "They knew we were going to set a ball screen at some point in time and Kelsey was going to drive it -- and you still can't stop it. When you can do that, that is that zone that I've heard people talk about."
After she scored 25 points on Thursday against Colorado, nearly six below her NCAA-leading average, it seemed more likely Plum would surpass Stiles during next week's Pac-12 tournament, held across town at KeyArena. Instead, Plum blew away her career high of 45 points, set last year against Oklahoma, which was also the school record.
According to Plum, 57 is the most points she has ever scored in a game dating back to high school. Saturday, she hit 19 of 28 shots, including 6-for-11 shooting on 3-pointers and 13-for-16 at the foul line, to move her career total to 3,397, four more than Stiles' mark.
"There's not much you can do," Utah coach Lynne Roberts lamented. "She's obviously ridiculously good. We tried everything. She just kind of took over. When [Chantel] Osahor fouled out, it's almost like she became possessed. Even as the opposing coach, you stand there and you say, 'Holy cow.'"
Plum's secret sauce? Applesauce. She has been feeling under the weather, and couldn't wait to get back to the bench during timeouts to have more applesauce for sustenance. There, she was also getting updates from Osahor on how close she was getting to Stiles' record.
"Chantel was like, I need eight more or something like that," Plum said. "I knew my teammates wanted me to be super-aggressive. They just kept feeding me the ball and Coach kept calling my number. I wasn't sure exactly pointswise, but I knew it was getting closer and closer."
After 22 points in the first half, Plum added 16 more in the third quarter to pull within 15 of Stiles' total. But it wasn't until fellow senior Osahor -- the nation's leading rebounder -- fouled out on a charge with 8:18 to play that Plum went into overdrive. She scored a layup and back-to-back 3-pointers on Washington's next three possessions, pushing her total to 46 points.
"Chantel grabbed her and had some words for her," Neighbors said. "They've become, like Kelsey said, like sisters. She got that nod -- that singular nod and that singular focus. It was takeover mode. I just tried to think of a different play that involves a ball screen. Can I come up with something that we didn't call the time before that just involves her getting a little bit of space?"
A running scoop layup at the 4:57 mark gave Plum 53 points in the game and 3,393 for her career, tying Stiles. The crowd roared during the following timeout, with the student section chanting "M-V-P," but Plum had more in store. A driving floater on the possession after the stoppage put her alone atop the women's NCAA career leaderboard.
"I didn't think I was going to shoot it that play," said Plum, reminded which shot broke the record. "Then I knew the shot clock was starting to go down, so I tried to get my feet under me and put it up real quick and it went in."
"The shot she hit [to break the record] is perfect because it's a drive. ... Make it be something that she's known for, and that's her ability to take people off the bounce." UW coach Mike Neighbors on Kelsey Plum breaking Jackie Stiles' scoring mark
Neighbors admitted there was some confusion on whether 54 points would tie or break the mark.
"Again at that point, we were just trying to win the game," he said. "I now go back and look and the shot she hit is perfect because it's a drive. I didn't want it to be a free throw if she were going to break it. Make it be something that she's known for, and that's her ability to take people off the bounce."
Both coach and player appreciated that the record came in the flow of the game, rather than a concerted effort to make history. Neighbors shared that they had talked beforehand and agreed that chasing the record would be disrespectful to the players, including Stiles, who had previously set it.
Instead, Neighbors kept calling Plum's number and counted on his senior point guard to make the right decision, whether it meant passing or shooting. She passed up opportunities to extend her total, adding two free throws with 2:20 remaining to finish with 57 points -- three shy of the NCAA Division I women's single-game record of 60, first set by Cindy Brown for Long Beach State in 1987 and tied last season by Minnesota's Rachel Banham.
Knowing Plum, Neighbors says she's enough of a perfectionist to lament not making more history.
"I already know what's coming," he said. "At some point between now and the next two days, she's going to say, 'I could have had 60 if I made my free throws.'"
That's a concern for another day. For now, Plum can enjoy a magical afternoon of basketball that she got to share with her teammates, coaches and family. Plum called the all-time scoring record an individual record that was broken by the village of people required to get here -- many of them part of the postgame senior day ceremonies.
"It was pretty special," she summarized. "It was kind of the icing on the cake. Getting a win on senior night with my family here and then this ceremony after just put it in perspective. This was an amazing day."