Huskies hold court, will host familiar foe Oklahoma in second round

Plum, Washington open with a win (0:54)

Kelsey Plum scores 17 of her 29 points in the second half to propel Washington past Montana State 91-63 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (0:54)

SEATTLE -- The last time Oklahoma visited Seattle, the Sooners' victory in December 2015 was an early nonconference test for a developing Washington team that was still months away from a surprise run to the Final Four.

Both teams won their NCAA tournament openers Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, setting up a rematch Monday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 9:05 p.m. ET) that will feature similar rosters but much different stakes: a trip to Oklahoma City for the Sweet 16.

Getting to the regionals would mean a return home for the Sooners, whose on-campus arena in Norman, the Lloyd Noble Center, is 23 miles south of Oklahoma City down I-35. But Oklahoma has had success in Seattle, too. The Sooners beat Washington 71-68 last season, making 10 3-pointers, and matched that total in their 75-62 win Saturday over 11th-seeded Gonzaga.

Oklahoma was on fire to begin the game, making 6-of-8 3s in the first quarter to open a 29-16 lead. And while the Bulldogs played even the remainder of the game, pulling within five at one point, the Sooners led for all but he first 11 seconds.

"I'm really, really proud of our guys after being off for two weeks, the way we started in the first quarter," said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale, who has led the team to 18 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. "We shot it about as good as we could shoot it, competed at a high level and were connected."

The Sooners credited their hard practices during the two-week break since they lost to West Virginia in their opening game of the Big 12 tournament for preparing them to play Gonzaga.

Nobody benefited more than center Vionise Pierre-Louis, who regained her starting job for the first time since Dec. 21 and responded by coming within a rebound and a block of a triple-double. Pierre-Louis' nine blocks were a career high and an Oklahoma NCAA tournament record.

"[Vionise] had two great weeks of practice," Coale said, "and one of the benefits of playing in a conference tournament early for us this year was to have those two weeks to get back to basics and have everybody earn their spot. The slate is clean and she really took advantage and practiced really hard for two weeks, so she earned that."

The Huskies -- whose win capped a 7-0 first round for Pac-12 teams; the ACC also went 7-0 -- felt their layoff had the opposite effect. They started slowly in front of a sellout crowd a little over two weeks after getting upset by Oregon at nearby KeyArena in the Pac-12 tournament. Montana State guard Delany Junkermier's off-balance 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer gave the 14th-seeded Bobcats an unlikely 17-16 lead 10 minutes in.

"Fifteen days is a long time to be off for me and for everybody," Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. "You want to be rested but you're also going to be rusted. I was rusty; I called a couple of plays that were the wrong calls and we did some uncharacteristic things, and a team like that coming off a (conference) championship exposed us every time we made a mistake."

With Montana State senior Peyton Ferris (33 points) outscoring NCAA all-time leading scorer Kelsey Plum -- she finished with 29, bringing her within 21 of Jackie Stiles' NCAA single-season record -- Washington didn't establish its dominance until after halftime, but the Huskies dominated the final 20 minutes to win by 28, 91-63.

Neighbors took note of the Pac-12's success.

"The last three or four years, we've been building it to this point. We've been able to get our recruits to stay home. We've played a national schedule. We've banded together. All 12 coaches have been collaborative on this and it's really starting to pay off."

For the Huskies, that national scheduling was highlighted by a home-and-home series with the Sooners, whom Neighbors cited as an ideal opponent because of their strong RPI and Coale's willingness to play other Power 5 conference opponents.

"She ended up getting a sweep out of it, so she's probably the one that targeted us," he joked. "I thought I was targeting her; she was probably like, 'Sucker.'"

Despite what was then a career-high 45 points from Plum, Washington lost 90-80 in Norman, Oklahoma, to open the 2014-15 campaign before the Sooners returned the visit last season. While Plum and center Chantel Osahor -- who had her NCAA-leading 28th double-double of the season with 16 points and 19 rebounds on Saturday -- professed little memory of the two matchups with the Sooners outside the final outcomes, Neighbors remembers them well.

"The two times we've played them have been great games," he said. "We turned it over right at the end of the game here last year. They handled us pretty good at their place. It was the first game of Kelsey's sophomore year and Chantel's sophomore year. We got off to a really bad start and lost by 10."

Plum was impressed by what she was able to see of Oklahoma's victory before her team took the court, noting the Sooners' balance. By contrast to the Huskies' Plum-centric offense, no Oklahoma player averages more than 13 points per game and six score at least seven a night.

"They're a very good team, very well-coached," she said. "They move really well without the ball, play together as a team. It's not a one-man show out there. They all can shoot it, they all can drive it. You've got to guard everybody. They kind of remind me of Stanford in a way offensively, the way they kind of play by committee. It will be a real tough matchup."

"It's going to be fun," added Neighbors, and that will particularly be true for Washington if the outcome is different this time around.