SEATTLE — Kelsey Plum came through for the Washington Huskies women’s basketball team when it needed her most.
So did the Huskies’ defense.
UW’s freshman guard scored a game-high 21 points Wednesday night, including 13 of the Huskies’ final 19 points in a 62-55 victory over San Diego in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Plum, who set UW’s single-season scoring record during the Huskies’ second-round victory over Oregon, used her Wednesday performance to set the Pac-12 Conference single-season freshman scoring record. She has 701 points this season, besting Oregon freshman Chrishae Rowe’s total of 690. The previous record of 612 was held by Stanford’s Candice Wiggins.
Washington (20-13) advances to the tournament quarterfinals, where it will face the winner of Colorado vs. UTEP (6 p.m. Friday).
The Huskies have won 20 or more games in three consecutive seasons, after failing to reach that mark from 2003 to 2011.
“Our team motto coming into the tournament was ‘In it to win it,’ ” said UW forward Aminah Williams, who grabbed 17 rebounds. “We all got those shirts at the beginning of the WNIT, and that’s been our theme — if we’re playing in it, we’re going to try to win it all.”
Plum struggled from the field throughout much of Wednesday’s game, making just 6 of her 19 field-goal attempts.
But she made 6 of 7 from the free-throw line, connected on a 3-pointer that tied the score with 8:53 remaining, then converted a three-point play after a made layup to pull UW even with San Diego again with 6:31 to play.
UW never trailed again.
“I think as a team, we knew we weren’t going to lose this game,” Plum said. “It’s on our home floor. I think we lost to them three years ago. We kind of just decided to lock up defensively, rebounding, just got good shots and knocked them down.”
San Diego (24-9) was led in scoring by Amy Kame with 20 points. She was the only Torero to score between the 9:54 and 54.5-second mark in the second half, a stretch during which San Diego made one field goal.
It was a nightmarish offensive game for the Toreros, who committed 22 turnovers, did not make a 3-pointer and shot 35.6 percent from the field.
The Huskies shot just 32.3 percent and had 15 turnovers, but contributions from Plum, Jazmine Davis (11 points) and Williams (nine of her 17 rebounds were on offense) helped UW overcome a poor shooting night.
UW’s lead was 51-49 after a Talia Walton jumper with 3:49 to play. San Diego didn’t score again until after Mercedes Wetmore made two free throws and Plum nailed a baseline jumper to put UW ahead, 55-49, with 1:49 remaining.
San Diego didn’t get closer than four points after that.
“They’re a really good offensive team,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said. “They run their stuff really well. They’ve got four seniors that have played together for an awful long time. For us to hold them to 35 percent is a pretty good thing for us.”
Wetmore, who had 10 points, broke the UW record for games played. It was her 125th. christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple