March 19, 2015

Washington's long absence from the NCAA Tournament has only the made the Huskies that much hungrier for postseason success.

Having already clinched its winningest season in two decades, Washington will rejoin the Big Dance for the first time in eight years Friday against Miami in Iowa City, Iowa.

Kelsey Plum has led the way this season for the sixth-seeded Huskies (23-9). Including a 45-point performance to open the season against Oklahoma. Plum has averaged 22.8 points per game, which ranks seventh nationally.

Senior guard Jazmine Davis has also shined, averaging nearly 16.0 points this season and 25.0 in Washington's last two games. She is the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,261 points.

''Their backcourt is phenomenal," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "(Washington coach) Mike (Neighbors) does a great job in giving them space and room."

Washington, already having achieved its best season since winning 25 games in 1994-95, has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since a first-round exit in 2007. The Huskies have not won a tournament game since topping Minnesota on March 18, 2006.

Eleventh-seeded Miami (19-12) has fared better in recent seasons, reaching the tournament in three consecutive years from 2011-2013, but the Hurricanes enter this postseason in a tailspin.

They lost five of their last six games and bowed out of the ACC tournament with a one-sided 77-61 loss to current-No. 1 seed Notre Dame. However, Miami had beaten Notre Dame 78-63 on Jan. 8 - a victory that likely carried its successful at-large bid.

Sophomore guard Adrienne Motley scored 32 points in that game. She leads the Hurricanes with 16.4 points per game, has scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games and her 48.9 shooting percentage ranks top 15 nationally among guards.

''They make shots. They create shots, and they do it at a really fast pace,'' Neighbors said. ''I accused our video girl of showing me the film and speeding it (up) because I thought that was not accurate. But that was real time.''

Washington is one of the best teams in the country in terms of ball security, averaging just 11.8 turnovers. The Huskies coughed up 18 giveaways in a 69-53 loss to California on March 6, but committed a season-low four turnovers in their win over Utah on March 5.

Neighbors expects a challenge from Miami's aggressive defense - forcing 18.9 turnovers per game - but trusts his team's depth and spacing ability to win out.

"You should see a team that's very hard to guard," Neighbors said. "We are not just one- or two-dimensional. We have a lot of kids that can really score, and we play pretty fast. You don't really expect that ... I think that makes it fun. That's the reaction I get from a lot of people who see us for the first time, and hopefully you'll see that (Friday)."

Miami and Washington have met only once previously, a 85-68 Huskies' victory on Dec. 29, 1989.

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