My husband and I watched Kelsey Plum score 57 points yesterday in Washington’s win over Utah to set the all-time career scoring record for women’s NCAA D1 basketball. Women’s basketball has come far enough that this was actually the lead story on Sportscenter last night, and probably the only reason the game wasn’t sold out was no one really expected Plum to set the record yesterday. She was 53 points short of tying the record, which seemed too high a barrier for one game. We went because we thought there was a chance, because Plum is a magical player.
Many of the stories about Plum have mentioned that only one player has scored more points than she has, Pete Maravich of LSU. It is true that Pistol Pete is the only other NCAA player who has outscored Plum, but it overlooks an important piece of history and yes, until politics. You see, until several years after the federal government instituted Title IX, requiring that men’s and women’s sports be treated the same, the NCAA did not administer women’s sports, so the history of NCAA women’s basketball only goes back to 1982.
Women did play intercollegiate basketball before then. Some of the giants of the coaching world, like Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer, got their start in their era. The US sent a women’s basketball team to the 1976 Olympics, and would have sent another to the 1980 Olympics if not for the boycott. And there were stars, like Anne Myers of UCLA and Lynette Woodard of Kansas.
Woodard played at the tail end of the AIAW days, and she was a more prolific scorer than Jackie Stiles. She scored 3649 points, just 18 shy of Maravich’s 3667, and still 252 more than Plum. It’s not impossible for Plum to catch either Woodard or Maravich, but she wools need to maintain or exceed her scoring average of 30 points per game and have UW play close to the max number of games in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments. If UW were to make it to the finals of both tournaments, Plum would play an additional 9 games, which would give her a decent shot at 270 points. Any fewer games, and she has to score more points per game. Neither is impossible, though neither is likely. But records are broken because the unlikely happens, so I’ll be at the PAC-12 tournament enjoying Plum’s artistry and hoping for a long tournament run for her to extend her college career as long as possible.
Thank you, Ms. Plum. It’s been a pleasure watching you work.