Huskies Keep On Ticking UW Tumbles Xavier, Extends Season With First-Round Tournament Victory
Ultimately, teams like Washington are supposed to run out of time.
The Huskies, a team with no NCAA Tournament experience who had to travel three time zones away to the nation’s capital and face a tournament-tested opponent, are supposed to eventually run out of time.
But as Xavier learned on Thursday, nothing rational or philosophical will ever explain the aberrant doings of March Madness.
The 11th-seeded Huskies, a team whose season is beginning to take on a storybook aura, shocked the sixth-seeded Musketeers, 69-68, an implausible victory over a team many had designated for a date in the Sweet 16.
Washington’s victory marked the first time an 11th-seeded team defeated a No. 6 seed since Boston College defeated Indiana in 1996.
The Huskies will meet No. 14 seed Richmond on Saturday in a game featuring a pair of double-digit seeds whose objective is to gate-crash the East Regional in Greensboro, N.C., next weekend.
“When you come here and say, ‘I’m happy to be here, let’s have a good time and sightsee, that’s the wrong approach,”’ said UW forward Patrick Femerling. “We didn’t want to come here, get beat by 20, then fly home.”
Just weeks ago, Washington’s season appeared to be going the way of the spotted owl or the snail darter. The Huskies seemed meant for a spot in the field of 32: The National Invitation Tournament.
Then came an upset victory over UCLA and a road victory at Washington State. Even when they were selected for the tournament last Sunday with an 18-9 record, the Huskies were called impostors. Now this upset over the self-proclaimed XU soldiers proves Washington (19-9) belongs in this tournament.
But when coach Bob Bender and players Deon Luton, Todd MacCulloch and Donald Watts were asked to meet the media after the game, they were introduced as “Washington State.” The fact is, this is truly a hard team to figure.
The Huskies committed 26 turnovers and shot 45.5 percent from the free-throw line, not quite the hallmarks of a tournament team. But, somehow, they won.
The upset came into sharp focus when, with 11.2 seconds remaining and the Musketeers up by one threadbare point, UW’s Deon Luton fired a jumper from the left wing to score the final points of the game. It was redemption for the sophomore swingman who, with 53.2 seconds left and the Huskies clinging to a 67-66 lead, missed a pair of free throws.
Xavier had two chances in the final 11.2 seconds - an eternity in college basketball - to end Washington’s season and came up empty both times.
First, point guard Gary Lumpkin, with UW’s Jan Wooten shadowing him, drove toward the left baseline and lofted a jump shot that hit the side of the rim.
“I figured they would let him get the shot because he’s one of the top scorers on their team,” Wooten said. “I just wanted to play him as hard as I could.”
The Huskies’ Patrick Femerling grabbed the rebound, but his foot “was about half an inch,” on the baseline.
Out of bounds Musketeers was the call with 1.7 seconds remaining.
“The ref just pointed at my foot,” Femerling said. “He had good eyes. Everything just went real quick from there.”
Xavier called a full timeout. Then when all 10 players made it back on the floor, Washington called a 20-second timeout. Finally the Musketeers set a play for the ball to go in the middle to either James Posey or T.J. Johnson.
It went to Johnson, who went up and had his shot blocked from behind by MacCulloch. Johnson refused to plead that he was fouled.
“I don’t want to get in trouble with the refs,” he said. “There was contact there … He blocked the shot. Good teams make big plays and they made a big play.”
Posey couldn’t get a grip on the ball after the block and Watts knocked the ball toward midcourt as the buzzer sounded.
Washington 69, Xavier 68
Washington (19-9) - Luton 7-17 0-3 17, Green 3-6 1-2 7, MacCulloch 8-11 0-2 16, Wooten 1-1 0-0 2, Watts 4-8 9-14 17, Dickau 2-4 0-0 6, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Femerling 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Walcott 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 27-50 10-21 69.
Xavier (22-8) - Johnson 0-4 0-0 0, Williams 6-11 5-7 17, Braggs 5-10 2-2 12, Brown 4-11 2-2 10, Lumpkin 3-11 4-5 12, McAfee 0-3 0-0 0, Payne 0-2 0-0 0, Posey 5-9 7-8 17. Totals 23-61 20-24 68.
Halftime-Washington 38, Xavier 30. 3-Point goals- Washington 5-11 (Luton 3-6, Dickau 2-3, Watts 0-2), Xavier 2-15 (Lumpkin 2-6, McAfee 0-1, Posey 0-1, Brown 0-3, Williams 0-4). Fouled out-Braggs, Brown. Rebounds-Washington 37 (MacCulloch 8), Xavier 34 (Braggs 10). Assists-Washington 12 (Green 4), Xavier 15 (Lumpkin 6). Total fouls-Washington 20, Xavier 22. A-19,288.