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Huskies win Pac-10 title

Sat., March 7, 2009, 5:31 p.m.

WSU comes up short in upset bid

SEATTLE — Quincy Pondexter scored 16 points and Jon Brockman tied his career high with 18 rebounds in his final home game to lead No. 16 Washington to a 67-60 victory over Washington State on Saturday, clinching its first outright conference championship since 1953.

Venoy Overton scored 14 points and threw the ball high toward the roof of raucous Hec Edmundson Pavilion as the final buzzer sounded. He then danced across the edge of the scorer’s table while fans stormed the court and demanded the nets be cut down.

The Huskies (24-7, 14-4) won their first Pac-10 outright title, and first outright championship in any league since winning the Pacific Coast Conference 56 years ago.

Taylor Rochestie overcame a cold start to score 23 points for Washington State (16-14, 8-10), which lost both games to its archrival this season after beating the Huskies seven consecutive times.

“We worked really hard! We had great leadership! We had a commitment by 13 guys to be a team, no matter what!” hoarse Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar yelled over the roaring crowd from atop a ladder over the public-address system, after he cut down the last stand of net.

“For these guys to experience a Pac-10 championship is very special!”

With Gov. Chris Gregoire attending her first basketball game in anyone’s memory, seniors Brockman and Justin Dentmon being honored for their last home game and the Huskies’ archrival that had recently dominated them in the sold-out house, Washington’s 2,633rd regular-season game was like none other.

Sure, NBA stars Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy revitalized Washington’s program earlier this decade, but the Huskies had never done what these Dawgs did on Saturday.

But it wasn’t easy. Not with Washington State — the national leaders allowing just 54.8 points per game — turning Washington’s historic day into a tense grind.

Thomas, Dentmon missed 13 of their first 15 shots combined before putting Washington up 39-31 with 15:29 left on consecutive baskets. A putback by freshman Darnell Gant, who yielded his starting role to seldom-used Artem Wallace for senior day, made it 42-33.

But Rochestie — who was 2-for-8 with three airballs in the first half — finally made two in a row, the first a 3-pointer, and Klay Thompson made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 42-41.

Thompson, WSU’s co-leader in scoring with Rochestie coming in, had to leave with his fourth foul and 12 minutes remaining. Washington State coach Tony Bennett thought the foul should have been on less-valuable Cougar Nikola Koprivica. The usually cool coach slammed a clipboard to the floor in a timeout huddle when the officials ignored his opinion, as the Huskies’ student section immediately behind him chanted “Tony’s angry!”

Rochestie kept coming. He made a deep 3 with 5:49 left to keep the Cougars within 54-52, and another 3 that made it 58-56 with 4 minutes to go.

But Pondexter then made a shot in the lane off a spin move and then a bank shot underneath, after Rochestie turned the ball over banging into the immovable Brockman in the low post at the other end. Pondexter’s first points in almost 15 minutes put Washington up 62-56.

Thomas kept the lead at 64-58 with 1:48 to go and the shot clock winding down, on a left-handed runner in the lane.

A charge on WSU’s Caleb Forrest negated a basket and then Koprivica missed an open 3.

Dentmon clinched the win and the long-awaited conference title with two free throws with 41.5 seconds left.

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