SEATTLE – The record will show the Washington Huskies earned their first outright conference title since 1953 Saturday by defeating cross-state rival Washington State, 67-60.
But put the emphasis on “earned.”
The Huskies took the Pac-10 title. Grabbed it, pulled it away, held on.
Just like they did 40 of the 68 possible rebounds. Just like they did with seven steals. And just like they did in the final 4 minutes, when they rebuffed the Cougars’ final rally, scoring nine of the game’s last 13 points.
In the end, the Husky faithful in the sellout crowd of 10,000 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion had a chance to watch their team cut down the nets and accept the Pac-10 title trophy – all at the Cougars’ expense.
“We needed a few plays to be made down the end,” said WSU center Aron Baynes, who powered through double-teams all night for 16 points and 11 rebounds. “We weren’t able to do that and they were.”
Not that it was easy, like the 68-48 win in Pullman to open the conference season 10 weeks ago.
No, this is a different Cougars team, one that withstood foul trouble to co-leading scorer Klay Thompson, absorbed 18 rebounds from Jon Brockman and still had a shot to tie in the final minutes.
“We gave ourselves a chance and just didn’t capitalize on it,” said senior Caleb Forrest, who missed a contested 18-footer with UW leading 58-56 with 4 minutes left.
“It was a good look,” he added, before getting to the nub of the matter. “Also, we really didn’t have a whole lot of options at the time. If you had an open look you had to take it.”
With Thompson in foul trouble all game – he played 28 minutes, his fewest in Pac-10 play – and senior Daven Harmeling in street clothes with a sprained shoulder, WSU’s outside options were limited.
Unlike the Huskies, who got 16 points from Quincy Pondexter from inside and out, and 14 off the bench from Venoy Overton.
Pondexter followed Forrest’s miss with a 10-foot jumper and WSU (16-14, 8-10 and seventh in the Pac-10) never got closer than four the rest of the way.
The 16th-ranked Huskies – who will take a 24-7 record into next week’s Pac-10 tournament as the top seed, earned with their 14-4 conference mark – led 30-25 at the half when they scored the final five points.
The Cougars pulled within one twice, the last at 32-31 with 18:15 left, but UW spurted away with seven quick points – the last three on Justin Dentmon’s transition 3-pointer – to incite the Husky crowd and force a time out.
Looking for offense, WSU coach Tony Bennett inserted Thompson back into the lineup with three fouls. It worked, as the freshman scored five of his nine points in the next 3 minutes. His 3-pointer drew the Cougars back to within 42-41 with 11:43 left.
But on the next possession he was whistled for his fourth foul, a call Bennett and Nik Koprivica both felt was on Koprivica.
“I knew what that meant in that time of the game,” said Bennett, who added he acted like a “raving lunatic.”
“We were coming,” Bennett said. “We were starting to get going and we needed another perimeter guy. That just took our heart out.”
Rochestie tried to take over – he finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting, including 10 points after Thompson went to the bench – but UW sagged off Koprivica and Marcus Capers, taking away Baynes as a second option.
“We had our chances – we could have beat them,” said Koprivica, who was 1 for 8 from the floor but had five rebounds and assists. “I’m going to take this personally. I should have played much better. I had my chances.”
Down the stretch even Rochestie wasn’t an option, as Overton denied him looks. The two had exchanged words in the first half, when Overton was whistled for three fouls.
“Everyone’s playing hard,” Rochestie said of the exchange. “They had a Pac-10 championship on the line to win it outright and now they’re celebrating. … Everyone’s playing hard. That’s just the way it is.”
Overton didn’t pick up another foul, however, and neither did UW for the first 11:34 of the second half.
“I always dreamed of the crowd running on the court and being in an atmosphere like that,” Overton said.
Washington 67, WSU 60
|WSU (16-14, 8-10)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .370, FT .762. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Rochestie 3-8, Thompson 1-2, Forrest 0-1, Koprivica 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 6 (Baynes 3). Turnovers: 11 (Rochestie 5). Steals: 1 (Baynes). Technical Fouls: None.
|UW (24-7, 14-4)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .436, FT .739. 3-Point Goals: 2-10, .200 (Dentmon 2-5, Thomas 0-3, Overton 0-1, Turner 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 4 (Pondexter, Brockman, Overton, Bryan-Amaning). Turnovers: 12 (Dentmon 3, Bryan-Amaning 3). Steals: 7 (Dentmon 2, Holiday 2). -Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Washington 30, Washington State 25. A–10,000.