Pondexter takes Huskies to second round
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Everyone wanted the ball. Isaiah Thomas begged for it. Venoy Overton clapped and screamed: “Over here.”
But Quincy Pondexter wasn’t going to give this moment to anyone else.
The Washington senior carried the 11th-seeded Washington Huskies to the NCAA tournament and if they were going to upset No. 6 seed Marquette, 80-78, then it would be on his shot.
So Pondexter stared at the clock and watched it go down before starting his dribble. He rocked from side to side, which got Jimmy Butler off balance.
Finally, Pondexter backed his way into the lane where he rose over Butler and banked in the game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds left.
The Golden Eagles had one last chance, but Lazar Hayward’s half-court heave over Justin Holiday hit the side of the basket.
Hayward crumpled to the HP Pavilion floor and the Huskies exploded in celebration all around him.
Washington (25-9) advances to play either No. 3 New Mexico or No. 14 Montana.
“It’s simply amazing,” said Pondexter, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half. “I knew something good was going to happen like that.”
Early on, Pondexter looked like the last person who would hit a game-winner.
He had just four points in the first half and the Huskies looked as if they might lose in a blowout.
The Golden Eagles came out of the locker room for the second half on fire. During an early possession in the half, they took five shots before David Cubillan scored on a layup that gave MU a 45-42 lead.
Meanwhile, UW began the half with a pair of turnovers that included Thomas losing the ball in the open court and an Abdul Gaddy pass being intercepted.
Things looked bleakest for Washington when MU drained back-to-back three-pointers and took a 60-45 lead with 13:51 left.
The Huskies began to show their frustrations and Pondexter drew an offensive foul on the next possession when he knocked over Butler.
Over the next eight minutes, Washington outscored Marquette 27-11.
Elston Turner (14 points) brought the Huskeis all the way back when he drained a three-pointer on the wing that put them up 72-71 with 5:18 remaining.
“We got stops and people stepped up, like Elston Turner,” said Thomas, who led the Huskies with 19 points.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 11 points for Washington.
The Huskies had difficulty containing Darius Johnson-Odom, who scored 13 of his game-high 20 points before the break. He scored most of his baskets on strong dribble drives over Pondexter or Justin Holiday.
When Johnson-Odom didn’t score inside, Cubillan terrorized UW from the perimeter. The Golden Eagles sharpshooter connected on three of four three-pointers in the first half and helped MU to a 43-42 lead at intermission.
Pondexter struggled at the start, missing six of seven shots from the floor and four of six at the free-throw line.
In the end, however, Pondexter took over. He described his game-winning shot as the “biggest of my life. It feels so good right now.”