SEATTLE – The student section was filled about two hours before tipoff. The empty seats around them at Hec Edmundson Pavilion filled in slowly, including hundreds of bundled-up fans who continued to trickle in as the first half moved into full swing.
The 9,591 faithful got warm, but they didn’t necessarily get satisfied.
During the best indoor show in a frozen-over city, the University of Washington men’s basketball team rallied but couldn’t get over the hump against the Pac-12 Conference favorites Thursday night, falling 69-66 to Cal.
UW senior Darnell Gant capped off one of the most forgettable performances of his career by missing an open, potential score-tying 3-pointer with 1 second left. Gant, who was coming off a 13-point performance in a win over Washington State, was 0 for 9 from the field and 0 for 6 from 3-point range.
The Huskies trailed for all of the final 35 minutes but made it a memorable finish thanks to another second-half breakout from Terrence Ross and a halftime switch from zone to man-to-man defense. Both those elements helped UW rally from a 10-point halftime deficit to get as close as two points, 68-66, on Ross’ 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left.
After Cal’s Justin Cobbs hit 1 of 2 free throws for a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds on the clock, the Bears opted not to intentionally foul even though UW was still in the single bonus. The Huskies, meanwhile, decided not to go to Ross, who had 13 of his 15 points in the second half and a pair of 3-pointers in the final 95 seconds. Instead, a play was drawn up for Gant.
“Last game he had three 3s, and he is a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range on the year,” coach Lorenzo Romar said in explaining his strategy in the final seconds. “Sometimes if someone’s having an off night, you look at the body of work he has. … He’s shooting at a pretty good percentage, but it just didn’t go down for him.”