LOS ANGELES – After another Washington loss that seemed to defy explanation, Tony Wroten didn’t have one, either.
Instead, the freshman guard kept his head down, declining to answer questions from reporters gathered next to his locker after a defeat that may have knocked the Huskies off the NCAA tournament bubble for good.
Asked about UW’s NCAA tournament chances after its 86-84 loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday, Wroten managed a shrug.
And that’s about as accurate of an answer as anybody seems to have about the postseason hopes of the Pac-12’s regular season champion.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar was a little more optimistic.
“I would think the Pac-12 champion would be able to find a place in the NCAA tournament,” Romar said. “We certainly didn’t help ourselves today, but I would think we’d be able to find ourselves in there.”
In terms of RPI, it was their worst loss of the season. Many thought Washington would need at least two wins this weekend to secure its spot in the NCAAs, despite the fact that it won the regular season conference title.
But after this? An NIT bid may be more likely. Which may leave the Pac-12 with just one NCAA tournament bid.
“You never really know what the committee’s going to do,” said guard C.J. Wilcox, who scored 16 points. “We just have to sit here and wait and hope our name gets called.”
Wroten will receive much criticism for the setback, considering the four consecutive free throws he missed – after making his previous seven – with UW trailing by one point inside the final 18.3 seconds. But he also scored 29 points and was one of the main contributors to a Husky run that erased a 15-point Oregon State lead early in the second half.
And the rest of his teammates got busy missing free throws while Wroten was still making them. Wilcox missed two of three free throws and Terrence Ross, who scored 15, missed a pair with UW leading 73-67 with 4:45 remaining.
Oregon State (19-13) led 46-33 at halftime after Beavers forwards Joe Burton and Devon Collier led an attack that scored 30 points in the paint in the first half.
But Washington adjusted in the second half, using a 26-6 run to pull ahead 59-54 with 10:42 to play. The Huskies led by as many as nine points, but their 12-26 performance at the free throw line and inability to keep OSU off the offensive glass proved critical. Collier led five Beavers in double-figures with 19 points, the same number he scored in Wednesday’s win over Washington State.
Wroten scored eight straight points to keep the Huskies ahead as OSU made its comeback. The Beavers finally took the lead back when Jared Cunningham slashed to the rim, scored and drew a foul with 31.8 seconds left to put OSU ahead 84-83. He missed the free throw, the first of 10 the teams combined to miss the rest of the way, and Wroten drew a foul on the other end.
He missed both free throws. Washington fouled Cunningham again. He missed both free throws. Wroten drew another foul. He missed both free throws, these ones with 8.7 seconds left, forcing UW to foul Cunningham once more.
This time, he made both to put OSU ahead by three. The Beavers chose to foul Ross to prevent a 3-point attempt with 2.3 seconds left. Ross made the first and missed the second intentionally, but OSU took possession after Ross failed to draw iron. That was that.
Now, the Huskies wait.
Said Wilcox: “It’s not going to be fun.”
The same could be said for watching Pac-12 basketball this season.