LAS VEGAS – Two poignant, contrasting images outside Washington’s locker room on Wednesday afternoon served as apt illustration of college basketball’s spectrum of emotions.
First, there was Nigel Williams-Goss, the Huskies’ freshman point guard, teary-eyed as he explained what went wrong in UW’s 67-61 loss to Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
As Williams-Goss personified that feeling of finality, Colorado’s players bounded past him through the hallway, full of optimism, on their way to their own first-round game against USC.
Hope can be fleeting this time of year. It was for the Huskies. Washington’s goal of a four-day run here lasted about two hours, as the Huskies overcame a 10-point halftime deficit against the Utes but didn’t make enough plays in the final minute to advance past the tournament’s opening game. Dakarai Tucker’s tie-breaking 3-pointer with 37.3 seconds remaining was the dagger.
Now, the Huskies (17-15) wait, hoping for an NIT invitation after the NCAA tournament field is announced on Sunday afternoon.
For the third consecutive season, UW will be left out of the big dance. That marks the longest tournament drought of Lorenzo Romar’s 12-year tenure.
“It’s very disappointing,” said senior guard and leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who scored 14 points and made only 4 of 15 field-goal attempts. “We knew what was on the line. I thought we did a good job in the second half playing like we wanted to get there, but we just fell short.”
They also shot the ball during the first half of this noon tipoff as if they hadn’t yet awoken. They missed easy layups, shooting just 26.9 percent from the field, Wilcox and Williams-Goss combining to make just 3 of 12.
Compounding UW’s problems was the fact starting guard Andrew Andrews spent much of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning vomiting, sick from apparent food poisoning. Pregame intravenous therapy made him feel a little better, and so it was decided he would play, but he managed just 24 minutes, scored only three points and attempted only three shots.
It was the Huskies’ latest frustrating loss in a season full of them. They just hope it isn’t their last.
“I know for me, as well as the seniors, we want to keep going,” Wilcox said.
Oregon 88, Oregon State 74: Joseph Young scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and the Ducks (23-8) pulled away for a victory over the Beavers (16-15) in a first-round game.
The defending tournament-champion Ducks came through after a shaky start, relying on their depth and superb second-half shooting to earn a spot in today’s quarterfinals against second-seeded UCLA.
Colorado 59, USC 56: Askia Booker scored 21 points and keyed a late run, leading the Buffaloes (22-10) to a win over the scrappy Trojans (11-21) in an opening-round matchup.
Josh Scott had 13 points and Xavier Johnson added 11 for the Buffaloes, who move on to face California in today’s quarterfinal round.
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