Pondexter finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas contributed 19 points and eight assists in one of the most exciting finishes of day one of the NCAA Tournament.
"As a senior, you don't want that to be your last game," Pondexter said, recalling his thoughts during his last-second shot. "You don't want to end on a sour note and I had to step up for our team to win."
With both teams towards the top of their respective conferences in points, offense was plentiful in the first half as both teams shot over 53 percent from the field and combined for 13 three-pointers.
Darius Johnson-Odom caught fire in the opening half, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts to give Marquette a one-point lead heading into halftime. Johnson-Odom had 13 points in the half and finished with 19.
As good as Johnson-Odom was in the first half, Washington's Thomas matched him shot for shot. He used an array of outside shots, drives to the hoop, and pull-up jumpers to score 17 points by halftime. He picked up the slack for Pondexter, who scored just four points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Marquette opened up the second half on a 17-3 run, capped of by a three pointer from senior Maurice Acker, that seemed to quiet the pro-Washington crowd.
However, the lead crumbled from that point on as Washington answered by putting their quickest unit on the floor, culminating in a 27-11 run of their own over the span of the next 10 minutes to give them the lead. Pondexter attributed the change in momentum to the team's attention to detail on defense.
"People think we score so much that we're not a good defensive team," Pondexter said. "We take pride in our defense. For us to play the way we did with our backs against the wall and they were up by a lot, it really proved to people that this is a good defensive team, too".
The Huskies' solid defense came at the expense of Marquette, who turned the ball over four times during the Washington run. Known for their ability to take care of the ball, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over eight times in the second half, something Hayward said hurt them down the stretch.
"We let their pressure force us into things we shouldn't have done, and this time of the year runs like that, you have to withstand them," Hayward said of Washington's 27-11 run. "We let their pressure rattle us and they were able to execute in place."
After the run, senior David Cubillan answered with a three pointer of his own to give Marquette the lead. The teams then traded pairs of free throws before Pondexter, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, scored a basket to tie things up at 76.
Acker responded with a drive to the basket, drawing a foul, and knocking down both free throws. After a pair of Venoy Overton free throws tied the game with 2:09 remaining, no team scored until Pondexter's basket with 1.7 seconds remaining.
With just over a minute remaining, Jimmy Butler forced a pass to Johnson-Odom that sailed out of bounds to give possession back to the Huskies. Thomas then missed a three pointer on the other end, but Pondexter gobbled up the offensive rebound. He then isolated and, despite excellent defense by Butler, laid it in for the eventual game-winner.
Hayward then threw up a desperation heave that would have won it for Marquette, but the 60-footer soared just beyond the basket as Hayward fell to his knees, burying his head in the ground and fighting back tears.
Despite the loss, head coach Buzz Williams said he was proud of his team.
"It speaks to their willingness to work and to be accountable for their work every day," Williams said. "You can't be as short as we are physically and as short as we are from a depth perception, and not be willing to work every day."