Huskies their own worst enemy in loss

SEATTLE - Their league tournament fate already sealed win or loss, Washington was playing Saturday night for a clearer path to the NCAA Tournament. But USC ran out to a lead, parked the bus, and never let the Huskies find their way back, as the Trojans left Seattle a 62-60 winner. It also gave them a season series split.

The Huskies (20-10, 11-7) will face Washington State in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. PST. If they get by the Cougars, UW would face either UCLA or the winner of Oregon/Arizona State. USC (18-13, 10-8) will play California at noon.

"It's March," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "There's no more excuses. Everybody has to be held accountable for what they're doing, me included. We just really have to be ready and be focused. It's one game at a time and we just have to try to make some noise."

"It's hard to beat a team three times in any sport so, we're focusing and getting ready for them and hopefully we will have a good game," UW guard Isaiah Thomas added about playing Washington State for the third time this season.

Down by as many as 14 in the second half, Washington clawed their way back, but couldn't find a key basket when they needed one. They scored a season-low six points from three-point range, going 2-16 on the night. And when they did get the game down to four points with 23 seconds left on the clock, Thomas' and-one foul shot circled the rim and curled out.

USC's Jio Fontan made two free throws, and Donte Smith added two more with 13.7 seconds left to give the Trojans a 62-56 edge. But Thomas was able to cut through their defense for a quick layin, and Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday were able to force a steal that was eventually tipped home for two by Scott Suggs. By that time there was less than a couple seconds on the clock, and USC was able to inbound the ball cleanly and kill the clock while in front of Washington's bench.

In what was supposed to be a glorious Senior Day Celebration quickly turned into a surprise party, featuring the Trojans' Fontan. He started the game with five quick points - part of his team-high 20 - and the Trojans marched on from there.

"It's just the first four to eight minutes, we just have to pound teams and take the first punch," Thomas said. "I feel like we've been letting them take the first punch the last couple of games, and it has hurt us. We dig ourselves a deep hole, even though we know we always come back, but it's the end of the season now, you do that, you lose a game, you are done."

Nikola Vucevic's 13 first-half points helped them race out to a 36-26 lead at halftime. He finished with a double-double - 19 points and 10 rebounds. USC's other big man, Alex Stepheson, also finished with a double-double - 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Thomas led the Huskies with 16, followed by Overton with 15, Suggs with 14, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning with 11. Senior forward Justin Holiday came up scoreless on the offensive end for the first time all season. He was held to four points at Texas A&M and at Oregon State.

"Their guards came out very aggressively, especially Fontan," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They came out in attack mode and had us on our heels early. With a team like USC that plays such good defense, you get down and dig yourself in a hole that early, they make it really difficult to come back. Despite that, I think these guys dug in and found a way to dig in and come back. I commend our guys for that, but we got down by a pretty big margin early, made it very difficult."

Overton did his part to get UW back in the game, scoring 15 points for the Huskies, as well as dishing out four assists. The Huskies were able to erase a USC lead that bulged to as many as 15 points, but could not get the deficit erased to one possession until their final bucket of the ball game.

It wasn't as if USC came out and took the game to UW either; they got their lead and then they sat on it in the second half. When their players were shooting foul shots, the rest of their team was down on defense, waiting. They were intent on drawing out their possessions as much as possible and not giving Washington any easy looks in transition. The Huskies still out-scored USC 11-0 in fast break points, but the Trojans more than made up for it by out-rebounding UW 38-28, including some key offensive rebounds by Vucevic to keep the clock moving.

Overton was pointed in his post-game remarks about his team's effort. "Not to speak bad about anyone else, but I played hard and there were just a few people out there playing hard with me," he said.  "It's got to be everybody.  It's got to be more than just three players playing hard. They know what kind of time in the season it is. We preached this from Day One that we got to handle our business in the regular season if you want to be playing in the post-season."

"It was just because we couldn't get any stops," added Thomas. "It's never fun when you're down the whole game. We fought back. We need to start games and halves off better than we have because we get ourselves down and then we always come back but, in this instance, it was a little too late."
Points: Thomas 16, Overton 15, Suggs 14, Bryan-Amaning 11, Wilcox 4
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 6, Holiday 5, Overton 5, Thomas 4, TEAM 3, Suggs 2, Gant 2, Wilcox 1
Assists: Overton 4, Thomas 3, Holiday 1
Steals: Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 1, N'Diaye 1, Overton 1, Wilcox 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 3, Holiday 2, Suggs 1

(Video courtesy of Kyle McCormick and the UW Athletic Department) Top Stories