UW avoids three-peat, earns semis berth

LOS ANGELES - Not even Klay Thompson's 43 points could contain the Washington Huskies, as UW used balanced scoring and a second-half trap to trip up the Cougars 89-87 Thursday night at the Staples Center, earning a Pac-10 Tournament semifinal game with the Oregon Ducks for their work. It was their first win over the Cougars, as they avoided the dreaded three-sweep from their in-state rivals.

The Washington (21-10) win, coupled with UCLA's disappointing 17-point loss to the Ducks, probably ensures the Huskies' odds of making it to the NCAA Tournament. A Tournament final appearance would solidify their post-season standing.

"That was a heck of a college basketball game," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward. "Just very proud of our team having gone down eight in the first half and coming back in the second half and laying it all out there on the floor."

The Huskies came back defensively at a time when they were without one of their main stoppers, senior guard Venoy Overton. UW will be without his services for the tournament, a team-imposed penalty for being charged with furnishing alcohol to minors back in January.

Thompson came within two of an all-time opponent record, as John Block's 45 points for USC in 1966 still stands as the most ever scored against the Huskies - but he came up on the short end anyway. His consolation is that he created a new Pac-10 Tournament record, outscoring the 41 of Cal's Leon Powe, set versus Oregon in 2006.

"Great player," UW guard Isaiah Thomas succinctly said. "Some shots he hit, I was like, 'Man, is that Kobe (Bryant). It felt like we had a hand up and he was hitting them from everywhere. When a player can hit shots like that and get on a roll, it feels like the basket's like the ocean. Everything's going to go in."

His layup with .4 seconds remaining in the game - the result of a Reggie Moore missed free throw after the Huskies fouled up three with 2.4 seconds left - gave WSU some life, but it was taken away from them when the officials determined that a timeout had been called by the Cougars (19-12) when they had none to use. The resulting technical foul shot made by C.J. Wilcox was made irrelevant, as Washington State had no chance of stealing a pass and making a shot with the time remaining on the clock.

"(Lorenzo) Romar is known not to foul, but it was a good move on his part," WSU Head Coach Ken Bone said of the foul by Scott Suggs on his point guard. "It was good strategy. They gave me a technical foul for calling a timeout, because apparently you can't call more than five timeouts a game. I caught myself, but I understand why the ref called me on it. It was the right call."

It was the possession that was most important, and Justin Holiday threw a pass just past mid-court, where it bounced around as time expired. A jubilant Washington bench collectively exhaled, as it was their first win in six where the game was decided within five points or less.

Things looked bleak for Washington early, as they had no answer for Thompson. He scored 18 of his points in the first half, as the Cougars raced out to a 40-32 halftime advantage. It would have been greater if not for the efforts of Terrence Ross. The freshman from Portland, who was shut out in minutes for the first time all season against USC last Saturday, made his first start of his young career, and also the first shot of the game - a three-pointer from the right corner - and he was off and running. He scored 13 first-half points, and 17 overall.

But it was Washington's second-half run - one that started right from the get-go - that signaled their return from the dead. Their 10-0 run, spurned on by Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Isaiah Thomas, and C.J. Wilcox, actually gave UW their first lead of the game, 42-40, with 17:46 left.

Thomas led the Huskies with 21 points and 11 assists, his fourth double-double of the year. Besides Ross' 17, Bryan-Amaning and Wilcox both tallied 16 and Justin Holiday 12, to go with his 10 rebounds.

The Cougars took that punch, and countered with a 14-4 run of their own. Thompson accounted for half those points, with WSU's Faisal Aden chipping in five. Aden would finish the game with 17 points, while DeAngelo Casto added 13.

The Huskies, who started trapping after intermission, forced WSU into some critical miscues. They ended up out-scoring the Cougars 22-10 in points off of turnovers. They also out-scored WSU 44-28 in the paint, but led by Aden, Washington State out-scored Washington in bench points, 22-7.

As long as Thompson kept firing and making, WSU was going to hang tough - regardless of the momentum generated by Washington. In one key stretch, the Huskies were able to counter Klay's bombs with some of their own. After Ross was able to give UW a 67-65 lead with 8:12 to go, Thompson buried a jumper to bring the Cougars level. Then it became the C.J. Wilcox show.

Wilcox, the freshman from Pleasant Grove, Utah, hit three-straight treys, the last coming with 3:49 left, to give Washington a commanding 82-75 lead. Thompson hit another three with 1:33 left to bring WSU to within two, but Thomas went coast-to-coast for a layup to extend the Huskies' lead again.

The junior guard from Tacoma, who played all 40 minutes for the Huskies, made shots with 39 seconds and nine seconds to go to keep the Cougars at bay.

"We just spread our offense," he said. "We've got tremendous shooters in C.J., Terrence, Holiday, and Matt was setting screens. When you do that, that offsets the defense, and you've got to respect the shooters. If they're not going to guard the shooters, then I'm going to pass it out. If not, I've got an open lane. That's all I did. We just played hard."

"We had a great beginning, but in the second half Washington started scoring on almost every possession, and that really set the tone," Bone added. "We played some great defense in the first half, limited their runs, but Washington's 8-0 run to start the second half really got them ahead of us."


Statistics:
Points: Thomas 21, Ross 17, Bryan-Amaning 16, Wilcox 16, Holiday 12, Suggs 3, N'Diaye 2, Gant 2
Rebounds: Holiday 10, Bryan-Amaning 7, Wilcox 3, Suggs 3, Gant 3, TEAM 3, Thomas 2, Ross 1, N'Diaye 1
Assists: Thomas 11, Holiday 3, N'Diaye 2, Suggs 2, Wilcox 1, Ross 1
Steals: Thomas 3, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 2, Ross 1
Blocks: Ross 1


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