UW looking for repeat performance

LOS ANGELES - It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. The Washington Huskies mixed up their defensive looks, took care of the basketball, and got some clutch shooting once again from C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross, as UW earned their place in the Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament final with a convincing 69-51 win over Oregon Friday night at the Staples Center.

They'll play Arizona for the title Saturday at 3 p.m. PST. The Huskies are 2-2 all-time in Pac-10 Tournament finals, and they'll have to be at their best to beat the Wildcats, who won the regular season crown with a record of 14-4. The 'Cats 87-86 win over UW in Tucson was the top game in the league this year.

"Very pleased with our guys' effort," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward. "Second game in a row we had a team contribution, and that's something that can make you really excited as coaches when everyone chips in and does a great job for you.

It was another epic performance for guard Isaiah Thomas - he played only 38 minutes Friday, compared to 40 against Washington State - but he pushed through to score 10 points and dish out 12 assists, his second-straight double-double for the Huskies (22-10). Thomas' 12 dimes ties a Pac-10 Tournament record, last done by Arizona's Matt Othick in 1990.

His alley-oop pass to Justin Holiday in the second half put him ahead of teammate Venoy Overton for fourth all-time on the Washington assists list, with 393. Overton is sitting out the tournament after a team-imposed suspension.

"He was going as if he hadn't played any minutes, as if he was fresh," Romar said of Thomas. "He's just doing a great job of leading this team."

"When you're hitting shots, it feels like every shot is going to go in. When you're hitting assists, it feels like every pass is open," added Thomas. "My guys do a good job just getting open and knocking down shots and finishing at the rim."

It was Washington's youngsters that took advantage of Thomas' passes, combining for 27 points. Wilcox's four-point play with 3:58 left was the dagger that sent the Ducks (16-17) reeling. The and-one free throw put UW up 61-47 - part of a 9-0 run that sealed the win for the Huskies. The freshman from Pleasant Grove, Utah finished with 14 points - a team high - while Ross scored 13 and dished out three assists.

Darnell Gant also had arguably the best game of his junior season, scoring eight points and coming up with ten rebounds. He was one of seven Huskies that had at least three rebounds on the night, out-boarding the Ducks 42-34 along the way.

Oregon had the first lead in the game, but after that only got to within four points with 9:49 left via a Joevan Catron layup. Right after that, Catron, their leading scorer with 18 points - picked up his fourth foul with 8:21 remaining.

Ross responded with a three-pointer coming out of the under-8 time out, part of a 22-9 extended run for the Huskies that helped to put the game out of reach. His rim-rattling dunk with 40 seconds left put the Ducks out of their misery and the Huskies into the tourney finals.

"Our freshmen came out and didn't play like freshmen," Romar said. "They played like they were upperclassmen. They hit big shots and they did a lot of good things for us."

Washington came out in a zone defense look to start the game, and Oregon could never unlock it with dribble penetration, instead having to settle for jump shots. They finished 9-26 for the half, and only 2-10 from three, as UW took a 30-21 halftime lead.

"We played hard, but lacked focus and made a few defensive mistakes," UO Head Coach Dana Altman said. "We didn't do what we needed to do to be successful, like we had been doing. We had chances, but we didn't make the key shots needed. We didn't take threes like we usually did, and we've been dependent on that for the last couple games. We just didn't hit them."

The Huskies then mixed things up, going man-to-man to start the second half. They jumped into their zone briefly a couple of times, but for the most part stayed in their pressuring man defense the final 20 minutes. Oregon countered with a trapping defense after made shots, and it produced some turnovers - but they were never able to drop their deficit down to one possession.

"I thought the zone helped us," Romar said. "Aziz N'diaye, when we're playing in the zone, is good for us. He's so big in there that when you get through our first line, he does a good job just being big and not allowing you easy looks."
Statistics:
Points: Wilcox 14, Ross 13, Thomas 10, Suggs 10, Gant 8, Holiday 7, Bryan-Amaning 6, N'Diaye 1
Rebounds: Gant 10, Bryan-Amaning 7, Holiday 6, N'Diaye 5, Wilcox 4, Thomas 3, Ross 3, TEAM 3, Suggs 1
Assists: Thomas 12, Ross 3, Holiday 1, Suggs 1
Steals: Thomas 3, Holiday 1, Ross 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 1, Gant 1


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