Buzzer-beater puts Huskies in NCAA's

LOS ANGELES - Washington overcame poor free throw shooting and foul trouble to win the Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament 77-75 over Arizona Saturday at the Staples Center. A step-back jumper from Isaiah Thomas sealed it at the buzzer in overtime, as the Husky faithful erupted in celebration. It was the final two of his game-high 28 points for UW.

With the win, Washington (23-10) sealed their place in the NCAA Tournament with the league's automatic berth. The 28 for Thomas was just two short of the Huskies' season high, set against Arizona State by Matthew Bryan-Amaning. It was also two short of his own personal record, set against Wright State in 2009.

Thomas earned his second-straight Pac-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player award. He joined the All-Tournament team with UW's Terrence Ross, OSU's Jared Cunningham, WSU's Klay Thompson, and Arizona's Derrick Williams.

Freshman Terrence Ross added 16 points for the Huskies, while Bryan-Amaning and C.J. Wilcox chipped in with nine apiece. Derrick Williams, the Pac-10 regular season MVP, paced the Wildcats (27-7) with 24 points, while Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom came up good for 12 points each.

It looked like the legs had finally gone out from underneath the Huskies at the end of regulation, but Thomas and Wilcox came up with big three-point shots - Wilcox with 5.7 seconds left - to force overtime at 68.

The Huskies pushed forward, as both Wilcox and Ross, made back-to-back buckets to give UW a 73-70 lead. But the league champions weren't going away that easily. Solomon Hill made two free throws after Matthew Bryan-Amaning fouled out, bringing the lead back to one.

Wilcox caught the 'Cats napping on the baseline, and threw down a two-handed stuff with / left in overtime, but UA's MoMo Jones buried a three to tie things back up at 75. That's when Thomas took control and crossed-over Jones and hit his fall-away jumper for the win.

Washington went to their pressure man-to-man from the start of the game, forcing the Wildcats to use someone other than Williams for their scoring punch. Arizona tried to feed Williams their first two times down the court, but were stymied.

But with two quick fouls on Bryan-Amaning, the Huskies were forced to go zone to protect their foul situation. UW put Arizona in the bonus with 9:35 remaining before half. The Wildcats were not whistled until the 9:23 mark, bringing some mock cheering from the Huskies fans that did make it to the Staples Center.

The zone worked for a little bit, but then Arizona was able to find the soft middle, and cut it up with a quick 7-0 run, forcing a Romar-called time out with /left in the half.

Thomas kept Washington in it the first half, with 19 points. His steal and two free throws with 16.5 seconds remaining drew the Huskies to within three, 36-33. It was the most any UW player had scored in a first half this season.

Foul trouble continued to plague the Huskies, as Aziz N'diaye committed his fourth foul with 13:08 left and the game tied at 46, forcing Romar's hand. MBA responded with a tip to put UW ahead. Both teams ended up in the bonus with 11:10 remaining, which meant the game came down to foul shots. Scott Suggs and Darnell Gant missed front-end opportunities that could have pushed the Huskies' advantage to eight.

Thomas did his part, getting to the rim and finishing, but he too had trouble converting and-one chances. At one point, UW missed five-straight free throws before the under-4 time out. But the Huskies continued to play tough on the defensive end, drawing charges and forcing Arizona to shoot from outside.

In overtime, Washington went back to the zone, and it worked for them, getting key stops while also battling on the offensive end for extra rebounds and more time taken off the clock.
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 28, Ross 16, Bryan-Amaning 9, Wilcox 9, Gant 6, Suggs 5, N'Diaye 4
Rebounds: Gant 8, Holiday 7, N'Diaye 7, TEAM 6, Thomas 5, Ross 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Suggs 2, Wilcox 1
Assists: Thomas 7, Holiday 2, Bryan-Amaning 1, Ross 1, Suggs 1
Steals: Thomas 2, Suggs 2, Bryan-Amaning 1
Blocks: Gant 2, N'Diaye 1


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