Ross wills Huskies to key win

SEATTLE - Hec Edmundson must have cursed Ben Howland. Even with his top teams, Howland has not won in Hec's building since 2004.  With 6:02 remaining in the game, the Bruins were on the verge of putting that curse to bed, as the Huskies seemed left for dead, down 65-55 and without any sort of momentum. 

The Huskies were sloppy with the ball, committing 16 turnovers, which Abdul Gaddy accredited to not playing as a team.  But a move by UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar later in the game - subbing out frosh phenom Tony Wroten for a more-experienced lineup - helped pave the way for a ferocious Husky comeback, as Washington prevailed 71-69 in front of 9756 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena.

"We were playing as individuals the first 30 minutes and then we came together as a team," said junior guard Abdul Gaddy, who was responsible for cleaning up the miscues and keeping the Huskies focused while the made a 15-2 second half run to eventually take a one-point lead with 2:35 remaining in the game.  "Those last two T.V. timeouts we came together and we said ‘man, we need to play as a team.  Nobody is cheering each other on.'"  

Romar found himself frustrated most of the game by the play of the team, but he commended them on their effort down the stretch.  "That for me as a head coach was a very proud moment," he said.  "People often times ask you what was one of your best moments, proudest moments?  That was one of the proudest moments the way we competed in the last 5-7 minutes and just how we came together."

  Once the Huskies started buckling down on defense and getting stops out of their 2-3 zone they started feeding the ball to Terrence Ross, who scored 12 of his team-high 22 points in the remaining 6:21.  This has been a common theme for Ross this season, as he has tends to get a feel for the game in the first half, lulling his opponents to sleep, only to turn into an assassin during crunch time. 

"The way we run on teams I think it wears on them.  Once they let down and get a little tired, that little pep in their step is gone and it's a lot easier to attack" said Ross. 

  It was Ross' will to win that pushed the Huskies where they needed to go.  Senior Darnell Gant commented on Ross' heart and desire after the game.  "The thing is with Terrence is, people sleep on his will to win," said the senior tri-captain.  "He might be quiet to everybody else, but the things I catch him saying in the locker room and the things he says personally, man that guy has a will to win.  He hates losing."

Ross hit on an array of shots during that telling stretch, putting the team on his back as he's done a couple of times this year.  After two free throws to start his flow, he hit on a crossover-dribble pull-up, bringing the Huskies to within four with 4:42 remaining in the game.  After a defensive stop, Ross hit a tough three, rubbing off a screen at the top of the key to cut the Bruin lead to a single point with just under four minutes remaining. 

The sophomore from Portland then gave the Huskies the lead for good with 2:35 left on an improbable scoop lay-up which brought the fans to their feet.  For good measure, Ross hit a dagger three from the left wing with 81 seconds left, which ultimately sealed the win. 

"Terrence got that gleam in his eye, that look that forces you to make sure you get him the ball without him saying a word," Romar said of Ross' play at the end of the game. "He came through on the offensive end – big-time."

Up to the point where the Huskies made their furious comeback, Washington simply had no answer for the former Kentridge High star Josh Smith.  While Smith has averaged only 17 minutes a game this season due to stamina issues, Howland rolled him out there for 26 minutes tonight. Smith responded by scoring a career-high 24 points and hauling in nine rebounds.

Even UW forward Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is used to dealing with defensive linemen on the gridiron as the Huskies' featured tight end, found Smith to be a load.  "When you got a guy who's that big, and that athletic and can move his feet that quick it's tough to guard," said Seferian-Jenkins of Smith.  "The fact that he's that big and that heavy and can get off the floor so quick, he's a really good player, really special."

What helped energize the Huskies on a night where they couldn't seem to generate enough energy by themselves was the crowd.  Multiple times in the second half they were brought out of their seats by a big play or big bucket, and during UW's final 15-2 run they never left their feet.  The crowd and Dawg Pack alike tried to will the hometown Dawgs on a scoring run earlier in the second half, only to be silenced twice by made three point shots from UCLA guard Lazeric Jones, and another time by a Smith finish underneath the rim. 

Not to be discouraged however, the students led the cheers and the energy of the crowd was turned up a few dozen notches. After Ross' three cut the Bruin lead to one with just under four minutes to go, the Dawg Pack blew the lid off the arena, with the help of the rest of the Dawg fans that were in the house.  "The Dawg Pack was on tonight," said Romar.  "The place was so loud that there is no doubt that helped us."

A home loss is a blemish that the Huskies can ill-afford at this point in the season if they hope to make their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.  After Thursday night's victory, the Dawgs move to 15-7, 8-2 in Pac-12 play, remaining in first place in conference.  With the loss, UCLA goes to 5-5 in conference and 12-10 overall.

With California's late Thursday loss to Arizona at home, the Huskies now are sole owners of first place in the Pac-12 Conference title chase.


Austin Seferian-Jenkins Quotes:
On banging with Josh Smith: "It was cool.  He's a big guy, he's heavy.  He's a really good basketball player."  

On Smith being bigger than some defensive tackles: "I think Josh is definitely bigger, he's 6'9, 340 lbs."  

On if he played against Smith in high school: "I played against him twice; he beat me both times.  It was good to get a win against him."  

On how tough it is to guard Smith: "When you got a guy who's that big, and that athletic and can move his feet that quick it's tough to guard.  The fact that he's that big and that heavy and can get off the floor so quick, he's a really good player, really special."


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