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'Cats spoil UW's Senior Night

SEATTLE - In a battle of Dawgs versus 'Cats, a Lauri Markkanen double-double and some zone defense in the second half kept the Washington Huskies at bay, as No. 5 Arizona eventually outlasted UW 76-68 to spoil the Huskies' Senior Night.

Markkanen, a freshman from Finland, scored 26 points and added 13 rebounds for the Wildcats (25-3, 14-1). Former Seattle native Allonzo Trier added 21, while Chance Comanche and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 13 and 11 each for Arizona. 

Washington (9-18, 2-13) was led by the 26 points of their own freshman phenom, Markelle Fultz. Noah Dickerson chipped in with 14 points and nine rebounds. David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle each scored 10 for the Huskies, who are currently in the midst of a record nine-game losing streak - the longest in the Romar era. UW suffered seven-straight defeats during the 2014-15 season.  

Lone senior Malik Dime only scored two points, but he added 5 rebounds, four blocks and a steal after being reinstated from a suspension stemming from an incident at Colorado where Dime slapped two CU students. 

"We really wanted that one, but it didn’t sent Malik off the right way for him being a Senior," said Fultz post-game.

"Regardless of records, I know our guys competed," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar added. "And if we compete like that we can hold our own.”

It was a very bittersweet Senior Night, considering the Huskies put forth arguably their best effort of the season.

“We were right there," said Dickerson as he showed the press his thumb and index finger, bringing them together as close as possible without touching. "That’s all I thought. Right there. Get one rebound, a shot goes in…we were right there. We came up short."

It was such a close game, neither team led by double-digits. With 6:07 remaining in the game, Arizona had pushed their lead to nine after a Trier dunk. From that point the Huskies battled back with six-straight points, topped off with a Fultz free throw with 3:56 to play and UW down only three, 69-66. 

Dickerson was called for a blocking foul on Trier, which didn't sit well with the partisan crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena. It was one of a few block/charge calls that all seemed to go in the visitors' favor.

"He ducked his shoulder," Dickerson said of the play, a call that clearly surprised him. "On to the next one."

Down three with 1:48 to go in regulation, it was Carlos Johnson's turn to get called with a charge on a play where he made a basket. It happened right in front of Romar, who almost flipped off his coat in disgust. 

“That was a huge play," Romar said. "Were we down three at that time? I thought it was an and-1 at first when the whistle blew but obviously they didn’t see it that way. Obviously that was a big, big play down the stretch.” 

Markkanen, who had 18 of his 26 points in the first half, threw up an ill-advised three-point shot that airballed and hit the lower part of the backboard. Instead of landing at the feet of a waiting defender, it came to rest in the hands of Arizona teammate Comanche, who slammed the ball home and said thank you very much. 

“Any time you’re competing at a high level it’s frustrating if it doesn’t go your way," Romar said of the loose ball opportunities that didn't bounce in the Huskies' favor. "That’s part of basketball. That’s part of sports, the ebbs and flows of the game. That’s why you have to be mentally tough to play through those situations.”

But the Huskies still had life. Matisse Thybulle had a good look to trim Arizona's lead to two with 38 seconds left. His shot looked good in the air but bounced off the rim and into the hands of Jackson-Cartwright, who made two free throws after being immediately fouled. 

Game over.

"We knew it was going to be a tough battle," Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller said. "I think it says a lot about Lorenzo Romar, it says a lot about UW, their program, their team, the fight that they had tonight. I thought they played really hard and they played at a very, very high level. We had to scratch and claw and fight and make plays to have a chance to win. I know we had a couple guys down but I thought their effort level was great and it says a lot about the coach this late in the year, when a lot of things haven't gone well for them, that they played so well and so hard.

"And Markelle Fultz is one heck of a player."

For the Huskies' part, as strange as it may sound they seemed to gain confidence in their last two losses. They were upended by Arizona State 83-81 Thursday. But the didn't talk post-game like a group that had only won two conference games. 

"I think we’re getting ready for something big," said Fultz. "We’re getting ready for the next game, get the next win for sure and get ready for Pac-12’s.”

“I think we grew up a little bit the last couple of games, especially tonight," added Romar. "Just our attitudes. We had a little more of a chip on our shoulders than we’ve had all year. In the Arizona State game is where our guys competed and we came up short again. These are the type of efforts that you can pull one of these out that we’ve been falling short on. We just have to continue to do that on the road.”

Getting Dime back was big for UW. It clearly picked up the energy, something that carried on to the floor. 

"His presence made an impact for us," Romar said of his senior center. "He blocked (four) shots and he was winded because he hasn’t played in a long time. It’s hard to simulate that type of game conditioning. He was a little rusty and he’ll get better as we go. It’s great to have him back on the floor with us.”

Washington has a week to rest up, get healthy and practice before they hit the road for their final three games, starting a week from Sunday at Washington State. 

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Markelle Fultz

How bad did you want this one? - “It was tough. It was the next game so it was big for us. We really wanted that one, but it didn’t sent Malik off the right way for him being a Senior. It was tough knowing the way we played, the way we came to practice this week and everything we put forth, the effort and everything. We really wanted it but we came up short so we get ready for our next one.”

How big was it to get Malik back? - “I think it was huge. He’s a very good player, a great shot-blocker. He’s a main piece of our team, his personality, everything like that. For him to be back out here and play healthy, I’m just glad for him. We’re all happy for him to be back on the court. You could see it, we got a little more energy and stuff like that.”

Could you feel the energy in the building? - “Definitely. Our fans are great, and it was great for them to come out. They boost us up a lot, especially when there’s a lot of Arizona fans here too and they tried to take over our gym. But our fans weren’t having it, so it was kind of like a game for them too. It was fun and we enjoyed it.”

Coming back from the knee, was it an issue today? - “Not really. It’s been day by day and each day is getting better. I’m doing rehab and looking it with the doctor, making sure I keep my knee healthy and it felt great today. It’s still day by day.”

How close are you to 100 percent? - “I’m not sure really. Sometimes I feel good and other times I don’t. I go day by day and I keep doing my rehab. I hope everything goes right.”

As hard as this losing streak has been, how close do you feel like you are to breaking out of it? - “We’re right there. I think we’re getting ready for something big. We’re getting ready for the next game, get the next win for sure and get ready for Pac-12’s.”

Noah Dickerson 

How did it feel out there? Seemed like there were a lot of things going against the team tonight - “We stuck to the gameplan, everybody made shots. Markkanen was doing what he was doing and you have to plan for that. I thought we played a really good game overall. The effort was there and defensively we were really defending. They got a lot of offensive rebounds, but that’s the name of the game - especially when you’re in a zone and you’re flying around like you are. A lot of things were stacked against us but we just wanted that one really bad.”

On his last foul versus Trier, you looked surprised it went his way - “I was, because he ducked his shoulder. On to the next one.”

Playing the No. 5 team in the country, what’s the first thing that comes in your head as the buzzer sounds and you came that close? - “We were right there. That’s all I thought. Right there. Get one rebound, a shot goes in…we were right there. We came up short. We played hard, everybody played hard. We did what we had to and just came up a little bit short.”

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Lorenzo Romar 

Opening - “They scored 23 points off our turnovers and they had 17 points off second-chance opportunities. Aside from that, couldn’t be more proud of our team. We competed and we tried to play the right way. And that’s all we ask for. Just hate to see us not get rewarded with that type of effort.”

Did that feel like a game between a 14-1 team and a 2-13 team? - “Well, they were without a couple of their guys, but all I know is - regardless of records, I know our guys competed. And if we compete like that we can hold our own.”

Markelle said he feels the team is on the verge of doing something big - “We’ve been talking about just getting better. We can’t reverse the season and do anything about our record but we can get better and continue to work. It’s a testament to our young guys to come out and play the way they did. It’s a testament to our supporters that came out here and almost filled the place up and gave us a big lift tonight. Given the circumstances I couldn’t be prouder of our team and our supporters.”

Have you found something these past two games? - “I think we grew up a little bit the last couple of games, especially tonight. Just our attitudes. We had a little more of a chip on our shoulders than we’ve had all year. In the Arizona State game is where our guys competed and we came up short again. These are the type of efforts that you can pull one of these out that we’ve been falling short on. We just have to continue to do that on the road.”

On the final two minutes, down by three. What happened? - “There were a couple opportunities that were there, a couple calls could have gone either way and they didn’t go our way. We got the short end of the stick on it, but we were right there.”

On the Johnson charge call - “That was a huge play. Were we down three at that time? I thought it was an and-1 at first when the whistle blew but obviously they didn’t see it that way. Obviously that was a big, big play down the stretch.”

What went into reinstating Malik and what did his presence do tonight to influence the game? - “For starters, we have never had one hint of a problem with Malik with his behavior, his character. He’s been a good student, he’s done what he’s supposed to do. I felt what happened was out of character, but at the same time we have to learn things from that. I just felt he was remorseful and it was behind him. We decided to let him go on. There’s been no history of him doing anything like that. His presence made an impact for us. He blocked three shots and he was winded because he hasn’t played in a long time. It’s hard to simulate that type of game conditioning. He was a little rusty and he’ll get better as we go. It’s great to have him back on the floor with us.”

On frustrations not having many of the 50/50 calls and plays go your way - “Anytime you’re competing at a high level it’s frustrating if it doesn’t go your way. That’s part of basketball. That’s part of sports, the ebbs and flows of the game. That’s why you have to be mentally tough to play through those situations.”

But at home, do you expect at least some of those to go your way? - “Well, they get paid to do their job. I’m glad I don’t have their job. That’s a difficult one to do. You would like for them to go your way but they didn’t.”

If this was the last home game for Markelle, how do you want UW fans to remember his time here? - “We still have obviously games left but let me talk as if he were coming back. I’m not hinting either way. I don’t want to just say he’s gone. I don’t want to say it and next thing I know it’s Romar says Markelle is gone. I’m not saying that. But I just know that Markelle has laid it all out on the line this year for this team, for this program, for this university. He is a guy that has taken school seriously all year, and is still taking school seriously. He’s a guy that, as I’ve said many times, did not come in with a sense of entitlement, you owe me. He’s not come in with the attitude of, I’m going to rent your program for a little bit. He’s been totally invested, been all-in. 

“It was very, very disappointing for comments that I heard that he was just going to lay down for the rest of the season because he was worried about the NBA Draft. Those were very, very disappointing to me because there was no basis for that. If you know Markelle Fultz, you know how much he loves to play, you know how loyal he is. He came back and he’s played, which shows that those comments were totally out of line. The pressure, the comments people have made about him because we haven’t won, it’s his fault - he’s done everything imaginable to try and help our team. I just thought some of those things were unfair. 

“All in all, if you look back at Markelle’s freshman year, I think we look at a guy that came in, was all-in, came in highly touted but was a servant to his teammates and did the best he could to make us the best that we could be.”

How much was he gutting it out on the end with only one day of rest for his knee? - “Totally. He laid it all out there. Markelle was really hurt mentally when we didn’t come up with the victory here. You could see it on his face at the end of the game. He gave it all he could.”

On Trier’s game - “Bad omen for us was when he hit his first two shots, which were three-pointers. Anytime you get a prolific scorer like that going in the beginning he’s probably going to have a pretty good game and was 4-5 for the game from three. In the absence of Ristic and Kadeem Allen I though he picked up a big part of the scoring load tonight. We know ‘Lonzo is a very, very competent scorer, very competent offensive player. He obviously laid it all out there too.”

On David Crisp and his rebounding effort tonight and his progression as a player - “He’s more athletic than people think. He can dunk just about any way you want. He hadn’t done it in games much but he’s athletic enough to go do that. He grabbed seven rebounds tonight being the second-smallest player out on the floor other than Cartwright-Jackson. I thought he played with a lot of heart tonight. He’s an exciting little player. He’s kind of dynamic in how he plays when he gets it going. He’s definitely made a year of improvement from last year to this year and I would expect him to do the same the following year.”

On Arizona using zone in the second half - “It did a good job. It was timely on their part because we became stagnant for a minute. I thought offensively we were very, very efficient. We were 57 percent in the first half. I thought we were taking really good shots, making good shots. We just kind of stood for a little bit. And after a while we adjusted and started to move and we were able to score. But there was a few minutes there where it caused us to become a little stagnant.”

When they went 4-5 early from three, did that push you out of the zone? - “Yes. We had a little different lineup in there and we went man in there.”

How did you feel the response was when you did go man? - “I thought we did a nice job in it. I thought we did a nice job.”

Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller

Did you think it was going to be a battle with two of your starters out? - "Yeah no question. You're on the road, it's late February, it's their senior night and two of our starters not able to play. Two guys that have been great for us in every game they've played. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. I think it says a lot about Lorenzo Romar, it says a lot about UW, their program, their team, the fight that they had tonight. I thought they played really hard and they played at a very, very high level. We had to scratch and claw and fight and make plays to have a chance to win. I know we had a couple guys down but I thought their effort level was great and it says a lot about the coach this late in the year, when a lot of things haven't gone well for them, that they played so well and so hard. And Markelle Fultz is one heck of a player."

Did you think about playing Kadeem Allen? - "No in that situation, it's important you listen to the trainer, not Kadeem. Kadeem just wants to play but it wasn't in Kadeem's best interest to play. He could have really hurt himself. So we're not going to put him at risk and I listen to our trainer. Having him go through warm ups is more about the future. It's good for him to go through warm ups because we anticipate him making a full return this coming week."

On the importance of Allonzo Trier making shots early after his shot being off the past couple of games - "The thing about Allonzo you have to remember is he missed 19 games. So he's at that point where a player generally is in early December. But everybody around him and who plays against him is further along. So I think sometimes one of the reason his shot percentage isn't as high, is he isn't necessarily taking great shots. Every once in a while he makes a decision to take one that maybe he shouldn't or maybe he has a drive and for whatever reason he shoots a contested shot. So I think we've just tried to get him to think about slowing the game down, taking what the defense gives. If he's open, if he gets quality shots, there's nothing wrong with his shot. It's just at the beginning he got I thought three really good looks against their zone and that's the type of shooter that he has for sure. But I'm glad he made them. I think it was good for our team's confidence because I thought our zone attack and how we handled their zone is one of the reasons we won."

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