Huskies disappointed with early exit

COLUMBUS - It's always tough to have your hearts broken at a dance. As the Washington Huskies walked off the Nationwide Arena court, they hung their heads in disappointment and looked to the ground as they found their way into the locker rooms. It was already past midnight in Columbus and the dance was over for Washington. It was time to go home. A season that went so low and then so high at one point ended on a low note.

"Each guy gave his all and played hard because we wanted to win so badly," said Nate Robinson. "We wanted to play well in front of all of our fans, but to lose is like letting everyone down."

Approximately 200 fans in purple and gold cheered the Huskies on ‘til the final buzzer in Columbus. Not only that, but it seemed like they had some fans from other schools as well. At the tip-off of the first game of the session between Kentucky and Florida A&M, there were 19,588 fans in attendance. After the Wildcats' victory, many fans left the building, putting swiss-cheese sized holes in the audience. The UK fans that remained looked as if they were cheering on the Huskies.

Robinson, in particular wowed the non-partisan crowd with his gutsy play. The sophomore sensation made acrobatic moves in the paint that met the Kentucky faithful's approval. It was just a shame that he wouldn't be able to put on a show for them again on Sunday.

"In games like this, points mean nothing," said Robinson who scored a game-high 27. "My team deserves so much more than losing."

As I watched the Huskies and the UAB Blazers run the court at Nationwide Arena from my seat on press row, I felt like I was watching tennis, with my neck suffering from whiplash. The two teams were running with so much speed and intensity, it looked like a car wreck waiting to happen. Being so close to the action allowed me to hear all the sounds of the game as well.

The sound most common sounds from Friday night? Slaps and whistles.

"When you play a team who presses the whole game, intensity is way up," said Curtis Allen who ended his Husky career Friday night. The two teams combined for 56 fouls with the Huskies committing the majority of the violations with 30. Three Huskies (Robinson, Mike Jensen, and Bobby Jones) fouled out, and two more (Tre Simmons and Will Conroy) had four personal fouls. That allowed the Blazers to spend time - a lot of time - at the free throw line, where they took 44 shots.

"We are a scrappy team and they are too," said Jensen. "That's why you saw a lot of fouls."

Losing Jensen hurt the Huskies the most. The 6-8 sophomore forward played only 17 minutes the entire game but scored 11 points in that short time, including two big three-pointers.

But the bigger shots came from the team wearing dark green. "UAB hit some big shots from deep that really hurt us and we couldn't get over the hump," said Allen.

The biggest shot of them all came from UAB's Carldell ‘Squeaky' Johnson. With 1:12 left in the game and UAB up by one at 90-89, Johnson had the ball at the top of the arc with the shot clock about to expire. Johnson then lost his balance and heaved a prayer that was answered to put the Blazers up by four and the Huskies reeling.

The game was disappointing for the Dawgs, but there was no denying the excitement of the game in general, and experiencing March Madness for themselves. It was an offensive spectacle with both teams scoring over 100 points.

"We played a team that scores 100 points and we win the game," said UAB coach Mike Anderson. "We played against a very, very hot Washington Huskies team and that's a tribute to Lorenzo Romar."

"Normally when we get 100 points we win," said Conroy. "But obviously they knew how to get 100 points as well and we lost the biggest game of the season. That hurts."

Conroy and Jones were taken out of the starting lineup for allegedly breaking a team rule in Columbus. Both did play a significant amount of minutes however.

Washington will now go on spring break, and then it's back to the courts to prepare for next season. With the exception of Allen, the entire team is expected to be back. Jamaal Williams and Matt Fletcher will be eligible to play and should provide frontcourt help. Freshmen Joel Smith and Zach Johnson will be ready to come to Seattle and both will be expecting to win right away.

A season that once looked like a lost cause went as high as sweeping national power Arizona, beating the No. 1 team in the nation, and finishing second place in the Pac-10 after spending three weeks in the conference cellar.

"It's a tough way to end a season," said Jensen. "But to look on the bright side, we're a team that started the season 5-8 and ended in the NCAA Tournament."

But don't think Jensen and the Huskies are satisfied and just "happy to be here."

They want it all, they are hungry, and are already back in Seattle thinking about going back to dance next season. Top Stories