They got their wish when Curtis Allen broke open for a clear look from behind the arc at the left angle, but his shot missed to the right. In the mad scramble after the rebound, the ball appeared to go out of bounds off the hand of Arizona center Channing Frye. With the crowd going crazy, and the Husky bench pleading for Washington possession, the referees ruled in the Wildcats' favor. Two free throws by freshman guard Salim Stoudamire put Arizona ahead 74-69, and that's where the scoring would end as the Huskies couldn't manage to score in the final16 seconds.
Of his last shot attempt that would have tied the score, Allen said,"It felt good. With the disappointment still imprinted on his face, he added, "It just didn't go in."
UW held a two point lead midway through the second half at 57-55, but Arizona then went on a 9-1 run keyed by three-pointers from Gardner and Stoudamire to go ahead 64-58 with 6:11 left. A Grant Leep 18-foot jumper from the baseline ended a three-minute Husky drought from the field to bring UW to within four, but Gardner immediately answered with another three-pointer to extend the UA lead to seven at the 5:26 mark.
Often times this season the Huskies have went out with a whimper in similar situations, letting their opponents sprint to the final buzzer with a comfortable win. Tonight, they found it in themselves to claw the way back into the contest.
As Washington found itself down six with under a minute remaining, Allen drove in the lane and looped in a layin to draw within four. After one free throw from Gardner at the other end, forward Grant Leep responded with a three-pointer from the wing to close the gap to two before the controvercial finish played out.
"I feel bad for our team with the outcome of the game," said Washington Head Coach Bob Bender. "We played so hard and with so much energy...we kept battling back and giving ourselves a chance. It's a tough loss in that it could have gotten us back to .500 before going on the road, and would have given us our second conference win."
After the game, the Husky players weren't blaming the referees for the bang-bang out-of-bounds call, they were blaming themseves for being in the situation where it had to come down to that. "You can't let the game come down to one play," said Doug Wrenn. "The referees did a great job tonight."
At times this season, Husky losses could have been attributed to a lack of intensity. That wasn't the case tonight as Washington (7-9, 1-5 Pac-10) battled tooth and nail for the game's entire 40 minutes.
In the first half, Arizona (11-4, 4-2 Pac-10) used an eight-point run to climb ahead by 12 with only 4:08 remaining until halftime, but instead of letting the deficit grow the Huskies buckled down and chipped away at it. A jumper by Wrenn, a dunk by Dixon, and a double-clutch leaner by Allen closed the gap to six. Then, after two free throws by UA forward Rick Anderson, Wrenn nailed a three-pointer, which got the home crowd roaring. With 32 seconds left before intermission, the Huskies got the ball back again and dribbled the clock down for the final shot of the half. Wrenn drove the lane in the finals seconds and hit a soft 10-foot jumper to make it 32-35 at half, capping a 9-2 Husky run.
Doug Wrenn led all scorers with 25 points and looked to be increasingly comfortable as the team's go-to guy. For the second game in a row, the redshirt sophomore from Seattle shot the ball well from the field, following up his 9-14 performance on Thursday night by going 10-18 tonight.
Allen added 16, and center David Dixon threw in 11 for the Huskies.
Nine of Dixon's 11 points came in the second half as the senior from Houston shed a forgettable first half of play to come up huge after intermission. Matched up against Frye, a freshman sensation who was rated as the No. 98 high school senior last year by Hoop Scoop Magazine, Dixon appeared to be overmatched in the first half. Frye took him inside the paint and hit all five of his first-half attempts while also grabbing three rebounds before halftime. Dixon, meanwhile, went 1-4 and had just two points and three boards.
All that changed after intermission, as "DD" came out of the locker room looking to play the way he knew he was capable of. He held the Arizona freshman to just one point and two rebounds while pulling down 11 second-half rebounds en route to his team-leading 14 for the game.
"I put in my mind that I had to come out in the second half and make a difference," said Dixon.
"He did a good job in the second half," added Bender. "That is the David Dixon that we had early in the season and we will get better as a basketball team when he plays like that night in and night out. We need that back from him."
Arizona was led by Gardner's 21 points, but got plenty of contribution from a youthful supporting cast. Stoudamire, a cousin to the NBA Portland Trailblazer's Damon Stoudamire, had 16, Anderson added 14, and Frye finished with 11.
No Cupcakes Here: Washington's schedule was rated the nation's fourth toughest in the Sagarin rankings that were published yesterday by the USA Today.
Filling it Up: Here are some stats that show the Huskies might be starting to gel, at least on the offensive side of the ball:
- UW players have registered ten 20-point scoring games this season, already eclimpsing last season's total of eight.
- Washington's 60-percent shooting performance (30-50) versus Arizona State on Thursday was their best effort in the last 83 games, dating back to February of 1999.
UA or Bust: Since 1991, the Huskies have a 4-29 record against top-10 ranked opponents and all four wins have come against Arizona. UA came into the game tonight rated No. 20.
Full-Court Press: With football's Letter of Intent Day less than a month away, several top notch gridiron recruits were at the game tonight with Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel by their side. California natives Jarrad Page, Rhema McKnight, and Freddie Collins joined Dan Milsten of Puyallup, Wash. and Texan Kyle Williams behind the west-end backboard to watch the action. Current players Khalif Barnes, Joe Toledo, Casey Paus, Derrick Johnson, Sam Cunningham joined them in the second-row seats.
Points: Wrenn 25, Allen 16, Dixon 11, Leep 8, Knight 5, Massingale 2, Barnard 2
Rebounds: Dixon 14, Wrenn 4, Massingale 4, Barnard 4, Leep 2, Allen 2, Day 2, Brown, Conroy
Assists: Allen 4, Wrenn 3, Knight 2, Dixon, Massingale, Brown, Barnard
Blocks: Dixon 3, Day 2, Wrenn, Knight
Steals: Leep 2, Barnard 2, Allen, Knight, Massingale