Huskies survive Cardinal gut-check

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar noted one day earlier just how dangerous the opposition could be when hitting from outside. He never got the chance to find out Friday night as Jason Haas missed a chance to tie the game with seconds left and Washington outscrapped a pesky Stanford Cardinal zone 66-63 in front of 15,068 people at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The win puts the number-one and two-seeds - Arizona and Washington - in the Pac-10 championship game Sunday at 3:10 PM PST.

Nate Robinson, affectionately known as 'Nate the Great', was nothing short of his nickname when things got tight in the second half, but he got a huge boost from Brandon Roy when Washington needed it most. Robinson reprised his 29-point outburst in the Huskies' semifinal win over Arizona State with 14 points and 5 rebounds. Roy scored only 6 points, but it was the final four points of the game he accounted for that were the biggest.

It was just fun," Robinson said. "It was a tough game because they make you leave all the BS at the door. They make you play a lot smarter than what you usually play. They bring your basketball IQ up a lot higher because you are playing against a great Stanford team."

This was an odd game in many ways. The Huskies didn't commit a personal foul until Will Conroy was whistled with 6:19 left in the first half, yet UW still had more fouls than Stanford at the end of the half (7-6). Jamaal Williams led the Huskies in steals and Tre Simmons was their leading rebounder.

"Coach (Romar) keeps telling me that all the time, don't just look at one aspect," said Simmons. "I know I'm a shooter, but I can do other things on the court to help my team."

The win puts the Huskies back in the tournament final for the second-straight year, where they will play Arizona. The Wildcats defeated Oregon State 90-59 on Friday. The top-seed has won both their tournament games by an average of 28 points, while the Huskies have had to scrape by with maximum effort.

"Our guys showed a lot, even in the game against Arizona State," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "We gave up a lead, but we scrapped down the stretch. This is more like what the NCAA tournament is going to be like and this is great experience for us."

"The way I look at it, we're more battle-tested," added Roy. "We've been down in both games. Maybe we can get them down and flip it on them. Hopefully we can be the tougher team when we play them."

Last year in the tournament final Washington lost to Stanford, something they said was not going to happen this time around.

"The mission won't be accomplished until we get a championship," Washington forward Hakeem Rollins said. "That's what they took from us.

After a questionable foul on Robinson with 6:32 left, the 5-9 guard from Seattle put the game on his shoulders, igniting a 6-2 mini-run late in the second half to give Washington a 58-52 lead at the 6:16 mark.

"Basketball is physical and you have to also use your brain a lot," said Robinson. "But having fun is the biggest key. I feel like a little kid at recess, playin' ball with my family. That's what I call my team - my family."

"Give our guys credit," Romar said after the game. "Our guys banded together. It was either fall apart and lose the game or stay together and have a chance to win."

You could say it's been the Huskies' season-long mantra. Their season record in game decided by eight points or less? 11-0.

The Cardinal would cut the deficit to one on two Matt Haryasz free-throws, but Roy's two buckets - including an acrobatic tip-in of a circus shot by Robinson - edged the lead back out to 5 with just fifteen seconds left.

I can't really do my work until late in the game," said Roy, who is still battling back from an ACL tear during the winter. "I can't usually get Tre (Simmons) his rest so he can get his legs. And I can't help Will (Conroy) get his spell. So I keep telling guys to keep fighting, that I'm going to find something in the last five minutes to make up for everything I'm doing.

"Hopefully I'll be able to do it for longer tomorrow, because Arizona is a really good team and they are going to bring it."

Rob Little was awarded two points on a Mike Jensen goaltend, and the Cardinal immediately fouled Robinson after an inbounds pass. The normally reliable Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up a final chance for Stanford to tie the game and force overtime. Chris Hernandez passed up an opportunity and found Jason Haas clear on the right baseline. Haas was one of the Stanford players chiefly responsible for taking Washington's first championship shot away from them earlier this year, scoring 18 points in a 77-67 win.

But Haas' attempt from beyond the arc just rattled out and the Huskies kept the basketball bouncing around long enough for the clock to expire, giving them another very difficult win under true tournament conditions.

"It was a good shot," Stanford Head Coach Trent Johnson said. "Jason (Haas) stepped up with confidence but it just didn't go down."

The Huskies once again won the battle of the boards (42-36), just like they did against Arizona State. But this time it was the 13-5 discrepancy in their favor that took their toll against a Cardinal 2-3 zone that they utilized for nearly all the second half.

"We just knew that they were going to make us shoot jumpers all day, and we didn't want to shoot ourselves in the foot taking jumper after jumper," said Robinson. "Our coaches kept telling us to try and get in there, get some free throws and get easy buckets, make them work in that zone, make them shift. They only had 6-7 guys in their rotation, so we had to keep running and running. We're so used to it we don't get fatigued like other teams do."

"It's pretty evident that in the three games we played against Washington that we were able to execute in the half court," said Johnson. "We basically just ran out of gas."

Bobby Jones, quiet for nearly the whole game Thursday against the Sun Devils, rebounded Friday with 14 points and 7 boards for Washington (25-5, 14-4).

Stanford (18-12, 11-7) was led by Haryasz', who had 15 points and seven rebounds. Chris Hernandez chipped in 13, and both Rob Little and Haas chimed in with 11 of their own.

It was the Cardinal, led by the eleven first-half points of Haryasz and five points of Nick Robinson that were putting down the long-range jumpers early. Stanford kept things close for most of the first half. Both teams scrapped and clawed during a see-saw first seventeen minutes - Little and Haas both had to come out of the game because of cuts, Little for over eight minutes with a gash over his right eye. The two teams combined for thirty-one total turnovers. But that's when the Huskies - not finding their range from deep - started to find other ways to score.

Conroy, known more for his passing prowess, penetrated the Stanford defense for back-to-back layins, the last coming with 2:48 left in the half to give UW a 27-23 lead. In hindsight, it's amazing that the Huskies were ahead at half-time, as only 9 of their first-half 30 points were from beyond the arc. They shot 40 percent overall, and a frigid 24 percent from three-point range.

Points: Robinson 14, Jones 14, Jensen 9, Smith 7, Conroy 6, Roy 6, Rollins 4, Williams 4, Simmons 2
Rebounds: Simmons 8, Conroy 7, Jones 5, Jensen 5, Robinson 5, Roy 4, Rollins 4, TEAM 3, Smith 1
Assists: Conroy 4, Roy 4, Simmons 2, Robinson 2, Jones 1, Jensen 1
Steals: Williams 3, Jones 1, Simmons 1, Robinson 1, Rollins 1
Blocks: Roy 1, Rollins 1 Top Stories