Washington makes hoops statement on national stage

BOISE, ID - Bobby Jones orchestrated a scrappy defensive effort, Nate Robinson took care of the offense and a 15-8 run to start the second half built on a 7-point half-time lead and the Washington Huskies were able to pull away from a game Pacific team en route to a 97-79 win at Taco Bell Arena in the second-round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The win ensures the number-one seeded Huskies their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1998.

"As a staff we are so proud of our guys today," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Our guys went out and competed as well as we've competed all year and we also played some efficient basketball. Our guys were extremely disciplined and played smart for forty minutes, and I thought that was the difference in the game."

Washington (29-5) will play its next round of the 2005 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Sweet 16 Championship at the regional site in Albuquerque, N.M. The Huskies' Sweet Sixteen matchup between either Louisville or Georgia Tech will take place Thursday, March 24th at the University of New Mexico's campus arena, The Pit. The regional championship game will be played Saturday, March 26th. Game times will be announced Sunday or Monday.

Nate Robinson did it all for the Huskies - scoring 23 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and just causing general mayhem for the Tigers (27-4). His reputation as the greatest college player today under 6-feet was solidified in the second half as he hit big shot after big shot and also wreaked havoc on Pacific's interior.

"My guys on my team joke about me being small, but they know I play big," said Robinson. "I've got a big heart and that's all that matters. I hate to lose."

"He just took over the game and showed what type of player he is," added Pacific Head Coach Bob Thomason. "He made some very difficult shots and made them look easy." The 97 points scored by Washington is the second-most ever given up by a Thomason-coached Pacific team. The Tigers lost to UNLV 116-76 on February 8, 1990.

"I don't know of any one guard that has a bigger heart or is a bigger competitor than Nate Robinson," added Romar. "You can't teach what's inside that young man. He has a ticker that allows him to compete against anyone, and the bigger the game it's almost like you can see him grow before your eyes."

Jones, while doing his best to limit Christian Maraker - Pacific's leading scorer - also had a nice game on the other side of the floor, scoring 19 points, 13 in the first half. Brandon Roy and Jamaal Williams took it to the Tigers' interior defense, scoring 14 points and 11 points respectively. Tre Simmons was his steady self with 15 points and Will Conroy dished out 10 assists in the win.

Guillaume Yango led the Tigers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Maraker with 12. No on else scored in double-digits for the Tigers.

A Jasko Korajkic bomb from deep finished a 9-1 run and put the Tigers down only 9 at 74-65 with 8:35 left in the contest. But Robinson and company weren't going to be denied, out-scoring Pacific 18-5 to put the game away. Will Conroy fed Mike Jensen for an alley-oop jam to give UW a 92-70 lead with 3:45 left.

The Huskies started out in their trademark style - quick. Energized in the lockerroom by a speech given by Assistant Coach Ken Bone, bookend three-pointers by Mike Jensen and Bobby Jones kept UW on top at the first television timeout, 10-7.

Bone read some recent press clippings, and at the heart of his speech was a quote attributed by Thomason that he gave in his Friday press conference. "He said that Pacific had been to two NCAA games the past two years and that Washington had only been to one," said Bone. "It's not a bad comment to make to instill confidence in his kids, but those are the type of comments that get our guys fired up. You could tell by their reaction that they were ready to go. It was a good reaction, the type of reaction we were hoping they would have."

It was clear from the start that Washington wanted to push tempo and disrupt, while Pacific was more than happy to play tough defense and pound it inside to their bigs for uncontested layins. Another Jones trey and back-to-back buckets by Brandon Roy pushed their lead to 7 at the second television intermission.

Then Maraker went to work. He scored 10 of the Tigers' next 17 points to draw Pacific even at 27 with 6:24 left in the half. But then Jones came back the game and Maraker didn't score a point the rest of the half. While The Tigers were trying to get as much inside scoring as possible, Washington was actually having success - outscoring Pacific 20-10 in the paint.

"I rise the occasion when I play against guys that are as good as me or better," Jones said of his battle with Maraker. "I just wanted to come in with intensity and energy to help my team out. I wanted to help our team win."

"We were just simply quicker than they were," added Bone. The Huskies out-rebounded Pacific 35-31. "They are bigger and they might even be stronger, but you cannot replace quickness. Our guys were quicker to the ball and quicker to react to the rim when they did get possession of the ball. We felt that contributed to scoring in the paint."

A couple of Will Conroy lane-leaners and a Robinson three-pointer after an acrobatic assist from Conroy as he was going out of bounds put the Huskies' cushion at 7, 41-34 after the first twenty minutes.

"When we came in and had finished that half, I think our guys smelled Sweet Sixteen," said Romar. "And I think that's what propelled our guys to go out and play with another high level of intensity."

Points: Robinson 23, Jones 19, Simmons 15, Roy 14, Williams 11, Jensen 9, Conroy 6
Rebounds: Robinson 7, Conroy 5, Jones 4, Jensen 3, Simmons 3, Rollins 3, Williams 3, TEAM 3, Smith 2, Roy 2
Assists: Conroy 10, Robinson 3, Simmons 2, Roy 2
Steals: Jones 1, Robinson 1
Blocks: Roy 1, Rollins 1, Williams 1

NCAA Regional Ticket information: The deadline for Husky season ticket holders to submit an order request for Albuquerque is Monday, March 21, by 4:30 PST. Washington will be allocated approximately 1,250 tickets for the NCAA Regional. Order forms are available on gohuskies.com or at the Husky ticket offic at Graves Hall.

Completed order forms must be faxed to the Husky Ticket Office at 206-616-1761 or delivered to the Huskiy Ticket Office by 4:30 PM Monday. The Husky Ticket Office will be open Sunday from noon to 2 PM and weekdays from 8:30 to 5 PM Monday. Any tickets available after all UW season ticket holder requests have been processed will go on sale to the general public starting Tuesday, March 22 at 8:30 AM at the Husky ticket office.

For more information, visit gohuskies.com or call the Husky ticket office at 206-543-2200

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