Huskies survive scare, beat Cougars

It wasn't the blowout finish that seniors David Dixon and Grant Leep had hoped for heading into their last home game, but nevertheless the Washington Huskies battled long enough to survive a real scare from the lowly Washington State Cougars Wednesday night, winning 82-75 in front of 6,031 fans at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Washington (11-17 overall, 5-13 Pacific-10) never trailed, but that wasn't to say the game wasn't tight for all but a 10-minute period in the first half. In fact, the Huskies never held a lead larger than eight points in the final 21:41 of the game.

Washington State (5-21 overall, 1-17 Pac-10) finished the season winless on the road, going 0-13 in contests away from Pullman.

Six Huskies finished in double-figures scoring, led by the 14 of Dixon, who turned in arguably the best game of his three-year career at the UW. The big man from Houston, Texas added a team-high eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks while going turnover-free for the night. Leep scored 12 points, all of which came in a hot-shooting first half that saw the Mt. Vernon native knock down four three-pointers.

But it was Dixon who engined the team down the stretch when Washington needed him most. While Doug Wrenn never could find a rythym from the field, the Huskies fed the ball to their 6-foot,11-inch center and let big No. 50 go to work. After scoring only two points in a quiet first half, Dixon erupted inside the paint by schooling fellow senior center J Locklier down low time and time again.

With the UW clinging to a four-point lead midway through the second half, the Huskies got the ball in Dixon's hands on back-to-back possessions and he came through with two powerful layins. Later in the half as the Huskies continued to try to extend their slim lead of five, Dixon came through again, this time pulling up for a nine-foot jumper from the right angle, a shot he hadn't shown in his tenure as a Husky...swish. As the Cougars continued to battle for the lead, getting as close as two on two separate occassions in the final 6:00, the Huskies stayed with what worked. A turnaround-jumper and a layin from Dixon pulled the UW out to a 71-66 lead with 3:53 remaining.

The Huskies had to learn how to score without their big man in the final minutes, though, as Dixon picked up his fifth personal foul when Lockler penetrated the lane. He slowly walked to the bench as the Husky fans in attendance rose to their feet to salute his play over the past three years in Seattle. Before he reached the bench for the final time at Hec Ed, he looked back toward mid-court and screamed at point guard Curtis Allen for one last message.

"I told him that we better win this game," said Dixon, smiling after the game.

And they did.

The Huskies hit seven of eight free throws in the final minute to thwart any thoughts the Cougars had at an upset.

"I feel good about winning this last game with the seniors, and hopefully this puts us in a position to keep playing," said Washington Head Coach Bob Bender. "We won't know about the tournament until these two last games are played for Oregon State. We took care of ourselves."

Barring two straight wins by Oregon State this week over USC and UCLA, the Huskies will be the No. 8 seed heading into the Pac-10 Tournament that starts March 7th in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Guards Marcus Moore and Jerry McNair paced the Cougars with 26 and 23 points respectively. The duo kept the visitors in the game with their ability to get to the basket and draw fouls. Moore finished 9-11 from the line and McNair went 6-7. Locklier, last year's Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, added 18 in his second-to-last collegiate game.

The Huskies looked to be ready to break the game open early, roaring ahead to a large lead unlike any other time this season. Already ahead 12-9, the Purple and Gold went on a 16-2 run that was highlighted by four three pointers. With 8:19 remaining in the first half, the Huskies found themselves up 31-15.

That's when the Cougars caught fire, going on an 11-0 run of their own in the next four minutes to bring the lead down to five at 31-26.

"It seemed like we got deflated," said Leep of the Huskies' lapse after pulling ahead to a big lead. "I told the guys at half that [Washington State] has pride just like we do and we needed to keep playing."

WSU trailed 43-37 as the teams headed into the half.

Washington finished the first half shooting 70 percent from behind the three-point arc.

Game Notes:

Purple Domination: The win improved Washington all-time record versus Washington State to 162-90.

The Rejector: David Dixon blocked two shots in the game to give him 64 for the season, second in an individual-season only to Chris Welp's 67 in 1986. Dixon has 95 career blocks, third-most in school history.

Moving up the Charts: Doug Wrenn's 12 points put him at 532 for the season, the 12th-highest total by a Husky. He passed Detlef Schrempf (521, 1984), Andra Griffin (525, 1981), and Doug Smart (527, 1958) with his scoring output tonight.

Irony at it's best, the Cougar way: In Washington State's men's basketball press release, there are two pieces of information that probably shouldn't have been included back-to-back. The first reads, "Eligible Bachelor," and mentions that WSU assistant Gary Stewart is among college basketball's 50 most eligible bachelors according to collegeinsider.com. The second is titled, "Little Remains Ineligible," and explains how senior forward Framecio Little remains unable to play due to his failure to meet NCAA academic requirements. That probably could have been done better.

Up Next: Unless Oregon State manages to win both of it's final two games at UCLA and USC, the Huskies will claim the 8th seed in the Pac-10 Tournament, and will matchup against the No. 1 seed. As of now, six teams still have a shot for the Pac-10 title heading into the final week fo the regular season: Oregon, California, USC, Arizona, Stanford, and UCLA. Oregon (12-4 Pac-10) currently has the advantage for the top seed, but the Ducks have to face both Los Angeles schools in their final two contests and a loss would drop them back into a logjam of schools right behind them. Cal, USC, and Arizona all have an 11-5 record in conference play, while Stanford and UCLA are right behind at 10-6.

Husky Stats:

Points: Dixon 14, Knight 13, Wrenn 12, Leep 12, Massingale 12, Allen 11, Day 4, Conroy 2, Barnard 2

Rebounds: Dixon 8, Wrenn 4, Leep 3, Massingale 3, Day 3, Allen 3, Conroy Assists: Wrenn 5, Leep 3, Dixon 2, Massingale 2, Conroy 2, Allen, Knight

Steals: Dixon 2, Conroy 2, Massingale, Allen, Knight, Barnard

Blocks: Dixon 2, Wrenn, Leep

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