Huskies make history

SEATTLE - The Washington Huskies secured at least a share of their first Pac-10 conference title in nearly 25 years after taking down the Arizona Wildcats 83-78 in front of a raucous Bank of America Arena crowd Saturday afternoon. Washington will earn the crown outright with a win this coming Saturday when they host cross-state rival Washington State.

"Another team effort by our guys," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "The crowd - you talk about the sixth man - our crowd was unbelievable today. They willed us to victory. We came out a little sluggish in the first half and in the second half we got down but as we've done many times we continued persevere and we continued to work together and we were able to pull it out.

"There were a lot of heroes in this game."

It didn't appear as if things would go the way of the home team in the second half, as Washington was down as many as 10 points before the second television time out. But the Huskies stayed with it, kept their composure and rode the hot hand of freshman guard Isaiah Thomas and Jon Brockman to take a 63-62 lead with 7:37 remaining.

"Justin and Jon have not won a championship, nor have any of these guys," Romar said. "But this was Dentmon's and Brockman's last chance, and I told them that we were counting on you. Find whatever you need to get this done."

Arizona's Jordan Hill bounced back from a nasty-looking ankle sprain suffered with 7:27 left in the game to return and finish with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger chipped in 20 and Nic Wise 11 for the Wildcats.

"Goodness, he's unbelievable. He's another guy we've got to get off to the NBA," Romar said of Hill and his Willis Reed-like return to the game.

A Budinger 3-point shot gave the Wildcats a 68-66 lead, the last lead they would own in the game. A driving Thomas hit a layup and was fouled by Wise with 5:15 to go in the game. He completed the traditional 3-point play and added another layin for good measure their next trip down, forcing an Arizona timeout.

"I knew that Washington was going to push back and fight back and we were trying to put the clamps on the defensive end, but they were able to get to the basket on us down the stretch," Budinger said.

"It wouldn't take much to have improvement over 69 points in the second half," Romar added, noting the lack of a defensive presence when the Huskies lost to Arizona down in Tucson earlier in the year. "We did a better job. We were able to contain Nic Wise. Chase Budinger is an NBA basketball player. Jordan Hill is an NBA basketball player. Nic Wise can be an NBA player as well. There's no doubt we think he's the key to this team, and I thought we did a good job on him."

Romar added that off the ball, every UW defender was aware of where Wise was at all times. Using a combination of Thomas and Venoy Overton to constantly pressure and harrass the 'Cats point guard, Washington was able to contain him and keep him in front of them.

"They made a real conscious effort to take Nic out of his game," UA Head Coach Russ Pennell said afterward. "They were denying him the ball and geetting after him and I thought they guarded him well. But I think when he got in foul trouble, he backed off a little bit too."

Thomas scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, helping to erase a 3-10 day at the free throw line he'd like to forget. Jon Brockman secured his nation-leading 57th career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies (22-7, 13-4). Quincy Pondexter (12) and Justin Dentmon (10) were the other UW players to score in double-figures.

Dentmon's highlight moment came with the Huskies up three, needing some more points to salt away the win. He launched a jumper from the right side of the court that hit iron, bounced as high as the top of the backboard, then hit nothing but nylon to give UW a 77-72 advantage.

From that shot on, the Huskies - who had been less than 50 percent from the charity stripe the entire game - finished six of eight from the line to seal their league-leading 13th victory.

"Jon Brockman was big," Romar said of the senior forward. "Nothing was bigger than his free throws down the stretch."
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 19, Brockman 19, Pondexter 12, Dentmon 10, Bryan-Amaning 9, Overton 8, Turner 6
Rebounds: Brockman 11, Pondexter 7, Overton 6, Thomas 5, Dentmon 5, Bryan-Amaning 2, Turner 2, Holiday 1, Gant 1
Assists: Dentmon 4, Thomas 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 2, Turner 2, Brockman 1
Steals: Overton 3, Dentmon 2, Gant 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 2


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