Huskies survive slow start, topple Trojans

Will Conroy buried two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to cap a wild Washington comeback and give the Huskies a 76-72 victory over USC at Hed Ed Sunday night in front of 7086 fans. Doug Wrenn came up big with a double-double to pace the Dawgs, who overcame an early 21 point deficit to finally take a lead with Bobby Jones' putback of a wild Wrenn shot with 3 seconds left in the game.

"I know this is only one game, but seeing the guys in the locker room whern the game was over was exciting because they know they laid it all out on the line," Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "This was a character win for us. I could go on and on about all the different guys tonight."

The Trojans started out with the hot hand, building a 22-4 lead with a little more than 9 and a half minutes expired in the first half. Derrick Craven showed off his devilishly quick moves, schooling Curtis Allen more than once in the early going. Lorenzo Romar inserted Nate Robinson to guard Craven, which proved to be a tougher matchup for Derrick.

USC's matchup 2-3 zone forced the Huskies to be careful with the ball, and for the most part did a nice job. Henry Bibby's team also trapped from the very beginning of the game, but the Huskies showed nice poise in taking care of the ball. But like much of Thursday's game against UCLA, the Dawgs just couldn't put the ball in the cylinder, going 1-15 for the first 9:32 of the game. The Trojans, on the other hand, went 10-23 in that same stretch.

UW made a quick run, punctuated by a Bobby Jones layin and one off a Nate Robinson feed to bring the Husky deficit to 15, but then the Trojans went on a 6-0 run of their own. Nick Curtis' layin gave USC their biggest lead of the half, 30-9 with 7:05 left in the first half.

"We were running in the mud," Romar said of his team's performance in the first half. "We couldn't get it going. We got the momentum going in the locker room at halftime. The game is won or lost in the 15 minutes of halftime. We came out knowing we had a chance to win."

Much of the Trojans' offensive firepower was attributed to their excellent ballhandling. Through the first 13 minutes of the first half they only had two turnovers, while forcing 8 Husky miscues. UW tried to force the issue, going into a trap after Jones' 3-point play, and had modest gains.

Romar inserted David Hudson into the lineup for some shooting help, and got immediate results. Doug Wrenn's drive for two ignited a 7-0 Husky run to end the half on a positive note. D-Hud got into the action, putting down a 3-ball off a screen and Will Conroy finished the run with a dramatic drive down the lane, bringing the house to it's feet for the first time all half.

The first four and a half minutes of the second half was back and forth, but Anthony Washington's two free throws with 15:21 left left UW's deficit in single digits for the first time since the game was 12-3 in the Trojans' favor with 14:57 left in the first half. The Dawgs kept chipping away, with David Hudson's trifecta and Doug Wrenn's two free throws bringing the score to 46-44 with 13:06 left in the game. By this time the house was going crazy for the first time all year long.

Again, the Men of Troy would not relinquish their lead, but the Dawgs hung tough, getting to 65-64 with 5:13 left in the game. Doug Wrenn's three got the Husky faithful off their chairs, and the junior from Seattle started to assert himself offensively. His free throw shooting, much improved over Thursday, was key down the stretch. His two from the charity stripe with a little over 5 minutes left gave Washington their first lead since Mike Jensen's jumper to start the game.

The Dawgs maintained their lead, however tenuous, down the stretch. Will Conroy's putback with a minute left gave the Huskies a 72-21 lead, but the Trojans' Nick Curtis was fouled with 36.5 seconds left and the sophomore from Oxnard, California had a chance to give USC the lead but couldn't convert on the back end of his chances from the stripe.

That gave Washington a chance to win the game outright and they took advantage. Wrenn received the ball on the left sideline and drove to the hoop intent on drawing a foul. Instead, he threw up a prayer that was answsered by his teammate, Bobby Jones'. Jones' grabbed the loose ball and his putback gave the Dawgs a 74-72 lead.

"We wanted to take the last shot if the score was tied," Romar said of the last 36 seconds. "We were able to get the ball to Doug in the corner and Bobby Jones read the situation, positioned himself and the play came out. Bobby Jones is a winner."

Derrick Craven, who had been giving the Washington guards fits all night with his slick ballhandling skills, made a fatal error by bouncing the ball along the sideline directly in front of the Washington bench.

The referee was right on top of the play and made the call - Craven had dribbled the ball out of bounds. Conroy was fouled with 2.1 seconds to play and calmly put down his free throws to seal the victory for Washington. Despite their poor shooting in the first half, the Huskies actually finished the game shooting better than USC, .368 to .358. However, the talented trio of Conroy, Robinson and Curtis Allen went a woeful 10-37, with Allen going scoreless for the night.

And while the Trojans had a sizeable advantage on the boards early, Washington's tenacious glass-work down the stretch, fueled by Wrenn's 11 boards and Robinson's 9, helped the Huskies edge the Trojans in points in the paint, 36-28.

Bibby was more to the point. "I think we didn't play any defense, that was the key factor," he said. "We could not stop them, we need to get stops. They had everybody pounding the boards, we had basically one guy in there or two. We need five people rebounding the basketball."


Statistics:
Points: Wrenn 24, Conroy 19, Jones 8, Hudson 7, Robinson 7, Washington 6, Jensen 5
Rebounds: Wrenn 11, Robinson 9, Conroy 7, Washington 6, Jensen 3, Allen 3, Jones 2
Assists: Conroy 6, Robinson 4, Jones 1, Allen 1, Washington 1
Blocks: Wrenn 2

Notes:
Nate the Great: Nate Robinson once agains showed just why he might be the most exciting player to watch in the Pac-10. Numerous times he went flying for put-backs and rebounds, with perhaps the biggest board of the night coming when he went skying in the key to bring down a missed Nick Curtis free throw with 36.5 seconds left and the score tied 72-72.

Doug loves the stripe: After a horrendous showing at the free throw line Thursday against UCLA, Doug Wrenn came back strong, nailing 10-12 from the stripe. He changed up his pre-shot routine to only two dribbles and the changed paid dividends tonight.

Hudson the rainmaker: David Hudson again showed his worth as arguably the best three-point shooter for the Huskies. His turnaround three with 28.2 left in the first half helped draw the Dawgs to within 10, and his bomb from the right baseline with 13:45 remaining in the second half gave the Washington faithful something to cheer about. It brought the Dawgs back to only a four-point deficit, and helped fuel a run that would eventually get them the 'W'.

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