Huskies help jam up the Pac

SEATTLE - All it would take was a Washington win over Arizona to seriously gunk up the works in Pac-10, and they delivered. Quincy Pondexter scored 30 points - 23 more than he had a month ago against UA - to help lead Washington to an 81-75 win Thursday night, creating a four-way logjam at the top of the Pac-10 conference.

The Huskies (15-7, 5-5), are tied with USC, just a game back from California, Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. Back on January 28th, after the Bears had beaten Arizona State 78-70, they were at 6-2 in conference, three games clear of the Huskies.

With six teams within a game of each other after Thursday night, the conference race is officially now up for grabs.

"It changes all the time, all the time," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of the battle for supremacy in the Pac-10.

Lamont 'MoMo' Jones led a balanced Arizona (11-10, 6-4) scoring effort with 14 points. Kyle Fogg chipped in 13, Nic Wise and Solomon Hill 12, and Brendon Lavender scored 11 points, eight points over his season average. His three first-half 3-pointers helped push UA to a 37-31 halftime advantage.

"Washington, they earned the victory tonight," said first-year UA Head Coach Sean Miller.

The Huskies were looking for a spark on offense, having only created two assists the first 20 minutes. So they kept starter Isaiah Thomas on the bench and went with Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy. The move paid off, as UW had nine second-half assists.

"We were looking for answers in the second half," Romar said. "We came out and I think we had four or five assists in the first four minutes."

Besides Pondexter, UW was led by the 13 points of Scott Suggs, including three 3-pointers. Overton added 12 points, nine coming from the free throw line.

After the last television timeout with 3:51 left in the game, Overton went to the line eight times and made all eight shots. The Huskies were 13-14 overall after that last timeout to seal the win.

Up five with 17 seconds to go, Washington made the final stretch an interesting one. Fogg raced toward the bucket and was fouled by the Huskies' Thomas. The officials called continuation on Fogg's made basket, and after he finished out the back end of an old-fashioned 3-point play, UW was only up two.

But Overton was fouled immediately on the inbounds pass, made his two free throws, and then Pondexter closed out the scoring with two free throws of his own after a Nic Wise 3-pointer would not go down for the 'Cats.

"They made every free throw down the stretch," Miller said. "If they miss one or two, that's a big difference."

"Venoy is a gamer," added Romar. "He hadn't done a whole lot, 1-5 for the night and a couple ill-advised decisions, but when the game was on the line he knocked those free throws down. That is just kind of how he is."

As with most UW home games this year, fouls ended being a significant part of the story. The two teams combined for 71 shot attempts, and Arizona had two players foul out - including starter Derrick Williams. The freshman forward had to sit with 9:36 left in the game.

With the Wildcats' top rebounder only in for eight minutes the whole game, that helped the Huskies reverse a horrible effort on the glass when they lost 87-70 to Arizona back on January 10th. They were mopped up 40-23 that game, but won the war of the glass this time around 45-40.

"Our guys did a good job of attacking the rim early," Romar said. "I thought our guys did a good job competing."

"He would have helped us," Miller said of Williams. "We were still in a hard-fought game until the end. I'm really happy that we still had a chance."

But in the end, the 'Cats couldn't handle Pondexter, who seemed to catch fire mid-way through the second half. During one stretch he had a tip in, a steal and a dunk, two free throws and a putback off a miss by Matthew Bryan-Amaning. That eight point run, followed by a Justin Holiday layup per a Pondexter assist, forced Miller to call a timeout with 8:15 left in the game and Arizona down eight.

Led by Pondexter, the Huskies turned a six-point deficit into a double-digit lead in a little over 13 minutes of play.

"That second half, we knew that we had to buckle down and do it as a team," Pondexter said. "That's what wins championships - team defense and team offense when we're sharing the ball.

"He's a terrific player," Miller said of Pondexter, adding that he thinks the UW senior is one of the best players in the conference and one of the best forwards in the country, statistically-speaking. "We did a really good job on him at McKale, and we didn't do a real good job on him tonight. He puts a lot of pressure on the other team.

"You could tell that he means a lot to their team."

Pondexter had seven points on 2-5 shooting when the Huskies lost by 17 in Tucson.
Points: Pondexter 30, Suggs 13, Overton 12, Breshers 9, Thomas 7, Holiday 5, Bryan-Amaning 3, Gaddy 2
Rebounds: Pondexter 12, Thomas 6, Breshers 6, Holiday 4, TEAM 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Overton 3, Suggs 3, Gant 2, Gaddy 1, Turner 1
Assists: Holiday 4, Pondexter 3, Gaddy 3, Thomas 1
Steals: Gaddy 1, Suggs 1, Overton 1, Gant 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 4, Holiday 2, Breshers 2, Pondexter 1 Top Stories