Q-Pon gives Dawgs a measure of redemption

SEATTLE - With the lights from ESPN's College Game Day crew shining down on Montlake, Quincy Pondexter made a convincing case for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors, scoring a team-high 20 points and leading the Washington Huskies to a 97-68 blowout victory over UCLA on his Senior Night, spurred on by a spirited student section and sold-out Bank of America crowd.

It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Huskies (18-9, 8-7) this year, but on Saturday night they used a blistering shooting effort and a strong defensive presence to jump on UCLA (12-14, 7-7) early, never letting the Bruins grab a game lead even once. Isaiah Thomas added 17 for UW, while Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday chipped in 12 and 11 apiece. The Bruins were paced by freshman forward Reeves Nelson, who scored 14 points. Forward Nikola Dragovic tallied 13, and another freshman - Brendan Lane - added 11 points.

ESPN's only journey out west for their College Game Day segment - featuring former college head coaches Bobby Knight and Digger Phelps - was a smashing success for the Huskies, as the Dawgpack camped out in tents outside Hec Ed for as long as two days to show the country what Washington basketball is all about.

"From early this morning, we knew they were going to bring us energy," UW guard Isaiah Thomas said of the atmosphere. "The Dawgpack was great, our fans were great. They were behind us 100 percent."

"Game Day doesn't get us in the NCAA Tournament," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "It doesn't get us an extra win at all. It doesn't change our record this year. It doesn't change the fact that we've won one road game. But I thought it was awesome this morning to see the University of Washington - where I went to school - is one of eight stops for ESPN Game Day, and that they thought enough of us to come here. It makes you feel good about your program in terms of maybe we've built up a little credibility. It's more important to win games, but in that process you receive little bonuses like that, and it's encouraging. It's encouraging to our guys and our program."

But make no mistake; this week's Game Day was all about Pondexter. The senior from Fresno, Calif - already named the Pac-10 Player of the Week four times this season - started the game off in flying fashion, burying his first shot - a 3-pointer - just 49 seconds into the action.

"I'm so glad it went down because I saw time going down and it was one of those senior moments," he said after the game. "This ball better go in."

Pondexter appeared very emotional during pre-game introductions where he was with his family, but it didn't affect his play, scoring 10 points before the first official media timeout at 15:23.

"Everybody saw it; (Pondexter) was crying like a baby," Thomas said with a laugh. "But after that, it was game time, so he turned it on and made his first shot. And it was off from there. He's a senior, so you have to go out with a bang in your last home game."

"I'm flabbergasted right now, if you could call it that," Pondexter said of his Senior Night. "I'm just so blessed to be in the position I'm in right now, and everything is coming together for me."

Washington shot 59 percent from the field, just short of their season high of 61 percent against Portland State. They shot 52 percent from 3-point range (11-21), only the second time all season they were above 50 percent. They did it against the Bruins' 2-3 zone, with Thomas and Scott Suggs making three each and Pondexter and Elston Turner two apiece.

"I thought we had such a high level of focus defensively early, and when you have that kind of focus it carries over to all aspects of the game," Romar said. "And I think that had a lot to do with how we shot the ball. I thought our guys not only made shots, but they did a good job of attacking the zone and passing the ball against the zone."

After a Lane 3-pointer cut Washington's lead to six at 22-16 with left in the first half, the Huskies reeled off 14 straight points, capped by an Isaiah Thomas 3-bomb with 5:23 left. It was the second of three eventual 3-pointers from Thomas in a sequence that saw the Hoop Dawgs jump to a 39-18 lead just before the third television timeout.

"We just could not handle their pressure," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said. The Bruins had 18 turnovers on the night. "Their pressure took us out of everything we wanted to do in the first half, including even catching the ball."

From that point on, it was simply a matter of UW maintaining the lead they had built, which grew as high as 33 after two made free throws by Pondexter with left in the game. He lit the crowd up with a stunning two-hand windmill jam with 17:45 remaining, bringing the whole Hec Ed crowd to their feet. He again brought everyone out of their seats when he was pulled with 4:25 left and the Huskies up by 27.

"Four years flashes before your eyes," Romar said of Pondexter's career at UW. "You think about the times where there were struggles; many times where there were good times; many times that were learning situations. All the experiences you had with them, you get attached to your guys. You come to a realization that it's coming to an end and you aren't going to be able to hang anymore as much. But there's also a great feeling of joy because you know that right now, Quincy Pondexter is ready to move on when this season is over. He's going to do just fine.

"He took advantage of his four years in school, and his hard work and dedication, coupled with what the University of Washington has given him, is going to allow him to go out and be successful at whatever he does."
Statistics:
Points: Pondexter 20, Thomas 17, Bryan-Amaning 12, Holiday 11, Suggs 9, Turner 9, Overton 7, Breshers 6, Gant 4, Trent 2,
Rebounds: Holiday 7, Thomas 6, Bryan-Amaning 5, Gant 4, Pondexter 3, Suggs 2, Turner 2, Gaddy 1, Trent 1, Breshers 1, Sherrer 1
Assists: Holiday 5, Gaddy 4, Thomas 3, Pondexter 3, Overton 2, Suggs 2, Bryan-Amaning 1, Trent 1
Steals: Overton 3, Pondexter 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 1, Thomas 1
Blocks: No blocks

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