UW men's basketball ends 16-year losing streak at Stanford
Freshman Isaiah Thomas' runner in the lane sparks the Huskies in 75-68 win over the Cardinal
Seattle Times staff reporter
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STANFORD, Calif. — When the game seemed on the verge of slipping away here Sunday, like so many others the last 16 years for the Washington Huskies, coach Lorenzo Romar thought his team "dug down" to finally end a most vexing losing streak at Stanford.
But the moment it really became clear the Huskies might finally solve the riddle of Maples Pavilion came when Isaiah Thomas lifted up. And up. And up.
And by the time Thomas finally landed, after hitting one of his patented midair banking runners in the lane, he had brought the streak down with him.
Thomas' bucket with 2:02 left quelled a late Stanford run and helped Washington hang on for a 75-68 win, the first for the Huskies at Maples since Jan. 30, 1993.
"Man, it's good to just kind of get that out of the way," said senior Jon Brockman, who had suffered through three frustrating losses here before finally getting to leave in victory.
But maybe more important to Romar, the win gave Washington a split of the Bay Area trip. It also kept the Huskies in sole possession of second in the Pac-10 at 8-3, a half-game behind UCLA, and 17-6 overall, topping last year's victory total.
The Maples streak, Romar had insisted all along, was of little real consequence, and when it ended, he told his team a simple "all right, OK, it's over."
Still, even Romar acknowledged that in the final minutes, as Stanford cut a 15-point Huskies lead to three, he began to wonder if the Huskies would ever be able to escape their past.
Washington had built its big lead thanks to some inspired play from junior forward Quincy Pondexter, who led the team with 20 points and scored 41 on this trip; and reserve guard Venoy Overton, who stepped in for a foul-plagued Justin Dentmon and had 11 points, five assists and five steals in 27 minutes. Overton's ballhawking helped UW rally from a 25-15 deficit midway through the first halfto a 56-41 lead with 10:46 to play. Washington scored the first nine points of the second half after leading 35-34 at the break.
But when Stanford's Landry Fields — who led all scorers with 22 points — hit a jumper with 2:16 left, Washington's lead was just 66-63 and the streak had a renewed pulse.
"I got scared for my life," said Pondexter. "I was like, 'Not again.' "
Romar called timeout, then called for one of UW's basic plays — Thomas getting an on-ball screen (meaning Thomas had the ball in his hands at the time of the screen) from Darnell Gant at the top of the key. Thomas was then free to create his own shot, look for Jon Brockman underneath, Gant rolling to the basket or Pondexter and Dentmon spotting up at the three-point line.
Brockman, though, sensed immediately Thomas was taking this one in his own hands and cleared to the left side of the hoop to give Thomas room.
The 5-foot-8 guard drove into a mess of Stanford hands, jumped into the air, then tossed the ball off the glass and in to put UW up 68-63 with 2:02 left. The Cardinal was never really in the game again, the Huskies going on to score nine in a row to pull away.
"That kind of broke the drought a little bit and you could see our guys get energized," said Romar, who said it may not have been the most spectacular shot Thomas has hit in his UW career, "but was maybe as big a shot as he has taken and hit for us."
Thomas, who finished with 17 points, called the shot "just a normal thing" and said he was initially hoping just to get fouled. Then he figured that no whistle was coming, "so I had to make the shot."
Romar acknowledged that it's rare for a freshman to be called on to take such a shot at such a time. But Thomas, he said, is a rare freshman.
Pondexter said he heard the crowd gasp as the shot went through, while Brockman said he expected nothing else.
"He just kind of floated in the air and waited for everyone else to land," Brockman said. "He's a tough little guy, and he likes taking shots like that when the pressure is on. I feel comfortable when the ball is in his hands."
And for the first time since Lynn Nance was coach, it was Stanford that left feeling afflicted after hosting the Huskies.
"That's crazy," Overton said of the streak. "Sixteen years is a long time."
Gone with one giant leap.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Attendance: NA. Officials: Tony Padilla, Deron White, Ken Ditty.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies