UW claims at least a share of the Pac-10 title
Huskies overcome 10-point second-half deficit to defeat Arizona 83-78.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two teams in title huntGames remaining
UW: Seattle U. (non-league), vs. Washington State
Team: at Arizona, at Arizona State
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Lorenzo Romar stopped short of proclaiming the Washington Huskies a team of destiny, but he had difficulty explaining how his men's basketball team Saturday once again conjured up a seemingly miraculous performance with high drama to claim its grandest prize in nearly a quarter of a century.
"This team is versatile enough and team enough to find a way to win," he said.
It's an apt description for No. 21 Washington, which overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to chase down the Arizona Wildcats and race away with an 83-78 victory to capture at least a share of the Pac-10 Conference title.
Champions wear purple once again.
This milestone wasn't lost on the Huskies, who were serenaded with applause from a sold-out matinee crowd of 10,000 at Edmundson Pavilion. Still taking a cue from their coach, their demeanor after the game was remarkably subdued.
"I know we're co-champions and all, but I'm still just me and I really don't feel any different," guard Venoy Overton said. "We enjoyed this a little bit [in the locker room], but I guess you can say we're greedy. There's still more to get."
The Huskies can clinch sole possession of the Pac-10 title if second-place UCLA loses to Oregon State or Oregon this week or if UW beats Washington State on Saturday.
Athletic director Scott Woodward acknowledged the timing is awkward, but said he would confer with Romar to organize a celebration for the school's first men's basketball title since sharing the crown in 1985 with USC.
"This is a gutty, tough team and that's what I like, that's right up my alley," Woodward said. "They win by scrapping. They win by fighting and persevering. That's the heart and soul of this team, and I love that kind of play."
The Huskies, who improved to 22-7 and 13-4 in the Pac-10, completed a near worst-to-first turnaround. Last season Washington finished eighth in the conference with a 16-17 overall record.
"That little dude makes a big difference," said assistant Cameron Dollar, pointing to freshman Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. "But you can't take one of these dudes away and say we'd have done this. We're a team in every sense of the word."
Four Huskies scored in double figures, including Quincy Pondexter, who had 12 points and seven rebounds, and senior co-captain Justin Dentmon, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Washington also received major contributions from its bench. Overton added eight points, six rebounds and three steals while pestering Arizona guard Nic Wise into a horrendous 11-point, three-turnover performance. Reserve sophomore center Matthew Bryan-Amaning also added nine points, his highest tally in nine games.
To subdue the Wildcats, the Huskies had to overcome the worst part of themselves. Their faulty free-throw shooting, which tormented them last season, nearly derailed the victory. Washington converted just 19 of 35 free throws while Arizona sank 13 of 14 at the line.
In a strange twist of fate, Jon Brockman, who shoots 65.5 percent from the line, bailed the Huskies out at the charity stripe and converted 7 of 9.
"He is such a warrior. I don't care if he's a 1 percent free-throw shooter right now, he's not going to miss," Romar said. "Jon wants this so badly, he'll make [those] free throws."
And when Washington trailed 56-46 with 11:48 remaining, Brockman led the Huskies' comeback by scoring 12 of his 19 points. He struggled to contain Arizona center Jordan Hill, who scored a game-high 27 points but was rendered virtually ineffective after suffering a sprained left ankle with 7:22 remaining.
Without Hill, Arizona (18-11, 8-8) turned to forward Chase Budinger, who chipped in 20 points before fouling out with 2:38 left and Washington ahead 71-70. The Huskies salted the game away in the final minutes, converting 10 of their final 11 free throws.
"This is just the best feeling," Brockman said. "I knew this team was capable of it. But I think all of us just kind of questioned a little bit if we were going to be able to come together as a group.
"I'm just unbelievably proud of these guys and the way we've been able to come together as a group. Not worry about stats, not worry about any of the outside influences, just come together and make winning plays for the team."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Attendance: 10,000. Officials: Dick Cartmell, Jim Giron, Deron White.
in title hunt
|UW is a step from the outright Pac-10 title.|
UW: vs. Seattle U. (nonconference),
vs. Washington State
UCLA: vs. Oregon State, vs. Oregon
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies
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