Huskies Net Title | UW wins first outright championship since 1953
And then the Washington Huskies went out and finished the job of winning the Pac-10 title outright by beating Washington State 67-60 at Edmundson Pavilion, then used those scissors to commemorate the occasion by cutting down the nets. It was the first outright title for the Huskies (24-7, 14-4) since 1953, and the first of any kind since 1985.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The Washington Huskies were 20 minutes from history.
One half of basketball from an accomplishment that could define their college careers forever.
And while Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar has never doubted his team's resiliency this season, never questioned its attitude or effort, there was too much at stake not to make darn sure.
So at halftime, he pulled out a pair of scissors, then asked his players if he knew what they signified.
After a few hesitant seconds, they all understood.
And then the Washington Huskies went out and finished the job of winning the Pac-10 title outright by beating Washington State 67-60 at Edmundson Pavilion, then used those scissors to commemorate the occasion by cutting down the nets.
It was the first outright title for the Huskies (24-7, 14-4) since 1953, and the first of any kind since 1985.
"That was an unbelievable feeling," said senior forward Jon Brockman, who fittingly tied a career-high with 18 rebounds in his final home game. "You see it on TV every year and you want to be in that position. Then when I got up there [to cut down the nets] it was about 100 times better."
That's exactly what Romar wanted. He said this team — 16-17 a year ago after losing to Valparaiso in the College Basketball Invitational — had worked too hard, come too far, to be denied the title now. And once they got it, he wanted them to enjoy it.
But he also knew the rival Cougars, coming in with a three-game winning streak, wouldn't make it easy.
WSU (16-14, 8-10) led early by five, and matters were far from comfortable — UW leading 30-25 at halftime — when Romar unveiled the scissors (he had asked a team trainer before the game to get them ready).
"That was a rare thing for him to pull out a prop," said junior forward Quincy Pondexter, who led UW with 16 points. "I've never seen that before."
In fact, Romar said he had done it just one other time, in 1999 when he was coach at Saint Louis and the Billikens were in the Conference USA Tournament final against DePaul. Then, he pulled them out before the game, and his team responded with a win for an unexpected NCAA tourney berth.
He remembered that this week during what he said was one of many restless nights of sleep, though opting this time to do it at halftime — what he knew would be the last real speech he would give his team this regular season.
"It was our last time to be together and reflect," he said. "I thought showing those scissors, maybe you could drive home the point that it's this close. This is how close we are. No matter what ails you, regardless of how tired you are, the finish line is this close. The scissors represented that."
Brockman said UW's players immediately asked each other "what feeling do you want to have after the game? And we came out and fought."
So, however, did the Cougars, using the 23 points of guard Taylor Rochestie to stay in it throughout. They cut the lead to one with just over 11 minutes left, and trailed by four with 2:22 remaining.
But then freshman Isaiah Thomas drove for a trademark lay-up in traffic to put UW ahead 64-58 with 1:50 to play. And then Brockman held firm to take a charge from WSU's Caleb Forrest, leading to two free throws from Justin Dentmon with 42 seconds left to put UW up eight.
From there it was a din as the sellout crowd roared in happy anticipation. As the horn sounded, defensive sparkplug Venoy Overton tossed the ball high in the air while Romar and his coaches hugged tightly.
And then came the net-cutting that Romar had tantalizingly held out before his players at halftime.
"When you win a championship, it's very good for a lot of reasons," Romar said. "But there's no better reason, for me, than to watch our guys win a championship and to have that experience for the rest of their lives to remember."
Then Romar recalled another night of sleep, this one when he dreamed of winning a championship, only to be rudely awakened to reality.
"This was the dream come true," he said. "It really happened. It was just as good as you could have imagined."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
|WASHINGTON ST. 60|
Attendance: 10,000. Officials: Ruben Ramons, Randy Burkhart, Bill Kennedy.
UW 67, Washington State 60
Arizona St. 83, California 66
UCLA 94, Oregon 68
Arizona 101, Stanford 87
USC 68, Oregon State 52
@ Staples Center, Los Angeles
Oregon St. vs. Stanford, 6 p.m.
Oregon vs. Wash. St., 8:30 p.m.
Arizona vs. Arizona St., noon
Washington vs. Oregon St.-Stanford winner, 2:30 p.m.
California vs. USC, 6 p.m.
UCLA vs. Washington State-Oregon winner, 8:30 p.m.
|Best in show|
|Huskies' last four conference titles in men's basketball:|
|1984||15-3 (tie)||Detlef Schrempf|
|1985||13-5 (tie)||Detlef Schrempf|
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies