Quincy Pondexter's shot lifts Washington, 80-78
Quincy Pondexter's clutch shot with 1.7 seconds left gave the Washington Huskies a dramatic 80-78 victory over Marquette on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW vs. New Mexico, 2:50 p.m., Ch. 7
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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Everyone wanted the ball.
Isaiah Thomas begged for it and Venoy Overton clapped and screamed: "Over here."
But Quincy Pondexter wasn't going to give this moment to anyone else.
The Washington senior carried the 11th-seeded Huskies to the NCAA tournament, and if they were going to topple No. 6 seed Marquette in a thrilling first-round matchup, then it would be on his shot.
"I've been in situations like that before," Pondexter said. "I just had to make the quickest move possible and try and get the ball up on the rim."
Pondexter watched the clock tick down to under 10 seconds before starting his dribble. He rocked from side to side, which got Jimmy Butler off balance.
Finally, Pondexter bullied his way into the lane, where he rose over Butler and banked in the game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds left, giving the Huskies the lead for good in an 80-78 victory.
"Having my hands on the ball the last five seconds is something you dream of as a kid," Pondexter said. "It's one of those storybook shots."
The Golden Eagles had one last chance, but Lazar Hayward's half-court heave over Justin Holiday sailed long and hit the back of the rim and bounced harmlessly away.
Hayward crumpled to the HP Pavilion floor and the Huskies exploded in celebration all around him.
The Washington players rushed to the side of the court, pounded their chests and pumped their fists in front of thousands of Huskies fans who made the trip to San Jose and covered the arena in purple.
"We're a good team," said Thomas, who led UW with 19 points and a game-high eight assists. "I think some people know that, but a lot of people are just finding out."
Washington (25-9) has an eight-game winning streak and has won 13 of 15. The Huskies play No. 3 seed New Mexico at 2:50 p.m. Saturday.
"Our team didn't feel like it was an upset," said Elston Turner, who scored 14 points and was instrumental in a second-half comeback. "We had a meeting last night talking about we got to bring it and it's all 14 of us that have to play together in order to get the win.
"We just feel like we finally are clicking on all cylinders and playing the right way."
The Huskies have lived and died with Pondexter, and early in the game UW's leading scorer looked like the last person who would hit a game-winner.
"I played horrible in the first half and my teammates stepped up and played great basketball," he said. "Isaiah knocked down shots in the second half. Elston played phenomenal in that second half.
"As a senior, you don't want that to be your last game. You don't want to end on a sour note."
Pondexter finished with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, but had scored just four points in the first half when the Huskies trailed 43-42 at the break.
Early in the second half Washington looked as if it might lose in a blowout.
The Golden Eagles came out of the locker room for the second half on fire.
During an early possession in the half, they took five shots before David Cubillan scored on a layup that gave Marquette a 45-42 lead.
Meanwhile, UW began the half with a pair of turnovers that included Thomas losing the ball in the open court and Abdul Gaddy throwing a pass that was intercepted.
Things appeared bleak for Washington when Marquette drained back-to-back three-pointers for a 60-45 lead.
The Huskies also began to show their frustration when Pondexter drew an offensive foul on the next possession after knocking over Butler.
"We know what Quincy is capable of doing," Turner said. "In the second half, he stepped it up and we're proud of him for that. That's why he's our leader. We all got faith in him."
Once Marquette took a 15-point lead, the Huskies outscored the Golden Eagles 27-11 over the next eight minutes.
They did it with Overton (eight points and five assists) leading the defensive charge, Thomas shutting down Darius Johnson-Odom, who scored six of his 19 points after intermission, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (11 points and three blocks) policing the paint.
Turner assisted the good defense with timely jumpers, including three three-pointers during UW's spurt.
His final trey brought the Huskies all the way back and put them up 72-71 with 5:18 remaining, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Marquette didn't go away.
The score was tied three times over the final four minutes, setting the stage for a fantastic and frenetic finish.
Thomas missed a three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining and Pondexter tracked it down in the corner.
"I decided not to call a timeout," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Let your senior have a chance to win it."
The Huskies employed a similar tactic last month at Stanford when Pondexter took over late in the game, scoring or finding teammates on assists with dribble drives from the top of the key.
This time he positioned Thomas on the left and motioned Turner to his right, which gave him a clear path to the basket after he blew past Butler.
"I would have passed if that's what the play called for," Pondexter said. "But more than anything, I thought I could get off a good shot.
"You play basketball for moments like that."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com