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Originally published March 25, 2010 at 6:48 PM | Page modified March 25, 2010 at 11:15 PM

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Huskies' season comes to end with loss to West Virginia

No. 2 seed West Virginia beats Washington 69-56 in NCAA men's Sweet 16.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — In their charmed season, the Washington Huskies crafted their remarkable renaissance riding the shoulders of Quincy Pondexter, who lifted them out of despair and carried them into the second week of the NCAA tournament.

Others contributed, but it was UW's senior forward who willed the Huskies into the Sweet 16.

But there was no avoiding No. 2 seed West Virginia, which used its superior size and depth on the front line to wear down the Huskies in a 69-56 defeat Thursday night in the East Regional semifinals at the Carrier Dome.

"I take full responsibility for the loss because it's my team," said Pondexter, Washington's All-Pac-10 forward, who was held scoreless in the first half and finished with seven points.

"I played awful," he said. "That's it. Foul trouble may have got to me, but at the end of the day, I'm supposed to play better than that for this team to win."

Saddled with three first-half fouls, Pondexter finished with more turnovers (four) than field goals (three), rebounds (two) or assists (one).

With their cadre of long, lanky forwards, the Mountaineers (30-6) were able to rebound and play the type of stingy defense that has given Washington fits all season.

On Thursday, they were everywhere, swarming the ball. Thwarting dribble drives to the rim and making life miserable for Washington in the second half.

During their nine-game winning streak, the Huskies had been able to find answers against similar foes.

They won a slow-paced game at Oregon State early in March and overcame a 15-point deficit to beat No. 6 Marquette in the first round of the tournament.

This time, in their worst performance in more than a month, the Huskies had no answers for West Virginia's Big Three.

Pondexter and center Matthew Bryan-Amaning were no match for Mountaineers forwards Kevin Jones (18 points), Da'Sean Butler (14) and Devin Ebanks (12).

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"It was hard for the guys on the perimeter to make entry (passes) over guys that were 6, 8 inches taller than them," said Bryan-Amaning, who finished with four points on 2-for-7 shooting and eight rebounds. "Trying to get myself and Quincy the ball was difficult.

"Not saying anything wrong about these guys. They did as much as they could, but (West Virginia's) length on the perimeter was very good."

The size disparity became obvious at times when 5-foot-8 UW guard Isaiah Thomas attempted to defend 6-7 forward Wellington Smith.

"They out-rebounded us and got a lot of second-chance points," said Thomas, who scored 13 points to go along with backcourt mate Venoy Overton's 10. "We didn't get any. That's the difference in the game."

West Virginia pounded Washington on the glass, out-rebounding the Huskies 49-29. The Mountaineers collected 23 offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance points, while UW had none.

For a half, the Huskies were able to withstand the assault from the Mountaineers, who were missing starting point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant.

Washington led 29-27 at halftime and 37-36 with 15:54 remaining before the Mountaineers switched to a 2-3 zone that triggered an 11-1 run.

"We were trying to rush too much," said forward Justin Holiday, who led UW with 14 points and eight rebounds. "We were doing so well against the zone in the past because we moved the ball around and we took our time."

After West Virginia took a 47-38 lead with 12:12 to play, Washington cut the deficit to six (47-41) less than a minute later.

The Huskies never got any closer.

Things turned bleak when Holiday picked up a questionable foul that sent coach Lorenzo Romar into a frenzy.

He ripped off his jacket and was given a technical foul. West Virginia connected on the four ensuing free throws to extend its lead to 56-43 with 8:11 left.

Washington pulled to within 56-50 with 5:57 remaining, but the Huskies managed just six points the rest of the game.

It was their second-lowest scoring output this season.

"I wish I could have taken my team a little further, something the Huskies haven't done in a long time," Pondexter said.

The Sweet 16 has been bittersweet for the Huskies, who end the 2009-2010 season with a 26-10 record.

Washington has lost four straight games in the third round of the NCAA tournament, including defeats in 1998, 2005 and 2006.

"We feel like we could have done better," Pondexter said. "We could have gone further. That's going to stick with us.

"I know it's going to stick with me for the rest of my life."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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