Huskies win Pac-10 tournament title on Thomas' jumper at OT buzzer
With a long, high-arcing jumper as time expired in a 77-75 overtime win, Isaiah Thomas delivered the most dramatic finish in Pac-10 Conference tournament history.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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LOS ANGELES — Only Isaiah Thomas. At his best. In a game that embodied the madness of March.
With a long, high-arcing jumper as time expired in a 77-75 overtime win, the Washington junior delivered the most dramatic finish in Pac-10 Conference tournament history.
The shot seemed to sail forever as it left his hands. The Huskies lifted their arms in celebration before the basketball splashed perfectly through the net.
They knew — like everyone at the Staples Center wearing UW purple — that Thomas was too good on this day to miss a shot this important.
"I jumped before the ball went in the rim," redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox said. "I just got confidence in Isaiah. He does that to us all the time in practice."
The win against Arizona, the No. 1 seed and regular-season champions, gave Washington its second straight tournament championship and third overall.
After Thomas' shot, the Huskies rushed the court and swarmed their junior co-captain. He ran away from the mob before collapsing at midcourt on the Staples Center floor.
"I needed some air," Thomas said. "I needed to breathe a little bit. I was tired. I'm tired now. I'll sleep on the plane, and I'm sure I'll sleep good tonight."
The Huskies carried Thomas off the court, which was a fitting tribute as he won the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament for the second straight year.
He was sensational in Thursday's quarterfinal and Friday's semis.
In those games, the 5-foot-9 point guard overwhelmed Washington State and Oregon with his playmaking. He finished with 30 assists this week, which shattered Gary Payton's tournament record of 24.
While his teammates struggled to make shots, the Huskies needed Thomas to be a scorer Saturday.
He tallied 19 points in the first half and UW trailed 36-33 at the break. He had seven in the second half and made just one basket in the extra period.
"That basket is probably the biggest shot in Pac-10 (tournament) history," said Arizona star sophomore Derrick Williams, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Thomas had a game-high 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds while playing 45 minutes.
He never left the court and saved his best for the final seconds.
Thomas took the ball with the score tied 75-75 and 19 seconds remaining.
Lorenzo Romar wanted to call a timeout, but Thomas gave him a look and the UW coach nodded in agreement.
"It was very similar to the Marquette situation (in last year's NCAA tournament) with Quincy (Pondexter)," Romar said. "He gave me that, 'Coach, trust me on this one. I got this one.' "
With Arizona guard Lamont Jones blocking his path, Thomas waved his teammates away and they drifted to the baseline and the corners.
Two days earlier, Thomas saw highlights of Connecticut guard Kemba Walking nailing a step-back game-winner, and he wanted to do something similar.
"I've watched NBA guys like Kobe (Bryant) and Paul Pierce," Thomas said. "They always want to get to the elbow. I tried to do that. Momo (Jones) played me good, but I got a little separation."
Thomas jabbed hard to his right before crossing over to his left, which got Jones off balance. Then Thomas stepped back and dropped an 18-foot jumper.
"Biggest shot of my life," Thomas said. "It's the biggest stage. National TV. Pac-10 tournament championship game. Overtime. Everybody is watching. I'll never forget this as long as I live."
As good as Thomas was, he wouldn't have had a chance to be the hero without Wilcox and freshman Terrence Ross, who scored 16 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
The Huskies trailed 66-62 with 26 seconds left in regulation before Ross drained a three-pointer from the corner.
Down 68-65, Washington still needed a big shot, and Wilcox knocked down a three-pointer with about six seconds left.
Thomas delivered the assists on both baskets.
"Isaiah wasn't going to let us lose this week," Wilcox said. "When he's playing like that we're so good and we can be a dangerous team."
The Huskies won an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, and they'll learn Sunday afternoon where they'll land in the tournament.
Thomas ran into Sean Miller after the game, and he talked briefly with the Arizona coach.
"Here's my favorite player," Miller said. "Now go win some games in the tournament."
Thomas replied: "Yeah. We'll do that."
Attendance: 12,074. Officials: Dick Cartmell, Mike Reed, Mike Eggers.
What's next? UW finds out its NCAA tournament seeding > Selection Sunday > 3 p.m., Ch. 7