Huskies beat Cougars 59-55, keep Pac-12 title hopes on track
The Cougar offense goes cold in the second half and Washington gets its 20th win of the season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
By the numbers4
Consecutive seasons the Huskies have won at least 20 games
17 of 32
WSU from the free-throw line Saturday
Huskies' deficit before storming back to win
PULLMAN — On a cold, wintry afternoon, Washington walked into a steamy environment at Beasley Coliseum amid a chorus of boos and derisive chants from the Washington State crowd.
Throughout an emotionally charged game that included several momentum-turning plays and eight lead changes, the Huskies teetered on the brink of self-destruction.
When it looked as if the magic had run out of their charmed season, they pulled off another second-half stunner against their state rival to preserve hopes of a Pac-12 regular-season title.
Washington received plenty of help to secure a 59-55 comeback win from the Cougars, who were woeful from the free-throw line in the second half.
Their comeback was made possible because Washington State shot 17 of 32 at the line — including 6 of 20 in the second half.
Conversely, Washington made 10 of its final 12 free throws to seal the victory.
The Huskies were also aided by a questionable decision from WSU coach Ken Bone, who will be second-guessed for giving a potential winning shot to a seldom-used reserve in the final seconds.
The Cougars imploded in the second half, while the Huskies did just enough to stay within striking distance and surged ahead in the final minutes.
"It's a testament to our guys' resiliency," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Just keep defending. Keep working to get stops.
"We've talked about it from Day One. What are we going to do when we're on the road and we can't put the ball in the hole? What are we going to do?"
In the teams' first meeting this season, UW rallied from 10 points down with 12 minutes left.
The Huskies, stagnant on offense, held WSU to 34.6 percent shooting.
Terrence Ross, their second-leading scorer, was in foul trouble much of the game and scored just two points before fouling out. The Huskies leaned heavily on Tony Wroten Jr., who scored a game-high 21 points, and C.J. Wilcox, who had 16, including four three-pointers. Abdul Gaddy had 10 points.
"We stayed together as a team," Wroten said. "Our captain (Darnell) Gant, he never gave up on us. He kept rallying the troops."
Gant, the fifth-year senior, repeatedly said it was a championship game, and the Huskies responded with a championship effort.
Things were bleakest shortly after halftime when Washington State used a 12-0 run to take a 45-32 lead with 12:46 remaining.
Brock Motum flushed a dunk on Ross, who retaliated and threw the ball at the WSU forward.
On the ensuing possession, Wroten missed a point-blank layup and the Cougars countered with Abe Lodwick's dunk.
Seconds later, Gaddy failed to execute a timeout and lost the ball, which led to another WSU fast break and a Marcus Capers layup.
Finally, Austin Seferian-Jenkins drew a technical foul and Motum drained a free throw to cap WSU's run.
"It felt like we were down 40," Wilcox said. "But I looked at the scoreboard and we were down 11 with 15 minutes to go. We stayed calm. We knew we could come back, and we got stops."
Washington trailed 47-34 before storming back.
The Huskies used a 13-0 run to tie the score at 47 with 7:50 left. Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.
After an errant three-pointer from Mike Ladd, Wroten grabbed the long rebound and dished to Gaddy, who scored on a fast-break layup and gave Washington a 56-54 lead with 2:17 remaining.
The game wasn't decided until WSU's second-to-last possession.
The Huskies led by two points with 24 seconds left when Bone called a timeout and drew up a play for Patrick Simon, who hadn't played. The sophomore forward got a good look from the corner on a three-pointer, but the shot sailed short and into Wilcox's hands.
Washington (20-8, 13-3 Pac-12) pulled into a first-place tie with California (23-6, 13-3) on top of the conference standings.
Motum scored 17 points and Capers had 14 for Washington State (14-14, 6-9).
Washington's victory preserves hopes of earning an NCAA tournament at-large berth and gives the Huskies 20 wins for the fourth straight year, a school record.
With ex-teammate Isaiah Thomas, the Sacramento Kings rookie, cheering behind the bench and sometimes in the huddle, the Huskies moved two wins from a league title.
"I had to be here and see this," he said. "This team is special. It was fun to watch."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @percyallen
Attendance: 9,325. Officials: Dick Cartmell, Frank Harvey III, Don McAllister.