Huskies down Oregon, earn trip to NIT semifinals in New York
Washington tops rival 90-86, will face either Minnesota or Middle Tennessee State on March 27 at Madison Square Garden.
Seattle Times staff reporter
After a late-season swoon, Washington's week in the 75th annual National Invitation Tournament can be summed up in three words: Redemption. Resurgence. Revenge.
The Huskies redeemed themselves with a win in the opener and gave a resurgent effort in a second-round matchup that was as good as any performance this season.
On Tuesday, they exacted revenge against the Ducks, who handed them their worst loss of the season.
The 90-86 victory at Edmundson Pavilion gave Washington bragging rights against its Northwest rival and punched its ticket to New York and the NIT semifinals.
Behind a dominating effort from Terrence Ross, who scored a game-high 24 points, Tony Wroten Jr. (22) and C.J. Wilcox (17), the Huskies rolled to their third straight win.
The moment of truth for Washington arrived midway in the second half.
Trailing by two points against Oregon, the Huskies used a 20-8 run to momentarily seize control.
Wilcox put UW up 75-65 with 7:27 left on a three that sent the crowd of 9,140 into a frenzy.
However, Oregon didn't go away and made a charge in the final minutes.
The Ducks cut UW's lead to 84-82 after Devoe Joseph drained a three-pointer near the top of the key with 45 seconds remaining.
Washington had difficulty closing out games this season, but this time the Huskies put the ball in the hands of Wilcox, their best free-throw shooter (83.5 percent).
He got the ball on their final three possessions and capped UW's scoring, draining all six free throws. The Huskies shot 27 of 35 at the line.
"I've been there before," Wilcox said. "At the end of the game. Big free throws. I felt real comfortable taking those kind of shots."
After the game, coach Lorenzo Romar grabbed the public-address microphone and began serenading the enthusiastic crowd.
"If I wasn't so hoarse, I would start to sing 'Start spreading the news,' " he said. "You were awesome. Thank you so much."
Romar had never advanced past the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in six attempts, but in his first NIT appearance, he has guided the Huskies to a semifinal appearance.
Washington (24-10) faces either No. 6 Minnesota (21-14) or No 4 Middle Tennessee (27-6) on Tuesday at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"We're still upset that we didn't handle business when we could have, but we've all forgot about it," said Ross, who is averaging a NIT-high 26.3 points. "We're focused on this new championship that we're after. We're just focused on what's ahead of us."
Washington came out firing early and jumped to a 12-6 lead, which ignited the crowd, but Oregon weathered the early storm and led 46-42 at halftime.
"We had to get stops," said junior guard Abdul Gaddy, who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes. "We were winning every category. We were getting rebounds and all that stuff, but they were shooting too good of a percentage. We had to get stops and that was the key to our run in the second half."
The Ducks shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half but just 38.5 in the second.
Oregon junior E.J. Singler scored 15 points in the first half, but connected on just 1 of 5 shots in the second half to finish with 19 points.
Gaddy held Oregon's leading scorer Joseph to 12 points, four shy of his average.
With their three top guns struggling offensively, Oregon (24-10) turned to senior forward Olu Ashaolu (20 points) and center Tony Woods (15) against UW center Aziz N'Diaye, who was handcuffed with foul trouble.
"Defensively, we didn't communicate on some plays and I knew if it got to 90 we were in trouble," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "We just gave up too many easy baskets."
Washington won the season series against Oregon 2-1 and avenged a 25-point loss in their last encounter.
"The last time we played Oregon they kind of embarrassed us down in Eugene and got us by a lot," Wroten said. "When we found out we were playing Oregon, we were licking our chops. For us to get a win like this, it's just big."
Coming on the heels of last Friday's 76-55 throttling of Northwestern, Gaddy noted the Huskies are playing their best basketball of the season.
"We're just trying to keep playing as long as possible," Gaddy said. "We don't want to lose."
• Fans can purchase NIT semifinal and final tickets directly from Madison Square Garden at thegarden.com/tickets.htmlor by calling 866-858-0008. Semifinal tickets will go on sale through the Husky ticket office at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen
Attendance: 9,140. Officials: David Hall, Michael Irving, Tony Padilla.