TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—In a microcosm of their Pac-10 season, the Washington Huskies overcame a slow start with a sizzling finish.
The 14th-ranked Huskies trailed for 39 minutes to Arizona, but pulled out a 70-67 victory for their eighth straight win.
Washington (24-5, 13-5) wrapped up second place in the conference.
“I am so proud of our guys to win a game like this,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said after his team rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 14 minutes. “To continue to just chip away, chip away and not lose your composure, that’s what you love to see. We are a team. That’s the only way you win games like this.”
The Huskies appeared to be in trouble when they dropped three straight games in late January and early February. But they woke up after the third defeat, at Washington State Feb. 4, and haven’t lost since.
Senior Brandon Roy scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Huskies, who won despite 20 points by Arizona’s Marcus Williams, a Seattle product. The loss stung the Wildcats (18-11, 11-7), who are trying to extend their string of 21 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the nation’s longest active streak.
Arizona’s Hassan Adams wouldn’t speculate on how the loss might affect Arizona’s tourney hopes. “We just have to keep playing hard and try to make a statement in the Pac-10” tournament next week in Los Angeles, he said.
Washington made its own statement in front of a revved-up McKale Center crowd of 14,630.
In an effort to energize the Pac-10’s most intimidating building, Arizona billed the game as the “Red Out in McKale Center.” The Wildcats wore their red road uniforms and coach Lute Olson sported a red blazer. Most of the fans dressed in red, including Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Luis Gonzalez, who sat courtside in a red T-shirt.
“I’ve never seen so much red in my life,” Washington guard Justin Dentmon said.
After fighting to stay close all afternoon, the Huskies took their first lead at 68-67 when Dentmon stripped Williams of the ball at halfcourt and fed Bobby Jones, who dunked with 33 seconds to go.
“I think it was just a gift to me,” Dentmon said. “He just gave it to me and I ran with it.”
Williams had a chance to atone for his blunder when he drew a shooting foul 13 seconds later. But he missed both free throws and the Huskies rebounded.
After Dentmon hit a pair of free throws with nine seconds left, Adams air-balled a three-point shot to seal the Wildcats’ loss.
Afterward, Williams voiced optimism despite the devastating loss. “We can’t hang our heads now because we have a lot of games to play—hopefully,” he said.
The game was played with tournament intensity. It had a different feel than the teams’ first meeting was a shootout, won by Arizona 96-95 in double overtime Dec. 31 in Seattle. Defense dominated the rematch.
Arizona blanketed Roy, who entered the game averaging 19.7 points per game, .2 points behind Pac-10 leader Leon Powe of California. But Roy scored only one field goal in the first 27 minutes.
Roy said he was frustrated by Arizona’s defensive pressure but decided he would try to help his team in other ways. Roy pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and handed out a team-high five assists. He also went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line.
“That’s just part of being the leader of a team,” he said. “The other team is going to key on you. It’s just what you do in other areas of the game to help your team win.”
Roy’s teammates responded. Ryan Appleby came off the bench to score 14 points, hitting 4-of-5 three-pointers, and Dentmon had 13 points and Jamaal Williams added 12.
It was the sort of team effort the Huskies will need if they’re going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament later this month.
“Our confidence is real high,” Dentmon said. “We feel that no one can beat us.”