Maybe later, everyone will look back on this afternoon with the regret of what might have been, the anticipation of what might be. But with 10,000 fans...
Maybe later, everyone will look back on this afternoon with the regret of what might have been, the anticipation of what might be.
But with 10,000 fans roaring as the final seconds ticked off and a handful of little scenes of delight unfolded — seniors Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister receiving one last standing ovation, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and forward Jon Brockman sharing a long embrace — the big picture didn’t seem to matter much.
“That was unbelievable,” said Brockman, a half-hour after Washington’s 61-51 win over No. 2 UCLA on Saturday, the sounds of happiness lingering in Edmundson Pavilion. “That was just an amazing feeling.”
The Huskies played like the team everyone hoped to see all along, displaying the potential that once had them ranked as high as No. 8.
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“It’s a joy to watch, as we’ve had our struggles this year, we’ve been up and down, to see things perhaps start to come together,” said Romar.
For an afternoon they delivered a taste of March Madness — even if they are still a longshot to experience the real thing — while putting a sour finish on the the regular season for Bruins, who arrived fresh off a 53-45 victory at Washington State on Thursday that gave them the Pac-10 title outright.
“We didn’t come to play today, and I don’t know why,” said UCLA guard Arron Afflalo, who was 4 of 14 from the field. “They outplayed us in every aspect of the game. It’s embarrassing. I don’t know what we were resting on, if it was because we won the Pac-10 championship. But there’s no excuse for coming out on national television and we don’t compete for 40 minutes.”
That’s a charge the Huskies (18-12, 8-10) have levied at themselves all too often in this disjointed season, but one they were not guilty of Saturday.
“Everyone is finally on the same page now,” said UW center Spencer Hawes. “And everyone believes it now what we can do.”
Hawes and Brockman dominated inside, combining for 28 of UW’s 44 rebounds — one fewer than the Bruins had as a team — along with 33 points.
“Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes were just beasts today,” Romar marveled.
Guards Justin Dentmon and Ryan Appleby led a perimeter defense that held UCLA’s Darren Collison and Afflalo — regarded as two of the three leading contenders for conference player-of-the-year honors — to a combined 6-for-29 shooting. The Bruins (26-4, 15-3) were 20 of 64 (31.3 percent) for the game, a season-low percentage for a Huskies opponent.
“It just looked like they wanted it more,” said Collison, who was 2 of 15.
With Gasser and Burmeister getting Senior Day starts, the Huskies jumped ahead 9-0. Hawes nailed two jumpers during that run, once yelling “you can’t stop me” at UCLA center Lorenzo Mata while running back downcourt.
“I got a couple in and I felt like that,” said Hawes, who had 13 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.
UCLA cut the lead to one twice in the first half but never took the lead, and the Huskies closed with a 9-0 run to take a 31-20 edge at the break. The Bruins shot 8 of 31 in the first 20 minutes.
The game kept the same flow for the first 10 minutes of the second half and when Appleby hit a three-pointer with 9:43 left, the Huskies led 48-32. Appleby did his form of barking as he backpedaled, keeping his hand held high as the crowd erupted.
“It was just getting into the emotion of the game,” Appleby said. “It was just fun playing out there.”
Then UCLA rallied, looking like the No. 2 team in the country. Afflalo hit two shots to make it 48-37. Then after a UW basket, UCLA scored 11 straight to make it 50-48 with 4:30 remaining. A Collison three-pointer closed the gap to one with 2:57 remaining.
But unlike previous crunch-time collapses, the Huskies held firm. Hawes tipped one in with 2:33 left, and Josh Shipp missed a three.
With UW ahead 54-51, Collison drove the lane with about 1:10 left and ran into a brick wall of Hawes and Dentmon, the ball bounding off his body out of bounds.
From there, UW made 7 of 8 free throws to seal it.
“I think we’ve grown up,” Hawes said. “In the past, we would have let that [UCLA’s comeback] get to us and we would have maybe played more tentative. Tonight we said, ‘Don’t worry about.’ “
Now the Huskies head to the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles for a first-round game Wednesday night against Arizona State. Maybe if they’d played like this a little earlier, they wouldn’t need to win four games in four days to get into the NCAA tournament, which seems the necessary scenario.
But after Saturday, it seems more plausible.
“It swings the momentum back in our favor,” Hawes said. “We know now we can beat anybody in the conference.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
|UW high fives|
|Saturday’s win was the Huskies’ 10th vs. a top-five team, the last nine coming at home:|
|Dec. 19, 1951||at St. Louis (4)||UW, 58-53|
|Feb. 9, 1957||UCLA (5)||UW, 90-74|
|Jan. 12, 1962||USC (4)||UW, 85-67|
|Jan. 28, 1967||Houston (3)||UW, 81-78|
|Feb. 22, 1975||UCLA (2)*||UW, 103-82|
|Feb. 12, 1977||UCLA (2)||UW, 78-73|
|Feb. 12, 1979||UCLA (1)||UW, 69-68|
|Jan. 31, 1991||Arizona (4)||UW, 70-56|
|March 6, 2004||Stanford (1)||UW, 75-62|
|March 3, 2007||UCLA (2)||UW, 61-51|
|*eventual NCAA champion (UCLA coach John Wooden’s final defeat)|