All week long before the showdown game against unbeaten North Carolina State, Washington guard Will Conroy nagged and badgered his roommate, Brandon Roy. "B, you gotta play. B, you gotta play."
All week long before the showdown game against unbeaten North Carolina State, Washington guard Will Conroy nagged and badgered his roommate, Brandon Roy.
“B, you gotta play. B, you gotta play. B, you gotta play,” Conroy repeated at every opportunity. “Then he’s telling me, ‘But my knees are hurting, man.’ “
Then it happened a Meniscus Miracle. Roy put together a stirring, 18-minute effort last night, inspiring the 18th-ranked Huskies (8-1) to a 68-64 victory over the 12th-ranked Wolfpack (8-1) before a sold-out crowd at Edmundson Pavilion. It ended the Wolfpack’s longest win streak since coach Jim Valvano’s 1988-89 team.
“He’s a hoopaholic,” Conroy said of Roy. “He wanted to get out here and play just as bad as everyone else wanted him to.”
Roy, a junior guard, had surgery on his right knee Nov. 30 to repair a lateral meniscus tear. He was expected to be out four to six weeks. Instead, he returned to the floor 19 days off the operating table.
And he didn’t exactly feel his way through it. He made a critical stop and steal against Wolfpack All-American Julius Hodge with 3:20 left. Roy scored 10 points shooting 5 for 5, including a spectacular and pivotal left-handed windmill dunk with 2:30 left. Then he supplied the crucial defensive nudge on Hodge in the final seconds to preserve the win.
“I was anticipating coming back for this game,” said Roy, who practiced just two days. “We didn’t want to let the secret out too early.”
Actually, his appearance was unsure until well after tipoff. Roy was cleared to play by the medical staff, and UW coach Lorenzo Romar left the decision whether to test the knee up to him. As the game progressed, he even told Romar, “Unless we’re losing, don’t put me in.”
Roy tested the knee in a four-minute cameo in the first half.
“After he convinced me, I rode the bike a little bit and he put me in there,” Roy said. “Once I went up and down a little bit, I told him, ‘I’m ready to play a lot of minutes.’ “
Fourteen of his minutes came in the second half, filling the competitive gap left open with center Hakeem Rollins out following knee surgery, and guard Nate Robinson and forward Bobby Jones in serious foul trouble.
“I thought he was out. We read the same stuff you guys did,” N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. “He’s a great player.”
Roy admitted that the lure of playing a higher-ranked team in front of a full house eased much of the knee pain. He also accepted the challenge of going against Hodge.
“He’s a good player. Some say he’s the best in the country,” Roy said. “Any time you hear that you kind of want to measure yourself up to that.”
Hodge, who came in averaging 19.0 points per game, was held to 15 points in his 35 minutes.
Roy and Hodge each raised their games in the final minutes.
Roy drove through the lane to finish a silky basket at 15:49 for a 44-37 score and UW’s largest lead. But the Wolfpack was resilient. Each time the Huskies spread the gap to four or five points, N.C. State cut it back. With 5 minutes left, Cameron Bennerman’s fast-break layin gave the Wolfpack a 56-55 lead.
Hodge and Roy entered the game together with 4:23 left, and within a minute they tangled. With the Huskies holding a 59-56 lead with 3:30 left, Hodge tried to put a move on Roy inside with 5 seconds on the shot clock. Roy stopped his penetration, tipped the ball away, grabbed it on the floor and called timeout to retain possession. That was greeted with a purple roar.
Then after Tre Simmons missed a 15-footer, Roy slipped through the box and whirled his arm for a dramatic dunk.
“They weren’t boxing out,” he said, “so I could see the way to get some points.”
Roy missed a pair of free-throw attempts with 50.7 seconds left to keep the Huskies ahead 63-61. The lead was still two, 66-64, with 12.9 seconds left after a three-pointer by N.C. State’s Engin Atsur.
With 10.1 seconds left, Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hodge got the rebound and came down the left side looking for the tie or win. He drove in from the left side, around Robinson and into Roy. He missed the shot.
“He was fumbling the ball as he was going up and I kind of tipped it,” Roy said. “I think if he would have had it and gone straight up they would have given him (the foul).”
Instead, it was a no-call by the West Coast-based referee team, which enraged Sendek. Told by a reporter it looked like a foul, he said, “Then write that.”
Simmons closed out the game with a pair of free throws with 0.2 seconds left.
The Huskies next play Sacred Heart Wednesday at home.
Bob Sherwin: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com