Sitting unhappily on the bench with a gimpy left ankle, Jon Brockman was as helpless as his teammates on the game's deciding play. Once California's Ryan Anderson...
LOS ANGELES — Sitting unhappily on the bench with a gimpy left ankle, Jon Brockman was as helpless as his teammates on the game’s deciding play.
Once California’s Ryan Anderson shot the ball with 41 seconds left, there was little any of them could do but hope that the Pac-10’s leading scorer would miss.
Instead, Anderson’s off-balance three-pointer, rushed to beat the shot clock, hit nothing but net and proved decisive as the Golden Bears escaped with an 84-81 win over a UW team that for much of the night defied the theory that it was dead without its leader.
“I was kind of like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” said UW guard Ryan Appleby of what he thought as Anderson’s shot went in. “We played decent defense on it. We had a scheme and we knew what they were going to do. He just made a tough shot.”
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It sent the Huskies to a tough loss, one that ends the regular season and leaves them with a 16-16 record, which they hope is good enough to get invited to some sort of postseason. With a .500 record and losses in four of their last five games, the new College Basketball Invitational seems more likely than the NIT, though the Huskies say they’ll be happy with whatever they can get.
“It’s a lot tougher [than any other loss],” said UW forward Quincy Pondexter as he fought back tears. “We don’t know if it’s some guys’ last game. We don’t know if we are going to play again. Nothing is for sure right now. So it really hurts.”
Unfortunately, so did Brockman’s left ankle, which he sprained late in Saturday’s loss at Washington State.
The junior forward tried to warm it up at a pregame shoot-around, and again once the team arrived at the Staples Center. But 40 minutes before tipoff it was decided he would sit out. It was the first time Brockman missed a UW game in his three-year career, snapping a string of 69 straight starts.
“Our guys did not come into the game feeling sorry for themselves,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar of playing without Brockman. “I did not sense that at all.”
Washington led by seven late in the first half before settling for a 40-38 halftime lead with Pondexter — who started in place of Brockman — scoring 11 points. He finished with a season-high 23.
A 15-5 run to start the second half gave UW its biggest lead of the game at 55-43 with 16:44 left, and Brockman leading the happy cheers from the bench.
But the game turned almost before he could sit back down as Cal scored the next 16 points over a span of 4:05.
Romar pointed to that as a turning point, but said the real key to the game was a 43-34 rebounding edge by the Bears, who had 20 second-chance points.
“To me, that’s the difference in the game,” Romar said. “Sure, he [Brockman] would have helped, but I’m not making excuses, just reading facts from a stat sheet.”
The Huskies seemed dead when Cal took a 75-68 lead with just over five minutes left. But Pondexter scored six straight points to get the Huskies back in it.
Cal led 79-78 with time running out on the shot clock when point guard Jerome Randle momentarily lost the ball, with the Huskies forcing a jump. Cal kept possession and called time out with two seconds on the shot clock and 43.3 seconds left in the game.
Anderson then curled off a screen from Cal center DeVon Hardin, getting just enough distance from Pondexter to catch a pass from Randle. In almost one motion, he took the shot that felled the Huskies.
“My hand touched the ball,” said Pondexter. “But I was thinking not to foul him. It was an amazing shot.”
Said Anderson: “There was a hand in my face and I kind of just turned and shot it as normally as I possibly could and it went in. It was kind of something we feel we deserve after the UCLA game [a last-second loss Saturday].”
Cal (16-14) gets a shot at revenge today, advancing to face the top-seeded Bruins.
UW had a last chance to tie but guard Venoy Overton missed on a three-pointer as time expired, throwing up an air ball.
“I was so focused on trying to draw the foul that I just lost the ball,” he said.
The Huskies head home, hoping Selection Sunday brings good news.
“You want your career to last as long as it can,” said Appleby, one of two UW seniors. “Hopefully it didn’t end tonight.”