Saturday marked four years and five days since the Washington Huskies last lost a nonconference home game. And the wait to see whether they...
Saturday marked four years and five days since the Washington Huskies last lost a nonconference home game.
And the wait to see whether they would keep that streak alive seemed almost as long as it took three officials to review a driving layup as time expired by Justin Dentmon that rolled in. The shot initially appeared to give the Huskies a much-needed win over Pittsburgh.
“It was frustrating not knowing what they were going to say,” said Dentmon of a several-minute wait during which one of the officials borrowed glasses to get a better look. The Huskies, who initially rushed the court in celebration, grew more apprehensive with every minute.
Eventually, official Dave Libbey emerged from the pack and signaled the basket was no good, and Washington’s streak of victorious nonconference home games was snapped at 31 as Pitt survived 75-74 in front of 9,229 at Edmundson Pavilion.
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“We all agreed the ball was in his hands,” said official Dick Cartmell, saying the group took its time to make sure.
Washington hadn’t lost a nonconference home game since Gonzaga won 86-62 on Dec. 3, 2003.
And in an instant, the Huskies went from the euphoria of their best win of the season to the disappointment of a fourth loss in five games.
“It’s like someone is stepping on your chest,” said Dentmon. “You figured that you did something good and you are happy, and then they take it away and it’s like everything went bad.”
Replays, however, appeared to show that the officials got the call right.
“I was told the red light came on when the ball was in Justin’s hands,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Once they make a decision, especially based on them looking at the data, you can’t do anything about it.”
Romar instead preferred to focus on the positives. A Huskies team that a week ago was blown out 96-71 at Oklahoma State had hung on until the end against a Pitt team that is now 9-0 and came in ranked No. 12.
“We don’t have a win to show for it, but we pulled ourselves together,” Romar said. “As a team, we made progress.”
Washington got a huge boost from the return of senior guard Ryan Appleby, who had missed the first seven games with a broken thumb. He entered less than five minutes into the game and hit four of his first five three-point attempts on his way to a team-high 18 points. He had 12 at halftime as UW held a 37-34 lead.
“That’s what you expect from him,” Romar said.
The Huskies also committed a season-low eight turnovers, had 18 assists on 29 baskets and played good defense early as Pittsburgh hit just seven of its first 25 shots.
But the Panthers regrouped in the second half, making 10 of 11 shots spanning the end of the first half to the beginning of the second, to take the lead. Junior guard Levance Fields had a game-high 20 points and freshman center DeJuan Blair added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Pitt led 65-56 with 6:25 left when the Huskies began to chip away. Three-pointers by Appleby and Quincy Pondexter cut the lead to two with 40.4 seconds left. After two Fields free throws, Appleby hit another three with 6.8 seconds left to make it 75-74. Fields then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Jon Brockman tied up Blair on the rebound, forcing a jump ball. The possession went to UW with 4.3 seconds left.
The Huskies had no timeouts, so Dentmon took the inbounds pass in backcourt, drove on guard Ronald Ramon and into the lane, where he lofted a shot over Blair.
“I felt like I could get a shot off by taking it the length of the floor,” Dentmon said.
Said Blair: “I was thinking ‘don’t foul.’ I should have gone for the block, but he made it. I would have been heartbroken if they would have called it their way.”
Instead the Huskies were left wishing they had a split-second longer on the final play.
“We’ve just got to get better so that when it comes to games like this, there won’t be any ifs, ands or buts about it,” Washington guard Joel Smith said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org