The Edmundson Pavilion regulars who stayed home Wednesday night didn't miss much. It might have been Washington's first game in the inaugural...
The Edmundson Pavilion regulars who stayed home Wednesday night didn’t miss much.
It might have been Washington’s first game in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational, but it turned out like so many others the Huskies have played this year as UW self-destructed down the stretch, allowing Valparaiso to pull a 72-71 upset in front of just 3,227. The loss was a shocking end to UW’s season and left them at 16-17 overall, the first losing record since Lorenzo Romar’s first year as Husky coach in 2003
“It just seems like a lot of the things that have been biting us in the butt all year bit us in the butt in this game,” senior guard Ryan Appleby said after UW missed its last eight shots from the field and didn’t score in the final 3:10.
UW’s last chance came with 4.7 seconds left when Jon Brockman missed two free throws, a fitting end to a season in which the Huskies were one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country. UW, which entered the game shooting 59 percent from the line, hit just 11-24 overall and 3-12 in the second half.
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“That’s something that has lost us a lot of games this year,” Brockman said. “I can’t help but feel like I let them down a little bit.”
The Huskies might not have been in the game, however, had not Brockman played a surprising 26 minutes on an ankle still sore from a sprain suffered March 8 at Washington State.
The junior All-Pac-10 forward didn’t start, as Romar hoped to hold him out.
But with the Huskies struggling early and forward Artem Wallace already sidelined with a potentially serious knee injury, Romar decided to throw Brockman in there and see how he’d do.
Brockman responded by hitting six of his first eight shots in the first half and rarely left the floor again, recording game-highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes.
“He did far better than I thought he would tonight,” Romar said. “On a gimpy ankle, he had a double-double again.”
Brockman entered the game with 13:35 to play in the first half, his first real basketball activity since spraining his ankle at Washington State March 8. He hadn’t played or practiced since. He grabbed a defensive rebound almost immediately, but appeared hesitant the first time or two he got the ball and was taken out after three minutes.
But when Valpo scored five in a row to take a 19-14 lead, Brockman came back in with 9:13 to go in the first half and never left the floor. He scored 14 points in the first half and also grabbed five rebounds.
The Crusaders came in with a reputation as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country (39 percent) but hit just 7 of 25.
But that appeared to come at a cost as Valpo’s big men were left free to score at will inside with freshman forward Bryan Bouchie putting in 20 points and junior forward Urule Igbavboa going for 17.
Valpo led much of the second half, taking a 63-58 lead with 6:04 remaining.
But the Huskies went on a 13-7 run over the next three minutes to take a 71-70 lead with 2:59 left on a three-pointer by junior guard Joel Smith. Valpo’s Shawn Huff, however, scored on a runner to put the Crusaders ahead 72-71 with 2:43 left.
Neither team scored again though the Huskies had a number of golden chances.
Quincy Pondexter missed a layp in traffic with just over two minutes left.
After a Valpo miss, the Huskies had five shots on their next possession but couldn’t convert any.
Then, after a three-pointer by Huff went in-and-out, Pondexter had a good look from about four feet that went halfway down before popping out.
Huff, however, missed two free throws with 18.4 seconds left, keeping UW alive.
Brockman missed inside on the ensuing possession but got the rebound and was fouled.
Despite having not practiced since the injury other than Wednesday’s shootaround, Brockman said he had continued to practice free throws, making 84 of 100 on Tuesday.
But the first shot hit the back iron and bounced away. The second rolled off to the side, and Justin Dentmon missed a hurried shot after getting the rebound.
“I stepped up and said I was going to make them,” Brockman said, “I’m going to be thinking about it now for the rest of the off-season.”
As the game ended, Smith grabbed the ball and slammed it halfway to the ceiling, vividly illustrating the frustration of a season that never went as planned.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com