Dominic Green’s three-point dagger at the buzzer beat No. 9 Arizona and gave Washington an amazing 78-75 victory Saturday night in a sold-out Alaska Airlines Arena.
Somewhere in the middle of the mosh pit at midcourt, Dominic Green, the unlikeliest of heroes, exchanged embraces with just about everyone who ran onto the Alaska Airlines Arena floor.
Fans tried hoisting him on their shoulders and carrying him off the hardwood like a conquering gladiator.
And who could blame them, considering the backup junior guard lifted the Washington men’s basketball team to its biggest Pac-12 win in a decade.
Green drained a three-point dagger from 22 feet at the buzzer that downed No. 9 Arizona and gave Washington an amazing 78-75 win Saturday night.
“I work on those kind of shots every day,” said Green, a three-point specialist who is shooting 50 percent behind the arc against Pac-12 teams. He finished with 14 points while connecting on 4 of 5 from downtown.
“It was a rhythm shot for me,” he said. “As soon as I let it go, I fell down and saw it out of the corner of my eye. It was all net.”
A perfect ending for the Huskies came on an imperfect play on the last possession.
Tied at 75, UW coach Mike Hopkins called for a clear-out play for Jaylen Nowell, who has sank several clutch baskets late in games.
However, this time the freshman guard drove into the middle, where 7-foot-1 freshman center DeAndre Ayton, a projected top-three pick in this year’s NBA draft, emphatically swatted away Nowell’s attempt.
The rejection went straight to Green, who rose up before 6-7 freshman guard Emmanuel Akot could arrive for a three-pointer. As Green fell to the floor near the UW bench, his high-arcing shot splashed through the bottom of the net.
“Sometimes the best three-point shot you can get is off an offensive rebound, because guys are scrambling,” Hopkins said. “(Green) gets the shot up. He gets hit.
“When he shoots, I think it’s going in. In that moment, a lot of stuff is going on and you’re just going like, your body is trying to spiritually put it into the hole. And then you see it, it’s just like pure mayhem.”
Hundreds of the soldout crowd spilled onto the court — the first time UW fans have rushed the court since March 7, 2009 — and engulfed the Huskies in a tsunami of unbridled joy and celebration.
“It was a great experience,” Green said. “It was fun. … Walking around high-fiving. Hugging my teammates. It felt like a moment that you’ll never forget.
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“I was really nervous. Just because something like that has never happened, so it gave me the butterflies.”
The win snapped Washington’s eight-game losing streak to Arizona and gave the Huskies their first home victory against a top-10 ranked team since 2008 when they toppled No. 5 UCLA.
Hopkins said Green’s game-winner was a “legendary play for Husky basketball.” But he also described it as “divine intervention” considering Ayton blocked the ball directly at one of the most accurate shooters in the Pac-12.
And truth be told, fortune smiled on Washington when David Crisp (16 points) and Nowell (14 points) banked in three-pointers.
However, the Huskies created their good luck too against a red-hot Arizona team that had a seven-game winning streak. Washington led for more than 32 minutes, built a 14-point lead early in the second half and held the Wildcats to 2-of-12 shooting on three-pointers.
Aside from senior center Dusan Ristic (21 points and 10 rebounds), junior guard Allonzo Trier (20 points) and Ayton (19 points and 12 rebounds), Arizona received minor contributions from everyone else. The rest of the UA players accounted for just 15 points.
“Tonight, the ball bounced Washington’s way,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller, who collected a technical foul in the second half after arguing with officials. “To their credit, they played hard. They had a great crowd. Players made big plays.
“It was certainly an exciting game if you are not the coach of Arizona. All credit really needs to be paid to them. This atmosphere and Mike Hopkins and the defense and what those kids are doing is a really really great job. My hope is that they are an NCAA tournament team.”
Anything seems possible for Washington (17-6, 7-3 Pac-12), which picked up its third win against a top-25 ranked team and moved within 1 1/2 games of Pac-12 leader Arizona (19-5, 9-2) in the conference standings with eight regular-season games remaining.
“To be the head coach here and to get the opportunity to see the success of the guys and see what you envision what it could be, it’s an emotional thing man,” Hopkins said. “I love coaching kids. I love developing people. In life you fight for the moments. It’s all about the moments. To be able to share, be a part of history, a great moment for this program – so proud. It just means the world to me.”
In addition to an incredible finish, this game billed as a blackout night had it all.
It began with the emotional return of Lorenzo Romar, the Arizona associate head coach who spent the past 15 years guiding the UW team, who received a long and warm standing ovation before the game. Romar exchanged long embraces with each member of the UW staff, particularly Cameron Dollar and Will Conroy, his former assistant; and Hopkins.
“I was able at the beginning of the game to tell him thank you,” Hopkins said. “He’s recruited a lot of these guys. When we were going through the process with all of these guys, he had talked to them about staying and believing in this staff. I’ve always thanked him from Day 1.
“He’s one of the Husky greats. And I told him I hope one day I can make y0u proud. He’s one of the great coaches, he’s one of the great players and he’s part of our family. Obviously, he sits on the other side, but he’s part of our family. And he’s a great person.”
Once the game began, Washington took control early.
Despite giving up five inches, 6-8 junior forward Noah Dickerson outplayed Ayton and set the tone from the start with a short jumper over the Arizona big man.
“Our game plan was go inside and out,” said Dickerson who finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting from field. He also made 5 of 6 at the line and grabbed seven rebounds.
“Start inside so it opens it up for the shooters,” Dickerson said. “He’s a big boy, so I took him on the chest so he couldn’t jump and block it. It went in and I just kept going after that.”
The Huskies never trailed in the first half and stymied an Arizona offense that entered the game averaging 82.5 points. Washington held the Wildcats to 36.4 percent shooting and their second-fewest points in the first half while taking a 35-28 lead into the locker room at the break.
After Washington went ahead 46-32 with 7:39 left, Arizona took over and used a 17-4 run to cut UW’s lead to 50-49 at the 11:57 mark.
The Huskies regained control with a 6-0 run and the Wildcats countered with a 7-0 spurt to tie the game at 56-56 with 8:59 remaining.
From there, neither team led by more than three points and the lead swapped eight times in the final eight minutes.
“Good teams make runs, that’s what happens,” Dickerson said. “This is basketball. They went on their run and I just think over time, we’re all juniors now, we’ve been through it and we understand we’re fine, we’re okay, it’s still a game, let’s not crumble.
“Keep fighting back. We’re coming. We’re coming. We’re coming. Our resilience just to keep it going. They came back but we stuck it out.”
Down 3, Dickerson had a short jumper blocked, Crisp collected the rebound and delivered to Green in corner opposite the UW bench for a three-pointer that tied the score at 73-73 with 1:23 on the clock.
Dickerson and Ayton each made baskets in the final minute before Green sank what he described as the “biggest shot of my life.”
“I’ve always thought about … when is the day that I’m going to be able to hit a game-winning shot like that?” Green said. “And today it happened. My dream came true. But you know, it’s not over from here. We’ve got a lot more to do and this ain’t the end of the road.”
Washington plays Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday.