Huskies find a way to win again
Against their most detested rival on senior day, the Cougars dropped a galling 59-55 basketball decision against Washington.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
PULLMAN — At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Washington team bus disgorged the Huskies outside Beasley Coliseum for their game-day shoot-around. Players squinted into a ferocious 30-mph wind blowing snow into their faces.
Over on the west side of the arena, after you negotiated a stop-you-in-your-tracks gale, were the remaining few tents in an overnight campout sanctioned by WSU marketers. Some of the tents blew off their moorings, a smattering of the students packed it in and straggled home.
"We knew about the snow (forecast)," said Rick Flores, a student from Corona, Calif., "not so much about the wind. It was howling all night long, so a lot of people didn't get to sleep."
A bunch of other Cougars may have struggled into slumber as well Saturday night. Against their most detested rival on senior day, the Cougars dropped a galling 59-55 basketball decision against Washington.
The Huskies continue to be Team Find a Way. At Arizona, Josiah Turner tried to take an ill-advised charge in backcourt and sent a 90 percent free-throw shooter, C.J. Wilcox, to the line for the winning points.
At Oregon State, Washington got into a physical smackdown with the Beavers, and persevered nicely to the finish.
Saturday, the mantra once again was find a way. Or find a way to put the Cougars on the free-throw line.
"We were 6 of 20 in the second half," said WSU coach Ken Bone. "We did what we felt we needed to do, we got to the line, which is critical, especially for a team that shoots a very good percentage.
"We just didn't put 'em down."
Credit Washington for its resilience, for Tony Wroten's writhing drives to the hoop, for some key moments down the stretch by Abdul Gaddy.
But let's call this like it was: a massive el foldo by the Cougars, who, for the second straight time, saw a double-digit second-half lead evaporate against Washington.
In Seattle, it was understandable. Washington had a thunderous 46-24 advantage on the boards, including 22 on the offensive end. Once the Huskies deciphered the Cougars' zone in that game, it was over, especially given Washington's dominance on the glass.
This was completely different. The Cougars executed what they needed to, outrebounded the Huskies, controlled the clock and had Washington eating out of their hands, even after Wilcox's gunning pulled WSU out of its zone.
Then came the free throws. At the point when WSU had a 43-32 lead with 13:48 left, a team that leads the Pac-12 at .751 (conference games only) in foul shooting missed 13 of its next 16 attempts. So when Washington made a run behind the irrepressible Wroten, it quickly pulled even instead of trailing by seven or eight.
"Helpless, that's a good word," said Bone. "There's not a whole lot you can do about it. I know there's a fatigue factor, but their guys played just as many minutes."
Marcus Capers, playing his last home game unless the Cougars wriggle into the NIT or CBI, said of the free throws: "I feel people were just thinking a little too much."
Came the final meaningful WSU possession, and Bone left himself open to second-guessing. Down 57-55, he inserted for the first time Patrick Simon, the Ephrata product, with 19 seconds left. Simon is a streak shooter, but the cold numbers say he's 12 of 36 on threes this year, 2 of 10 in Pac-12 play.
"That could have been as easily my fault," Bone said. "A guy sits that long ... that's a lot of pressure on a kid.
"I said, 'If you're open, bury it.' I think I'd do the same thing (again), and I think our teammates would trust he'd make the shot, because he does that so often."
Not this day. Simon's attempted three in front of the WSU bench came up short, an air ball.
This was a big win for Washington, mostly because it didn't lose. A defeat to the Cougars would have meant the UW's first "bad loss" in the eyes of the NCAA tournament committee. Instead, it's a win that keeps the Huskies abreast of Cal atop the Pac-12, and the Bears have the tougher finish.
So the NCAA tournament beckons. The relieved Huskies ducked out of Beasley Coliseum with their 20th win. For the guys in the tents, it was two tough nights in a row.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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