Washington men rout New Mexico, reach Sweet 16
Behind a gritty defensive effort and pinpoint shooting from the perimeter, they punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 after dismantling third-seeded New Mexico 82-64 in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Huskies' best NCAA ridesSweet 16
The Huskies have won two games in the NCAA tournament five times before (1951, 1984, 1998, 2005, 2006). Since the 64-team tournament began in 1985, UW has never made it to the Elite Eight.
The Huskies won three games in the 1953 tournament, making it to the Final Four in what was then a 16-team tournament.
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SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Huskies didn't dance on the HP Pavilion floor like they did after Thursday's last-second win in the first round of the NCAA tournament partly because their dominating effort allowed them to party on the sideline in the final minutes.
Players laughed and celebrated in their seats while the reserves finished off third-seeded New Mexico in an 82-64 victory Saturday that punched No. 11 Washington's ticket to the Sweet 16.
When it was over, coach Lorenzo Romar walked to midcourt, stood in front of a sea of purple-clad Huskies fans and pumped his fists.
"If we do what we're supposed to do, we got a chance to do something even more special," he said later. "You never want to look too far ahead, and we don't.
"This group is already special. They've achieved so much and came together, but there's more out there, and I don't think anyone is satisfied yet. They like playing basketball, and they want to keep playing."
After a pair of wins in northern California, the Huskies will likely leave Tuesday afternoon and fly to Syracuse, N.Y., to begin the dome portion of the season.
It could last one game or it could last as many as four.
Next up: No. 2 West Virginia or No. 10 Missouri at 4:10 p.m. Thursday at the Carrier Dome in the East region semifinals.
Two wins sends Washington (26-9) to the Final Four and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"Why not us," said Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 15 points and seven assists. "Every team that's in (the tournament) wants to win and now that we're down to 16, we got a chance if we do what we need to do."
If Washington plays like it has this month, anything is possible.
The Huskies, winners of nine straight games, haven't lost since Feb. 18 and they've won 14 of the past 16.
"I'm really curious to see how this season ends up," said Quincy Pondexter, who had 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. "I kept saying in January, you know what? Don't panic.
"We still had a lot of time to come together and make a push like we are right now."
Washington began the season ranked 14th in the country and fell out of the national rankings when it started Pac-10 play with a 3-5 record that landed it in last place in the conference.
The Huskies' late-season resurgence has brought the team back to a place where many expected them to be.
"It's kind of like coming full circle," Thomas said. "It's better this way. It feels better. We needed some of those bad things to happen. We're stronger for it. We can handle adversity now when it comes up."
The Lobos didn't give the Huskies many problems after the opening minutes.
Washington, led by junior Justin Holiday, held Lobos star Darington Hobson, the Mountain West player of the year, to 11 points.
New Mexico junior guard Dairese Gary led all scorers with 25 and senior forward Roman Martinez added 10, but Washington used its quickness to hold New Mexico to 39.4 percent shooting.
Unlike Thursday's 80-78 win, the Huskies removed the suspense early.
They used a 15-4 run midway in the first half to unlock a 19-19 tie and take control of the game.
Pondexter started the spurt with a layup and Thomas finished it with consecutive three-pointers that put UW up 34-23 with 6:06 remaining.
The Huskies continued their hot shooting from long range, and Elston Turner (10 points) gave them their biggest first half leads (41-27 and 44-30) with a pair of three-pointers.
"We just played Husky basketball," Pondexter said. "It wasn't surprising at all. If we keep playing the way we're supposed to play, that's what happens."
Washington led 44-32 at halftime and sealed the victory early in the second half with a 13-4 run that began the second half and gave it a 57-36 lead.
The Huskies led by as many as 23 (68-45). The Lobos (30-5) didn't have an answer for center Matthew Bryan-Amaning (15 points and nine rebounds) and never mounted a serious comeback.
For the third time in six years, Washington advances to the round of 16.
"It feels good," Bryan-Amaning said. "Feels like a dream come true."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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