Washington rally falls short in 69-66 loss to California
Darnell Gant misses three-pointer in final seconds that would have sent game into overtime.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Stanford @ Washington, 3 p.m., ROOT Sports
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Almost everyone inside Edmundson Pavilion assumed Terrence Ross would take the shot.
Washington trailed California by three points with 8.5 seconds remaining in a game between Pac-12 heavyweights that carried first-place implications.
Ross, the Huskies' streaky sophomore guard, fought off another first-half malaise and caught fire in the final minutes. He drained two three-pointers in the final 97 seconds to help the Huskies chip away at Cal's 13-point second-half lead.
But on UW's final possession, the Huskies gave the ball to forward Darnell Gant, whose jumper fell short, much like their comeback attempt.
The 69-66 defeat left many of the 9,591 who trekked through an ice storm wondering why Ross didn't take the last shot.
Gant seemed an odd choice, considering he had missed all five of his three-point shots before the final attempt.
Coach Lorenzo Romar noted the senior co-captain made three three-pointers Sunday and is shooting 40.7 percent behind the arc this season.
"Sometimes just because somebody is having an off night, you look at the body of work that they've put forth (and) you take your chance with him," Romar said. "If he was a 10 percent three-point shooter, we would have never had done it.
"He's shooting a pretty good percentage and he's been knocking them down; it just didn't fall for him tonight."
The Huskies got the shot they wanted on their final possession.
Abdul Gaddy raced the ball down court and flipped a soft pass back to Gant, who had a good look at the basket.
"We tried to suck them all the way down and then toss it back," Romar said. "I thought he had a great look. He was absolutely wide open."
Said Gant: "I put that on me. (Romar) came up with a good play, I didn't do my job coming through."
Gant slogged through an 0-for-9 shooting performance and finished with just one point, while Ross led the Huskies with 15.
After scoring 30 points Sunday against Washington State, Ross struggled in the first half and connected on just 1 of 5 7 shots.
Ross wasn't alone in the cold-shooting department. The Huskies converted 34.5 percent from the field in the first half, going 1 for 8 on three-pointers, and trailed 35-25 at halftime.
California had extended its lead to 13 points (47-34) with 14:43 left before Washington stormed back.
The Huskies made a similar dramatic second-half surge in a 75-65 win over Washington State. In both games, Romar collected a technical after protesting a call. On Sunday, it sparked the Huskies on a 15-2 run. On Thursday, Cal took a 57-51 lead after Romar's technical and never surrendered the lead.
"It's hard to come back," Ross said. "We know that if we come out the same way that we did the last two games, this is probably going to be the majority of the outcomes. We have to make sure we come out with the right mindset and be ready to go."
The Huskies dominated Cal inside with center Aziz N'Diaye (14 points and 12 rebounds) and guard Tony Wroten Jr. (14 points). They received a boost in the second half from Gaddy, who added 12 points.
But Washington struggled to contain guard Allen Crabbe and forward Robert Thurman, who each scored a game-high 16 points.
The Huskies forced 17 turnovers and the Bears appeared rattled down the stretch.
"We turned it over too much," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "A lot of them were unforced turnovers. They just got very, very aggressive and we just didn't pivot and take care of the ball. Some of it was lack of focus.
"We got tired. There's no question guys played big minutes and the pressure of trying to win a game on the road ... probably got to us a little bit."
While Cal faded, Ross got stronger.
He drained a three-pointer over Crabbe with 1:37 left to cut Cal's lead to 66-61. Ross made another three-point shot with 11 seconds left to draw Washington within two points.
But on the final play, Ross was a decoy.
"I didn't feel like, 'Aw, man, I think I should have the ball,' " Ross said. "I thought Darnell was going to make it. That's probably the first time I've ever seen him miss a shot that was clutch or was that big of a shot.
"I still have faith in the team. I'm not trying to get the ball if they don't want me to. I'm just happy with whatever the coach calls."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.
Attendance: 9,591. Officials: Michael Eggers, Scott Brown, Don McAllister.