Washington routs USC, earns share of Pac-12 title
UW's 80-58 rout of Trojans completes team's second-half surge.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington @ UCLA, 11 a.m., Ch. 7
LOS ANGELES — The party never happened.
There were no smiles, high fives or celebratory hand shakes after Washington overcame USC for an 80-58 victory Thursday that clinched a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title.
To look at the Huskies, you might have thought they lost the game.
They quietly walked off the Galen Center court, dressed quickly in the locker room and filed out of the arena focused on their regular-season finale.
Bring on UCLA.
A win Saturday would give Washington what it has been pining for — its second outright title since 1953.
"This feels good, but I'm not satisfied," senior forward Darnell Gant said. "Saturday is really the one when we got to really get it done.
"You don't want to share. I don't like sharing. Most of my teammates, they all want to win it outright. It feels better and it sounds better."
Coach Lorenzo Romar practically wore a scowl when he spoke to the media outside the Washington locker room.
"Our guys did what we needed to do," he said. "We came out with focus and tried to advance, so to speak. I'm happy that we were able to get that done.
"This was only half of the piece of the pie."
Thursday's game was about more than sweeping the season series with USC and eliminating Arizona (21-9, 12-5) and Oregon (21-8, 12-5) from the championship race.
It was about more than Terrence Ross cementing a bid for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award in front of a sparse crowd of 2,763 that included nearly two dozen NBA scouts.
This was about the Huskies putting the final touches on a midseason makeover that began after they started 5-5 and fell to 8-6 in early January.
Since their 18-point defeat at Colorado on Jan. 5, Washington has won 13 of 15 games. With Thursday's win, the Huskies improved to 21-8 overall and 14-3 in the conference.
"I thought we could win the league as long as we started winning every game and not having any mental mistakes," Ross said. "I knew we could do great things once we matured and went through the season and figured out what works. I thought it was a matter of time."
Following an 82-57 loss at Oregon on Feb. 9, the Huskies believed they had to win their remaining six regular-season games to have a shot at an NCAA tournament berth.
"We have one left before we start over, and then it's the Pac-12 tournament," Romar said.
To measure just how far they've come, you had to see how they started against USC.
In the past, the Huskies would get unhinged away from home, where they had lost their first four road games of the season. Even in victory, they needed to grind out low-scoring games.
But Gant and Abdul Gaddy stressed to the younger Huskies to approach this week's games like a business trip.
"We wanted to make sure our guys were in line," Gant said. "Make sure no cool jackets. We knew nothing would be handed to us. It wasn't just ours. We had to take it. In order to take it, we had to come out with unbelievable focus, unbelievable energy."
Washington took control early thanks to Ross, who rebounded from a two-point outing in Saturday's win at Washington State and led the way with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting and seven rebounds.
"He's a tough cover when he's going like that," Romar said. "He's very versatile."
Gant finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Gaddy had 12 points and five assists for the Huskies, who dominated the rebounding stats 49-23.
"That's part of Husky basketball," Gant said. "We always want to win the war of rebounding, and we kind of killed them today."
Byron Wesley led USC (6-24, 1-16) with 23 points.
The Trojans gave the Huskies a minor scare early in the second half when they trimmed Washington's 14-point halftime lead to nine at 49-40.
That's when Ross keyed a 7-0 run with a three-pointer. Wilcox followed with a long jumper before Aziz N'Diaye rolled in a hook shot that put Washington ahead 56-40.
Crisis averted. Co-championship delivered.
Now bring on the Bruins.
"We know what's at stake," Ross said. "We know what we can accomplish. Right now we have just got to execute."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com. On Twitter @percyallen.
Attendance: 2763. Officials: Dick Cartmell, Mike Scyphers, Bruce Hicks.Technical fouls: Washington-None. USC-None.