Washington edged by UCLA, 75-69, in regular-season finale
Huskies' chance at outright Pac-12 title now rests on result of Sunday's California-Stanford game. With a win, the Bears would share the championship.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Pac-12 tournament @ Los Angeles, Wednesday-Saturday
LOS ANGELES — The storybook ending Darnell Gant had dreamed about was on his fingertips.
Playing in his hometown, the fifth-year Washington senior hesitated for a moment before launching a three-pointer with 14 seconds left that would have given the Huskies the lead on Saturday.
However, his shot sailed left and bounced off the rim, and UCLA came away with a 75-69 win in front of 9,785 at the Sports Arena and a national television audience.
Dream deferred. At least for now.
The Huskies (21-9, 14-4 Pac-12) will have to wait until Sunday to learn if they'll share the conference crown with California (23-7, 13-4). If the Golden Bears lose to Stanford, Washington will have its second outright title since 1953.
"It's in somebody else's hands," Gant said. "We should have won that game. We had them beat. We just need to play smarter down the stretch."
Washington has been sensational in the clutch the past three weeks, reeling off five straight wins by an average margin of 9.2 points.
On Saturday, the Huskies took control midway through the first half and led 47-44 at halftime thanks to a brilliant offensive display from their backcourt.
C.J. Wilcox scored a game-high 22 points, Terrence Ross added 18, Tony Wroten Jr. had 14 and Abdul Gaddy finished with a career-high 12 assists.
Collectively, they hadn't played better, and Wilcox noted it was the best he had felt in months.
Washington had opportunities to break the game open after the break, but was undone by seven second-half turnovers that led to 11 points.
"The majority of those turnovers were unforced," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "That's the difference in the game. We just didn't do a good enough job of taking care of the basketball."
The Huskies lost the lead after UCLA senior guard Lazeric Jones drilled a three-pointer that put the Bruins up 63-62 with 8:48 left.
At that point, it was anyone's game.
Gaddy made his only basket and drained an open jumper that gave UW a 67-65 lead with 4:43 remaining.
"Usually under four minutes, if we're up, I'm pretty comfortable that we're going to finish the game well," Wilcox said. "I was shocked that we let that one get away."
After a 4-0 Bruins run, center Aziz N'Diaye scored on a putback to tie the score at 69 with 1:18 left.
On the ensuing possession, UCLA guard Tyler Lamb missed a long jumper before David Wear scored on a putback that gave the Bruins a 71-69 lead.
Still, Washington had plenty of time to counter with 44 seconds on the clock.
Ross missed an awkward jumper. and the Huskies recovered the loose ball before calling timeout to set up their last play.
"We were trying to get a ball screen and spread the floor and get it to the open man," Romar said. "Darnell was open. ... We took the shot.
"Maybe we could have made one extra pass, but we took the shot."
Standing alone at the top of the key, Gant had a chance to atone for a frigid 1-for-7 shooting performance and pen one of the most remarkable finishes in Washington history.
Like Quincy Pondexter's short jumper that beat Marquette in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament and Isaiah Thomas' coldblooded buzzer-beater that delivered the 2011 Pac-10 tournament title, Gant's shot would have been talked about for ages.
He considered whipping a pass to Ross on the wing but spotted Lamb, who had four steals, lurking and figured he would take matters into his own hands.
Gant was in a similar position on Jan. 19 and missed a potential game-tying three-pointer in a 69-66 loss to California. Given another chance to be a hero, he came up short.
"It felt good," he said of the shot. "It just came off left. I don't know. I just had a bad shooting night. Again."
Ideally, the Huskies wanted Wilcox or Ross to take the last shot because each had four three-pointers.
"They weren't going to leave us," Wilcox said of the UCLA defenders. "Darnell took the right shot. He just wasn't able to knock it down."
The Bruins collected the rebound and made four free throws down the stretch to cap the scoring.
Lazeric Jones scored 20 points, Travis Wear had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Lamb chipped in 14 points for UCLA (18-13, 11-7).
Washington finished the Pac-12 season with the second-best conference record in school history, but owning just a share of the title felt like cold comfort.
"It feels weird," Wilcox said. "Almost like we don't deserve being co-champs."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen
Attendance: 9,785. Officials: Mike Littlewood, Michael Reed, Tony Padilla.