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Huskies rally at the end to win NIT opener
Washington finishes with 24-13 run to beat Texas-Arlington
Northwestern @ Washington, 7 p.m.
The Huskies promised they would treat their opener in the 75th annual National Invitation Tournament like it was the national championship and yet for most of the game Tuesday they were lax defensively and soft on the glass.
For the second consecutive outing, they were the top seed in a tournament and trailed to a heavy underdog midway in the second half.
Unlike the disappointment last week in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, No. 1 Washington made plays down the stretch and pulled away from No. 8 Texas-Arlington to claim an 82-72 victory in front of 2,801 at Edmundson Pavilion.
Admittedly, the Huskies wish they were playing in the NCAA tournament and maybe their disappointment of missing the Big Dance contributed to their slow start.
However, midway in the second half they were fully engaged and played like a team deserving of the No. 1 overall seed.
"It's just something you have to get your mind adjusted to," said Terrence Ross, who scored a game-high 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting. "We still have a lot to play for, and it still can be fun at the end."
C.J. Wilcox added 15 points, Darnell Gant had 13 and Abdul Gaddy 10 points and six assists for UW.
Washington (22-10) will host to No. 4 Northwestern (19-13) Friday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats topped No. 5 Akron 76-74.
"Every game is possibly your last, and there's a potential to go home," Gant said. "That mindset is helping us to play hard."
With 15:35 left Tuesday, Washington's season was in jeopardy when center Aziz N'Diaye picked up his fourth foul on a controversial call with UW leading 48-46.
The Huskies received an emotional lift and surged ahead 53-46, but UT-Arlington withstood the run and pulled ahead 59-58 with 9:56 left.
"A team like that hangs around for too long, now you're at the mercy of a drop-kick shot into the rim at the buzzer," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "But our guys didn't do that. That one spurt when we really got down on the defensive end and created some turnovers, I thought was the difference in the second half."
The Huskies scored seven consecutive points, and Ross capped the spurt with a three-pointer that gave them a 65-59 lead.
At times, Ross was unstoppable while connecting on three three-pointers, flushing an alley-oop dunk, collecting five rebounds and blocking two shots. He even drew an offensive charge while injuring his hip.
"They scouted us, but they don't really know how our team plays," said Ross, who added his hip will be fine. "Everybody in the Pac-12, they know how we play and what our go-to moves are, but against them it's a lot easier to get your own buckets and kind of go after them.
"They didn't know what to expect, so it's kind of easier to catch them off guard."
Once Washington took the lead, it never looked back and closed the game on a 24-13 run.
LaMarcus Reed III scored 20 points for the UT-Arlington, which dominated the rebounding 37-27 and had 12 second-chance points.
Gant vowed Washington's rebounding would improve Friday.
"We're trying to embrace the fact that we're in the NIT," he said. "Now we've got one game and coach has been talking about if you keep winning, it starts to get a little more fun.
"We want to try to have fun. We've extended my senior season. I'm not going home yet. I'm happy to continue to play and I know my guys are too."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attendance: 2,801. Officials: Martin Cota, Dwayne Allen, Frank Harvey.