Simmons saves Huskies from selves
The purple-shirted students, who stand shoulder-to-shoulder for hours, chanted his name.
Seattle Times staff columnist
On the eve of every Washington home game, Brandon Miller's phone rings, predictable as high tide. And before he answers, he knows who is calling and what the caller wants.
It's Washington shooting guard Tre Simmons on the line, and Simmons wants to get back in the gym. So he calls Miller, team manager and unofficial Edmundson Pavilion gatekeeper, and asks to meet him by the back door.
Simmons has jumpers to shoot.
And for an hour, late at night, it's just the two of them — with a ball and a hoop inside an empty gym.
"I open the doors and turn on the lights, and then I rebound for him," Miller said after Simmons had made 6 of 7 three-pointers and scored 29 points in another Washington home win last night.
"And we stay until he makes 200 jumpers. Some guys shoot 200, but not Tre. He has to make 200.
"I'm never sure what time the call's coming, but I know he's going to call. It's a lot of fun. He's so easy to rebound for. It's not like some guys where you have to run all over the gym. He makes so many, and then you just stand under the basket and throw the ball back to him."
Wednesday night, Miller opened the gym at 10. Simmons stayed for an hour. And less than 24 hours later, he shot out the lights again.
In the early minutes of the second half, the purple-shirted students, who stand shoulder-to-shoulder for hours, chanted his name, "Tre, Tre, Tre, Tre."
In his next-to-last home game of a much-too-brief career, Simmons rescued Washington from its lethargy against Arizona State.
In four gorgeous minutes, he ignited the building like gasoline.
"I'm a shooter," Simmons said. "That's what I do."
Washington led by one when he swished a fadeaway three. And on the next possession, he hit another three, in transition.
"Tre. Tre. Tre." The students got louder, and the rest of the crowd responded.
Simmons scored on a drive. He wrestled a rebound away from Allen Morill, was fouled and made one of two free throws. Then Simmons hit another three — his fifth — and with 13:51 to go Washington led 54-45.
The 14th-ranked Huskies, who haven't lost in 14 home games, were merely average against Arizona State. They appeared to be peeking ahead to tomorrow's payback game against Arizona.
That may be understandable, but it's unacceptable.
Washington is too experienced, too savvy to play as lackluster as it played for most of its game against ASU. The core group has been together long enough to know that nothing comes easily, not this time of year.
Teams are playing for their tournament lives. Playing for seeding. Playing for a future in March.
Strange things happen in February.
These are dangerous games. A team as hungry as Arizona State in town. A game as huge as tomorrow's on the horizon. So much can go wrong.
There is a certain desperation in a night like last night's 90-82 Washington win over Arizona State. The best-made plans of last October can detonate in one bad game at the end of February.
Washington played an ASU team that absolutely had to win to keep alive its flickering NCAA tournament hopes. And for too much of the night, the 14th-ranked Huskies played as if ASU was supposed to be a gimme.
The Huskies — who usually play 94 feet of defense with the devotion of monks, who usually shrink the frontcourt with their claustrophobic traps — were allowing ASU too many open looks, too many second chances, too many easy drives to the basket.
With 4½ minutes left and the Huskies ahead 77-73, Nate Robinson was short with a quick-trigger jumper, and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar ripped off his sports coat in frustration.
But these also are games that teams as good as Washington win. And the Huskies make plays in the fieldhouse's hot house.
Bobby Jones emphatically dunked Simmons' missed drive to give the Huskies an 81-75 lead. And Robinson quickly atoned for his rushed jumper, out-hustling Morill to a rebound of Mike Jensen's miss, scoring and putting Washington ahead 83-78.
In the final three-plus minutes, the Huskies played like themselves. Played as if they knew what was at stake. Played as if they had plans that stretched deep into March.
And, with the celebration about to begin, with another full house loud and on its feet, Robinson made a steal and punctuated the night with a free-floating dunk.
It started with Tre raining treys and ended with Robinson high in the air. It finished the way every home game has this season.
And now UW has nothing to think about, but Arizona.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176
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