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Originally published February 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 15, 2007 at 1:05 AM

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Huskies' NCAA hopes dealt heavy blow

Three minutes and 31 seconds might have saved the season for the Washington Huskies. Instead, those 3 minutes and 31 seconds further...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Three minutes and 31 seconds might have saved the season for the Washington Huskies.

Instead, those 3 minutes and 31 seconds further defined it for the Washington State Cougars.

"We just scrambled," said WSU guard Kyle Weaver of how the Cougars held the Huskies scoreless for he final 3:31 to seal a 65-61 win in front of 10,000 at Edmundson Pavilion, many rooting for the visiting team.

"We just wanted to give them nothing. That's what we wanted to do."

And like the poor kid in "Caddyshack," the Huskies had to take nothing and like it, though they most assuredly didn't, suffering a defeat that might have left the most bitter taste of the season.

"There's a lot of guys on the team that were mad after this one," said UW guard Justin Dentmon. "Real mad."

Dentmon most of all.

The sophomore missed five shots in that final stretch as the Huskies, unable to get the ball inside to Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman, missed their final eight field-goal attempts after cutting the lead to 62-61 when Dentmon made a three-pointer.

"It was frustrating," Dentmon said. "We just couldn't get the lead. We kept being down one. We kept rushing to get a bucket and we couldn't find one."

Instead, the Huskies find themselves back in a deep hole in terms of making the NCAA tournament, falling to 16-9 overall and 6-8 in Pac-10.

The Cougars, meanwhile, again rode defensive toughness (UW shot 37.5 percent for the game) and offensive scrappiness to improve to 22-4 and 11-3 in Pac-10 play, in a virtual tie atop the standings with UCLA (10-2).

"Sometimes it seems a little surreal," said Cougars forward Robbie Cowgill. "After being at the lower end [of the standings] the last few years, it's like, 'Wow, are we really this caliber of a team?' "

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They had no need to convince the Huskies, who have now lost four in a row to the Cougars, WSU's longest stretch of domination in the series since a similar streak from 1993 to 1995.

"We had so many chances to win it," Hawes said. "Especially coming against the Cougars makes it that much harder to take."

Hawes was the main reason the Huskies made this one competitive, compared to a 75-47 loss to WSU in Pullman on Jan. 20, a game Hawes missed with a sprained ankle.

He had a game-high 22 points and brought UW back after the Cougars threatened to run away early.

Washington State led by 10 late in the first half and settled for a 40-32 lead at the break, making 17 of 28 shots (60.7 percent). Reserve guard Taylor Rochestie came off the bench after Daven Harmeling got into foul trouble, and led WSU with 10 points in the first half and 16 overall. The Cougars also held a surprising 15-13 rebounding edge on Washington at the half.

But the Huskies hit the boards hard in the second half and got the ball inside to Hawes and Brockman, and regained the lead with 5:33 left, when Hawes backed down Ivory Clark and laid the ball in. But it was short-lived, as Harmeling hit a jumper with 5:13 left to put WSU ahead 59-58. Derrick Low's three-pointer made it 62-58 with 4:03 left, and Dentmon followed from outside the arc with 3:31 left.

Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar thought the game might have been lost during that stretch. The Huskies a few times settled for outside shots instead of "continuing to do what had gotten us to that point."

But it was the final 3:31 that stood out. After a Clark miss, the Huskies kept the ball for more than a minute, giving up possession after missing four shots — three by Dentmon and none by Hawes, who didn't take a shot in the final 5:33.

"They started fronting more and they came back with the double teams [in the post]," Hawes said. "They force you to take it out of your hands."

After Clark threw the ball out of bounds to give Washington another chance, Dentmon drove the lane and missed with 23.8 seconds left. Romar argued vehemently.

"I thought maybe he was touched," Romar said.

Two Low free throws put the Cougars ahead 64-61 with 16.7 seconds left, and Dentmon missed another three-pointer with 7.3 seconds left.

"We survived," said WSU coach Tony Bennett. "We just kept hanging in there."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

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