UW men puts up fight in loss to Pitt
Twenty-five hundred miles from home, the Washington Huskies might finally have found themselves. Officially, it was another road loss as...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PITTSBURGH -- Twenty-five hundred miles from home, the Washington Huskies might finally have found themselves.
Officially, it was another road loss as the Huskies bowed to No. 7-rated Pittsburgh on Saturday at the Petersen Events Center, 65-61, their eighth road defeat in nine games this season.
But unlike a 30-point massacre just two weeks ago at Arizona or similar blowouts at Washington State, UCLA and Gonzaga, this one came down to a missed shot here, a bad bounce there.
"Hopefully we turned a corner today," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. "I don't think three weeks ago we would have been able to do what we did today. We talk about the hopeful maturation of our team and even in spite of our loss last game against Washington State, I just think we are becoming a better and better basketball team. A few years ago [in February of 2004] we went to North Carolina State and it was a similar game to this [a 77-72 loss]. We came up short but you could just see that this team is starting to jell."
The question is whether that has come in time to save the season. Consecutive 65-61 losses to top 10 teams in four days (the other against WSU) leave UW with a 16-10 overall record and just four regular-season games left.
"I wish we had an additional month," said Romar. "We were right there. I know we weren't able to pull it off, but we were right there."
The Huskies did much of what they wanted against a Pitt team said to be extra motivated after losing at home on Monday to Louisville 66-53, their worst home loss at Petersen, where they are 79-8.
They held Pitt's senior center Aaron Gray to five points, tying a season low. They limited the Panthers to 21-of-58 shooting (36.2 percent) and outrebounded them 42-32.
And they got the ball inside continually to Jon Brockman (13 points) and Spencer Hawes (12), with those two taking more than half of Washington's shots (29 of 56).
"It was just 40 minutes of everyone buying into the system and playing the right way," Hawes said. "I think we are finally growing up."
Ultimately, the season-long bugaboo of turnovers (16 to Pitt's six) cost the Huskies, as well as a 25-8 disadvantage in free-throw attempts that some in the UW camp found particularly frustrating given it had pounded the ball inside all game.
"Right now it just feels like a loss, a loss that we could have won, a loss like Washington State," said UW forward Jon Brockman. "But I know that once the first emotions settle down, we'll be able to take a lot out of it. For the first time on the road, we played hard. For 40 minutes, we really competed."
Indeed, the Huskies came out the more aggressive team, leading much of the first 16 minutes of the game with Hawes and Brockman controlling the inside and freshman guard Adrian Oliver hitting two three-pointers to finally give UW a presence on the perimeter.
Hawes spent much of the game matched up against Gray. Neither had spectacular numbers for the 20 NBA scouts in attendance, but Hawes might have had the upper hand as he also grabbed a career-high-tying 12 rebounds and had three blocked shots and a team-high four assists.
Pitt used an 11-0 run late in the first half, fueled by seven points from guard Levance Fields, to take a 31-28 halftime lead.
UW led for the last time with 13:24 left on two free throws by Quincy Pondexter. But the Huskies were down just 58-57 with 3:08 left. Then, much like the loss to WSU in which the Huskies went scoreless in the last 3:31, Washington's offense turned cold.
UW missed its next three shots while Pitt got a layin from Gray on the only time all day he beat Hawes for a bucket (his other was a rebound putback) with 2:45 left and two free throws from Fields with 1:39 left. A Hawes putback got UW to 62-59 with 1:24 left.
On Pitt's next possession, Fields missed a jumper with the shot clock winding down, but Panthers forward Sam Young won the battle for the ball, one of the few times the Huskies' rebounding betrayed them.
Ronald Ramon then hit two free throws with 29 seconds left to ice it and put UW's tournament hopes in an even deeper freeze, even if the Huskies finally looked like a tournament worthy team.
"The positive thing we take away from this is that we fought," Oliver said, then looked ahead to next week's trip to Oregon State and Oregon. "It's the first game with a really hostile crowd where we fought and we didn't get blown out, and that has us fired up going into Oregon now."
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.