Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flashback to my first college basketball game

By Kshell

In my lifetime I've gone to several Husky football games, many Seahawks games and way to many Mariners games. One sporting event I had never been to before 2005 was college basketball. There was plenty of reasons why I hadn't been to a game before. First of all the product was usually pretty terrible as the Huskies were typically doormats and hadn't placed in the top three in conference since 1987(I was two years old). Another reason is Pac-10 games are on Thursdays and Saturdays so Thursday's were always school nights for me and Saturday nights I was busy on weekends with wrestling tournaments.

With tomorrow's matchup with the Arizona Wildcats at home with first place on the line it brought up memories. It brought be back to my first ever college basketball game that I went to. That game took place in late February which was Senior night and first place was on the line. I was going to Central Washington University at the time and had no tickets to the game. I decided to drive to the game early and have my dad meet me there. We would scalp tickets to the game. Let's just say once again the scalpers won. Once we got out tickets it didn't matter it was time for at the time the biggest home game in Husky basketball history. It was also the last home game for Tre Simmons, Hakeem Rollins and captain Will Conroy. Many like myself believed this would be Nate Robinson's last home as well(It was as he left early after his Junior season).

February 26th, 2005: #9 Arizona Wildcats(24-4,14-2) at #14 Washington Huskies(22-4,12-3)

In front of a sold out crowd the atmosphere at the game was very electric. Both teams featured plenty of future NBA players. For the Arizona Wildcats they starred Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire and Hassan Adams. For the Huskies they had a much deeper roster starring Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones and 6th man Brandon Roy. Huskies recruits Jon Brockman and Martell Webster were in the stands along with newly hired head football coach Tyrone Willingham. Former Husky great Donald Watts was also at the game(He was in my section actually with his kid). Another face was Arizona recruit Marcus Williams who was from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington. He kept hearing chants of "Martell's better" throughout the game.

Then it was time for the game to begin. At first it was a back and forth game between Channing Frye who was unstoppable and Tre Simmons playing in his final home game as a Husky. Simmons began the game hitting his first three shots all from three point range to help keep the Huskies in the game as they trailed 10-9. Hakeem Rollins got the start at center over normal starting center Mike Jensen due to the game being Senior day(Lorenzo Romar starts all Seniors on Senior night always). He had the tough task of slowing down Frye. Frye would get his points but nobody else on the Wildcats had a good game. At the end of the first half the Huskies led 42-35 with both teams shooting 17-34 from the field. The difference is the Huskies were 5-12 from three point range while the Wildcats were just 1-11. The Huskies were also three of five from the foul line while the Wildcats didn't attempt any free throws.

In the second half it appeared the Huskies were poised to put the Wildcats away. The Huskies extended their lead 52-39 at one point after Mike Jensen hit a three pointer. The crowd was going crazy at that point. Arizona would rally eventually cutting the lead to 77-74 which made the game extremely awkward. After a missed three pointer Hakeem Rollins hustled to save the ball to Nate Robinson who hit a huge three pointer to extend the lead to 80-74. On the next possession after a miss Rollins once again outhustled Frye to tip the ball in which was the dagger. At the end of the game Romar pulled his Seniors who all received standing ovations. He inserted walk-on Senior Alex Johnson as well. When Conroy was lifted the gave him a standing ovation and he ran over to midcourt and kissed the purple W at the middle of the floor(Venoy Overton did the same thing his Senior year in high school after winning the state title).

The Huskies would go on to win the game 93-85 in a great game for both teams. The Huskies which was typical for Romar teams would prevail with balance. Led by Senior Tre Simmons scoring 24 points on 9-14 shooting including 5-10 from three point range. The Huskies also had 22 points from Nate Robinson who shot 6-12 from the field and was three for six from beyond the arc. Bobby Jones added 13 points making both three pointers and Brandon Roy added 10 points on five for six shooting and nine rebounds. Will Conroy in his last game scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds and four assists. The Huskies for the game shot 34-60(56.7%) and 11-24(45.8%) from three point range.

For the Arizona Wildcats they had a terrific performance from Channing Frye who scored 30 points on 13-15 shooting but had just five rebounds. Hassan Adams added 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-15 shooting, while Salim Stoudamire had 15 points but shot just 5-15 from the field. Stoudamire the previous game against the Washington State Cougars struggled scoring just eight points. So throughout the game he kept hearing "Bricks in Pullman". The Wildcats would have to wait to clinch the Pac-10 regular season title. The Huskies would drop a game the very next week to Stanford when Stanford shot 48 free throws to the Huskies six.

These two teams would meet again two weeks later for the Pac-10 championship game. The 14th ranked Huskies would defeat the 8th ranked Wildcats 81-72. The Wildcats had 37 points from Salim Stoudamire while the Huskies were led by Tre Simmons scoring 18 points. The Huskies also had 12 second half points by Will Conroy who hit the go ahead three pointer. Nate Robinson added 18 points and Jamaal Williams scored 16 points for Pac-10 champions Huskies. That would be Lorenzo Romar's fifth win in the last two seasons over legendary head coach Lute Olsen. The Huskies would go on to be the #1 seed in the West regional for the NCAA tournament. The Arizona Wildcats would go on to the elite 8.

One thing I'll always remember about the game I went to was the passion the crowd showed towards Will Conroy. Conroy was the only four year member on the Huskies roster that season. Conroy only scored nine points in the game I went to but he was the leader of that team. Conroy has played some in the NBA over the years but mainly has destroyed the NBDL waiting for his chance. I'll always remember the build up to that game and all the good college players and future NBA players playing in the game and in the stands. The atmosphere was great and those years is what paved the way for the Huskies to succeed today. Romar proved to everyone in the Pac-10 that him and the Huskies aren't going anywhere anytime soon!

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