Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thomas hits buzzer beater as Huskies repeat as Pac-10 champions 77-75 over Wildcats!

By Kshell

With the game tied at 75-75 the Washington Huskies decided not to call timeout. Instead the Huskies asked co-captain Isaiah Thomas to deliver once again. At Staples Center Thomas did what Kobe Bryant has done in that same stadium many of times. Thomas dribbled down the clock stepped back and hit a buzzer beater to give the Washington Huskies(23-10,11-7) a 77-75 overtime victory over the #16 Arizona Wildcats(27-7,14-4) to repeat as Pac-10 tournament champions. Just like when these teams played in Seattle Thomas was the star of the game. Thomas scored 28 points, dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds and played all but two possessions in three days for the Huskies. Just like the previous meeting this game came down to the wire once again. Momentum had swung so many times this game the difference was Thomas was determined. Thomas became the first player since Sean Elliot to win back to back tournament MVP awards. Now the Huskies are riding high and guaranteed a trip to the NCAA tournament.

The first half was played at a fast pace which favors both teams. The Huskies were led by Thomas who carried the team on his back to keep them in the game. The Arizona Wildcats built a nine point lead but the Huskies would rally to trail by a score of 36-33. The Wildcats shot 13-27(48.1%) from the field but unlike last game were just 4-11(36.4%) from three point range. The Wildcats also struggled at free throws making just 6-11(54.5%). Pac-10 player of the year Derrick Williams led the Wildcats with seven points on two for three shooting with four rebounds. The Huskies had shot 12-28(42.9%) from the field and 5-11(45.4%) from three point range. The Huskies had outrebounded the Wildcats 13-11 as well.

The Huskies were led by Thomas who scored 19 points on six for nine shooting, including three for four from three point range and was perfect in four free throw attempts. Without Thomas the Huskies would have been blown out. The Huskies next leading scorer was Scott Suggs who scored five points on two for five shooting including a three. The Huskies received solid play from big man Aziz N'Diaye who scored just two points on one for three shooting but did have five rebounds while playing tough defense. Thomas needed more help from his teammates which he would receive in the second half.

The second half would feature plenty of momentum swings which would escalate this game to instant classic status. Thomas teammates would decide to step up like Terrence Ross who scored 12 points in the second half/overtime. The Huskies would receive nine points from Matthew Bryan-Amaning as well as he was held scoreless in the first half. The Huskies had built up a six point lead but would then miss six straight free throws which has been their downfall for years now. Then the game looked lost for the Huskies trailing 63-59 with under 40 seconds left. After a miss Thomas drilled a three pointer to pull within 63-62. The Huskies instead of fouling immediately decided to try and press which burned them. Suggs fouled Williams after he had already made the bucket, Williams then hit the free throw which everyone thought iced the game at 66-62. The Huskies freshman would step up huge as Ross would drill a three pointer to cut the lead to 66-65. After two made free throws the Huskies had the ball down three. Thomas sliced through the lane which the Wildcats collapsed on him and he kicked it out to an open C.J. Wilcox who was also scoreless in the first half drilled the three pointer to tie the game. Wilcox scored nine points in the second half. The Huskies had somehow sent the game to overtime.

Then in overtime the Huskies the freshman continued to hit as Ross and Wilcox hit buckets to give the Huskies a 73-70 lead. Then with the Huskies overcoming Bryan-Amaning fouling out on a suspect call the Huskies were clinging to a 75-72 lead. Then Kevin Parrom hit a three pointer to tie the score up at 75-75. Many thinking we would be heading for another overtime but Thomas who probably knew he had maybe one last possession in him. Thomas waved off Romar for the timeout and was going to win it himself. Thomas drove to the top of the key, stopped faded back and swished the bucket with no time left. The first buzzer beater for the Huskies since 2000 when Senque Carey hit the game winner at California. For Thomas he cemented his legacy at Washington forever much like Quincy Pondexter did last year against Marquette.

For the Huskies they finished the game with a repeat Pac-10 championship. The Huskies also beat the top two teams in the Pac-10 four out of five games. The only loss was by a single point as well. The Huskies for the game shot 30-66(45.5%) from the field, 9-25(36.0%) from three point range and outrebounded the Wildcats 37-27. The picture to the right says a thousand words. Thomas was the ultimate warrior this tournament having sat out a combined two possessions in three straight days. Thomas finished as the tournament MVP for the second straight year. Thomas finished the game with 28 points on 10-16 shooting from the field and four for seven from three pointers. Thomas also had seven assists which set a Pac-10 tournament record with 30 assists. Thomas grabbed five rebounds and recorded two steals. He also carried his team in the first half and then with the game on the line Thomas hit the game winning shot as the Huskies showed once again they play their best ball in March. The key was in the second half Thomas received help from his teammates.

For the Huskies you had the freshman step up once again. Led by first team all tournament team Terrence Ross scored 16 points on 7-13 shooting including two for five from three point range. The next leading scorer was Matthew Bryan-Amaning who scored nine points on 3-10 shooting as he fouled out in 24 minutes. C.J. Wilcox added nine points on four for nine shooting including the three pointer to send the game into overtime. The Huskies received good play from their big men off the bench as Darnell Gant scored six points while hitting a three pointer and recorded eight rebounds with two block shots. Aziz N'Diaye showed his value today scoring four points on two for four shooting but pulled down seven rebounds in just 18 minutes. Thomas carried the team in the first half but like always it was a total team effort to win this Pac-10 championship.

Overall the Huskies have just won their second straight Pac-10 tournament championship and third overall. Since 2005 the Huskies have won four Pac-10 championships if you count their 2008-09 regular season title. The Huskies are 23-10 on the year with six of those losses coming by five points or less. The Huskies went 2-0 in that scenario this tournament so if they can solve the close game problems they could go on a run. The Huskies clinched their third straight trip to the NCAA tournament with this big win. The Huskies also proved that you can't ever count them out ever as this is the second straight year they entered the Pac-10 tournament as the third seed and walked away with the title. The Huskies will wait tomorrow to see who they play and where. At least the Huskies know they are going to the tournament which this time last week nobody would have predicted this. The Huskies are now in the NCAA tournament and once you are there anything can happen. If Thomas plays like he did this tournament the Huskies will be a tough team to beat.


- Thomas is the tournament MVP which was the most obvious choice since name Charlie Sheen the craziest man in hollywood. Thomas put on an MVP performance and has ended his slump greatly. Thomas scored when the team needed him to like he showed in the first half. He dished the ball to open teammates all week including a great assist to Wilcox to tie the game up. Then like Pondexter last year with the game on the line he stepped it up and nailed the game winning shot.

For the tournament Thomas averaged 19.7 points per game, 10.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.7 steals a game. Thomas shot 20-40(50.0%) from the field including 8-16(50.0%) from three point range. Thomas also played all but two possessions in three days. Thomas averaged 41.0 minutes a game considering college basketball is only 40 minutes long that is incredible. Thomas proved why he is a winner. Thomas has destroyed the Wildcats this year averaging 20.7 points per game and 9.0 assists per game. He is shooting 21-37(56.8%) from the field and 6-12(50.0%) from three point range. Since he has came to UW he has only won a Pac-10 regular season title as a freshman, then his sophomore and junior year won back to back Pac-10 tournament titles. Thomas also cemented his legacy as a Husky legend and if he comes back next year he'll be the all-time leading scorer and assist man in Huskies history.

- What a roller coaster ride for freshman Terrence Ross this season. Ross who played a combined four minutes in the last home series of the year against the L.A. schools found himself starting this week. Not only that but Ross found himself on the all tournament team unlike with such studs like Klay Thompson, Derrick Williams and of course Isaiah Thomas. Ross came up big for the Huskies all three games. Today Ross finished 16 points with 12 of them coming in the second half. Ross can shoot the three ball and slash to the hole for easy dunks. He is going to be a special player for the Huskies down the road.

Ross finished the tournament averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 19-36(52.7%) from the field and made 6-17(35.3%) from three point range. Ross provided a lift that the Huskies desperatly were lacking recently. Another freshman who had a nice week was C.J. Wilcox who averaged 13.0 points per game while shooting 13-28(46.4%) from the field including 9-20(45.0%) from three point range. Wilcox hit the biggest three of his life against the Wildcats today to send the game into overtime. The Huskies freshman carried the load along with Thomas this week in L.A. Hopefully the seniors can join them in the NCAA tournament.

- The Pac-10 player of the year Derrick Williams had another strong game. Williams finished the game with 24 points on 8-14 shooting while pulling down 11 rebounds. Williams also played 40 minutes which is quite a lot for a big man. Williams did struggle from the foul line shooting just 8-13(61.5%). Williams for the year against the Huskies has averaged 24.0 points per game with 11 rebounds a game. Williams has shot 24-45(53.3%) from the field against the Huskies.

Williams on the year normally shoots 61.7% from the field. Unlike most teams in the Pac-10 the Huskies have three quality big men on defense in Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant and Aziz N'Diaye. Those three big men make Williams earn each and every bucket he makes. The Huskies play a good defense on him and make him earn his points at the foul line. Although he still puts up numbers the Huskies have done a nice job this year of containing Williams.

- Big win for Lorenzo Romar goes without saying. For Romar he improves to 13-5(.722) in the Pac-10 tournament. Romar has led the Huskies to the championship game four times now where he has won his last three. The Huskies for the second straight year have underachieved in the regular season find themselves playing their best ball at the right time.

Romar has admitted this has been his toughest year coaching yet. When you break down what this team has overcame it is pretty incredible. First the team loses top reserve Elston Turner who transfered unexpectaly. Then the Terrence Jones fiasco where everyone thought he was going to Washington. Then the Huskies lost big man Tyrese Breshers for his career. Then the Huskies lost starting point guard Abdul Gaddy to injury for the rest of the year. You add in the Venoy Overton off the court issues and losing to crappy teams you can understand Romar's statement.

However as I type this the Huskies are right where they want to be. The Huskies are back in the NCAA tournament for their third straight year and sixth time in eight years. Romar has his critics and I have been critical of him in the past I'll admit. Romar made some nice adjustments this week which I'll give him credit for. He changed his starting lineup and instead of playing with other teams style the Huskies are making teams play with theirs. Also with your five best scorers out there the Huskies are no longer slumping on offense. Romar believes in his guys and they believe in him. There is a reason why nobody on that roster is surprised that they repeated as Pac-10 champions. When a coach has confidence in you no matter what happens the players respond. The players responded but Romar deserves all the credit.

All in all, the Huskies continue to amaze me. I don't know what to think of this team. Can this team crap the bed and lose next Thursday? Sure they can. Can this team finally go on a run and make the final four? Sure they can. With this team it's all about matchups and locations rather than seeds. Just remember tomorrow if you don't like the seed we would have killed to be in this spot a week ago when things looked pretty dark. The Huskies received an incredible three day stretch by Thomas that I've never seen before. Thomas knew he had no backup at all and seemed to get better as the tournament wore on. Thomas found a way to win the duel with Thompson on Thursday, hit a big shot on Friday to beat the Ducks then today did everything including hit a buzzer beater. Thomas and the two freshman carried the Huskies this week along with good play from Gant. The Huskies will need their seniors to step up next week if they expect to advance in the tournament. Just remember at least the Huskies are back in the tournament. I give Romar for changing the starting lineup once again. The Huskies are back in the dance and are Pac-10 champions once again.

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