by Craig Yamada
UW 77 – UA 75
Mark your calendars. Today was the day where Isaiah Thomas made his Husky legacy. All year this team has been struggling to find their go-to guy in the closing seconds. Look no further Dawg fans because Isaiah Thomas is that guy. Romar put the ball in his junior PG’s hands in the closing seconds on two closing moments. The first was a drive penetration which led to a dish for a Wilcox three to tie it up at the end of regulation. And the second, was the shot heard around the world. With 19 seconds left in overtime, IT brought the ball up the court with the game tied. He stalled the ball on the top of the key until 5 seconds were left on the clock. He took Momo Jones off the dribble and stepped back for a buzzer beating jumper to win the Pac-10 Tourney for UW. Simply amazing.
Aside from the cluth Q-Pon drive to knock off Marquette in the NCAA last year, that had to have been the best finish I have ever seen from a Husky team. Ah heck, no disrespect to Q-Pon, but this may top that finish just because IT hit the shot with zero seconds left on the clock in spectacular fashion.
Thomas sprawled across the floor at the end of the game. He may be a little winded. And deservedly so. He put in all 45 minutes worth of work for the game today. In response to a question about who would back up Isaiah Thomas at PG, Romar stated with a grin, “Isaiah Thomas.” He was not kidding. Aside from the closing 2 minutes against Oregon, IT played the entire tournament. His will to win and passion for the game led this team out of the ashes of the Pac-10 season and pushed the swagger back into the steps of his teammates.
What was Awesome:
MVP: Isaiah Thomas – There is no debate here. IT literally left everything on the floor this tourney. He had back to back double doubles against WSU and Oregon. He followed up those performances with 28 points and 4 assists against the Wildcats on Sunday. And his buzzer beater to win the championship game put his final stamp on this tournament.
What was Good:
- Rebounding Tenacity: UW simply wanted it more on both the defensive and offensive glass. Second opportunities kept us alive today as UW out-rebounded UA 37-27.
- Terrence Ross: Though you may call me a Ross lover this season, you mine as well call yourself one now too. If you weren’t impressed with Ross’ performance this tournament, you are in serious denial. Don’t tell T-Ross he is a Freshman, because he sure didn’t play like one this tourney. He hit some Kobe-esque jumpers and hit a big three toward the end of regulation to keep UW in the game. He definitely has earned his starting spot during this tourney.
- CJ Wilcox: CJ was quiet for most of the game tonight. But at the close of regulation and overtime, he came alive. Wilcox hit the clutch three to send it in to OT and also had a big base line jam in overtime to put the Dawgs up by 3. “Ray-Ray” was the chant in my household all afternoon.
- Darnell Gant: Birdman was the perfect spark off the bench as he played big minutes with MBA and Aziz saddled with foul trouble. He garnered 8 rebounds which led the team and also chipped in 6 points. His block against D-Will should be Sportscenter worthy tonight. Excellent effort from the fourth year junior tonight.
- Romar’s Starting Line Up: I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to see T-Ross in the start of this game given the size of Arizona’s frontline. However he stuck with what worked for him the past two games and he may have just found his best five players to start. I loved this lineup all tourney as Romar is literally putting out his best five players on the floor to start the game. Its a more athletic lineup and allows for more quickness and a bigger threat on the offensive side of the ball. My vote is to keep this lineup going into the NCAA.
- MBA: MBA had 9 points on the night due to foul trouble plaguing him. MBA did come alive in the second half and helped UW get back into the game with his post moves. He was hosed on several calls and even fouled out early in the OT period. MBA had a tough assignment in guarding D-Will tonight, but he did his best to limit him.
What Needs Work:
- Free Throw Shooting: The Huskies could have easily distanced themselves in the second half if they knocked down their freebies. Suggs and IT both missed the front ends of their 1 and 1’s which really let Zona get back into the game. Heading into the tourney, they will need to improve on the 57% FT percentage they shot today.
- Aziz N’Diaye: Although N’Diaye collected 7 rebounds tonight, he really made me nervous each time he touched the ball. Two turnovers and just being uncoordinated with his hands was a big liability for us tonight and the entire year. Romar did the right thing in not starting him and bringing him off the bench. Let’s see if the trend continues going into the tourney.
Everyone needs to send IT a salute over Twitter tonight. He certainly has earned it. Send him over some Vitamin Water and maybe even an IV so he can recover in time for the NCAA. The Dawgs are riding high into the NCAA and closed out this Pac-10 tournament exactly like last year as the #3 seed. Let’s hope they can take it one step further in the big dance.
Evacuate the dance floor, because somebody let the Dawgs out. See you after Selection Sunday!