• UW 73, ASU 70, OT
It felt like a heavyweight fight staged in a phone booth. Washington and Arizona State going hard at each other for 45 minutes, never with much room between them and always with little room to breathe.
• PAC-10 STANDINGS: 1. Washington 12-4. 2T. Arizona State, Cal, UCLA all 10-5. 5. Arizona 8-7. 6T. USC, Oregon State both 7-8. 8. Washington State 7-8. 9. Stanford 4-11. 10. Oregon 1-14.
In the end, the Huskies clawed out a 73-70 overtime win over the Sun Devils on Thursday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“We’ve had team with a lot of heart,” Romar said. “ I think our hearts have gotten bigger and bigger as the season progresses.”
Which brings us to another fight in a phone booth: the revised Pacific-10 Conference standings.
The result leaves moves the Huskies (21-7 overall, 12-4 Pac-10) a game and a half ahead of Arizona State (21-5, 10-5), dealing something close to a death blow to Sun Devils’ title hopes.
However, UCLA and California kept pace with victories Thursday over Stanford and USC respectively. That leaves them hovering just one game behind the Huskies, including one game in the loss column.
“It’s so close we can taste it,” Quincy Pondexter said, “ But the next two games won’t be easy at all.”
The Huskies could wrap up at least a tie for the Pac-10 title Saturday with a victory over Arizona, which was eliminated from the regular season race Thursday after losing at Washington State. A UW win over the Wildcats also would assure the elimination of the loser of that day’s UCLA-at-Cal game, although the winner would remain in contention for a share of the title.
Washington was led by Jon Brockman, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. However, Justin Dentmon, Isaiah Thomas and Pondexter all scored in double-figures for UW. And Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday got crucial stops at crucial times against ASU’s James Harden, who once again was held under his Pac-10-leading average of 21.2 points.
Arizona State rode its big guns, getting 24 points from Jeff Pendergraph and 19 from Harden, both of whom fouled out in overtime.
A lot had been made about Harden’s relatively tame 15-point performance in the earlier meeting in Arizona. This time, it was instantly clear that the Pac-10 player-of-the-year candidate was interested in settling a score.
On the game’s first possession, he went straight at defender Gant, scored and drew a foul. His aggressiveness continued from there.
Despite Harden’s fast start, Washington took control early and held it most of the way. The Huskies went on a 17-5 run that lifted their advantage of 24-12 after about 10 minutes.
The sellout crowd was roaring. But just about then, the Sun Devils began chipping away – first with Pendergraph, then with Harden. At halftime, UW’s lead was down to 35-34.
The tight struggle continued into the second half, with the crowd only amping up the volume. Once again, Washington played in front most of the way.
The Sun Devils nudged in front, 53-52, about six minutes from the end on a drive by Pendergraph. The Huskies took the lead back, 61-59, on a Dentmon drive in the final minute.
That seemed likely to stand up as Holiday stared down Harden one-on-one – twice – forcing crucial misses. However, a couple fo crucial UW errors in the final seconds of regulation – losing the ball in back court to set up ASU’s tying basket, and then a failure to get off a shot on their final possession – sent the game into overtime.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808