Terrence Ross can’t really explain why he owns the second half of basketball games.
So, he’ll simply revel in the fact that it’s working, and just keep doing what he’s doing.
Ross scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, including 10 of the Huskies’ final 12 points, to help them rally from a 10-point deficit and pull off a 71-69 Pacific-12 Conference victory over UCLA at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The outcome, combined with Arizona’s 78-74 victory at Cal, put the Huskies in first place alone.
“Terrence got that gleam in his eye, that look that forces you to make sure he gets the ball without him saying a word,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He came through on the offensive end big time.”
It’s not like it’s the first time Romar has seen that gleam. Ross scored 26 of his 30 points in the second half against Washington State earlier this season.
Perhaps Darnell Gant summed it up best.
“People sleep on the fact that guy has a will to win,” Gant said. “He might seem quiet to people who talk to him. But he really has a will to win and hates losing. So, I’m not surprised he always picks it up in the second half.”
Ross just kind of shrugs his shoulders. It’s how he plays.
“I don’t try to rush anything,” he said. “When I try to do too much, it hurts the team. But in the second half, everything is on the line. You just have to play like there is no tomorrow.”
There might have been no tomorrow for the Huskies (15-7 overall, 8-2 Pac-12) and their conference title hopes had they lost this game. And they were well on their way to doing that.
A bevy of turnovers and some careless execution put Washington in the precarious position of being down 63-53 with six minutes left to play.
With leading scorer Tony Wroten on the bench because of inconsistent play, the Huskies slowly whittled away at the lead. It started small with two free throws from Ross and four free throws from C.J. Wilcox.
And then Ross simply took over. He threw a nasty crossover dribble on defender Norman Powell and buried a jump shot from the wing.
“Down the stretch, I told him, ‘Man, give us one,’ ” said Abdul Gaddy. “And all he needs is one to get going. And once he got one down, I feel like we could go to him every time.”
Ross got going, and the Huskies went to him. He buried a 3-pointer over Powell to cut the lead to 65-64.
Out of a timeout, Romar ran an isolation play for Ross, who made an impossible scoop shot while being fouled by Powell to give the Huskies a 66-65 lead with 2:35 to play.
On the ensuing possession, UCLA’s Jerime Anderson threw an awful pass to no one in particular that Wilcox grabbed and tossed to Darnell Gant for a nasty two-handed dunk that turned an already loud crowd of 9,756 into a deafening throng.
David Wear finally stopped the 11-0 run for UCLA, burying a jumper from the free-throw line to cut the Washington lead to 71-67.
But Washington simply went to Ross for the answer. The slender sophomore knocked down an impossible 3-pointer from the wing with Powell on him again to push the lead to 73-67.
“He knows how to make contested shots,” Gaddy said of Ross. “I always tell him he never makes the wide-open ones, he always makes the contested shots.”
UCLA (12-10, 5-5) made one last gasp as Josh Smith, a former star at Kentwood, scored on a put-back to cut the lead to 71-69. Ross tried to secure the victory with one more basket, but his shot was in and out. UCLA rebounded the ball and set up for one final shot. But Powell’s jump shot from the wing spun off the rim, and the Huskies escaped with a win.
“We were very fortunate to dodge a bullet and come up with a victory,” Romar said.
Indeed, Washington turned the ball over 16 times and played like the team that slogged its way through the nonconference season – which was nothing like the team that had just swept both Arizona schools on the road.
“We were playing like individuals for the first 30 minutes,” Gaddy said. “Then we came together as a team those last two TV timeouts. We told each other we have to play as a team. Nobody was cheering each other on. For some of us, it’s our competitive nature; we want to win so bad we yell at each other. But we decided to come together as a team, and things started going our way.”
Romar left Wroten on the bench for the final seven minutes of the game. The touted freshman had scored 13 points but also had five turnovers.
“Our guys were playing so well together that we just went with that group,” Romar said.
And that group led the comeback.
“That’s how we’ve improved, its as a team,” Romar said. “I think that last group kind of understood what that meant and we rallied up.”
USC at Washington, 8 p.m., Root Sports, 950-AM, 102.9-FM