Washington took care of the Hec Edmundson Pavilion scoreboard Thursday, and then watched as scoreboards from around the league produced results that moved the Huskies to within one game of the Pacific-10 Conference lead.
UW defeated Arizona, 81-75, what even team captain Quincy Pondexter had conceded was a must-win game if Washington was to have any hopes of defending its Pac-10 regular-season title.
Combined with USC’s win over California, there is now a four-way tie atop the Pac-10 featuring Arizona, California, Arizona State and UCLA.
The Huskies closed to within a game of the leaders behind the efforts of captain Quincy Pondexter, who provided 30 points and 12 rebounds in a game even he had conceded was a must-win for his team’s title hopes.
But to a large degree, the question was how the Wildcats hung around for so long. Leading scorer Nic Wise was shut out in the first half and ended with 12. Meanwhile, second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Derrick Williams contributed three points and two rebounds before fouling out in about seven minutes of playing time.
Still, Washington couldn’t get early separation, and the Wildcats surged into the lead late in the first half behind a quick 3-point barrage by Brandon Lavender.
UW opened daylight in the second half, but a late 14-3 run by Arizona brought them back. Washington survived by hitting 10 straight free throws down the stretch – six by Venoy Overton.
The Huskies get another shot at another league leader at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when Arizona State visits. After that, five of their first seven games are on the road.8:15/2nd
UW up now, 63-55.
18:16/2nd UW closes to within a points: UA, 39-38.
19:46/2nd Derrick Williams instantly picks up his fourth foul and is instantly back on the bench.
Halftime: Arizona took its first lead at 30-29 less than two minutes before half. But the Wildcats closed strong on a 3-point barrage by Brandon Lavender.
As usual for the Pac-10, a lot of fouls are being called, but both teams are giving away a lot of points at the line. UW is 8-of-17 (47.1%) and UA is 9-of-15 (57.1).
Shooting troubles from the field too: UW has hit 11 of 38 shots (28.9), Arizona 12 of 31 (38.7).
More bad news: Arizona played the final seven minutes of the half without freshman of the year favorite Derrick Williams, who went out with three fouls and only three points and two rebounds. Plus, Jamelle Horne, who went off on the Huskies for 22 points in Tucson, has only two points so far.
7:53 UW 21-19. The Huskies have threatened to open some distance a couple of times, but Arizona's hanging around.
Double technical just called on both head coaches.
Tipoff: Huskies going with usual lineup: Thomas, Gaddy, Pondexter, Holiday and Breshers. Holiday, as I mention in the story linked a couple of paragraphs below, was ineligible for the game at Arizona, and there is some hope that his presence can make up some of that difference tonight.
70 minutes to tipoff: The Huskies have put away their cool black unis in favor of their home whites tonight. Wildcats are in red.
75 minutes to tipoff: Pac-10 co-leader Arizona visits the Huskies at 7:30 at Hec Ed. Here's our preview story from this morning.
A UW win moves them within a game of the Wildcats, while a loss drops them three games behind with eight to go (five of them on the road). That's a lot of difference. Even Quincy Pondexter acknowledged this as a must-win game.
Usual gameday running blog planned: pregame news, lineups, in-game updates and postgame notes, quotes and comments.