Playing in its Pacific-10 Conference opener against one of its toughest rivals, the Washington Huskies somehow found themselves being led by true freshman Terrence Ross.
Then, in overtime, Ross fouled out.
And somehow, the Huskies pulled it out anyway: a 73-67 win over Southern California on Wednesday at the Galen Center.
“I can’t think of a whole lot of wins that I’m as excited as I am tonight,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We got down. We appeared to be rattled. Our guys stayed together and guarded and slowly fought their way back into it. It was a great, great character win.”
Ross struck a spark in the first half when it was much needed, and he continued at key moments of the second half when it was needed most. He ended with 18 points -- including four 3-pointers – and added four rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes.
Ross got his opportunity to play when C.J. Wilcox was held out due to a sore hip. Then he took advantage when USC (8-6, 0-1 Pac-10) decided to put its only big perimeter defender – 6-foot-6 Marcus Simmons – on Isaiah Thomas.
“It was big,” Ross said. “It was big for me. It was big for the team. This is definitely something that we wanted to start the Pac-10 season off with. … I was open. I couldn’t hesitate. Coach said if I was open I should shoot the ball. That’s what I had to do.”
Senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning contributed 18 points and eight rebounds. Venoy Overton, Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy all hit key free throws when the Trojans fouled in overtime.
“Matthew stepped up against their front line and was terrific,” Romar said. “Terrence Ross? What a game to break out: on the road, Pac-10 opener. He really showed up. … But again, I just thought we played good defense, we did a great job on the boards, we did the little things that will allow you to beat a very good team on the road.”
Washington limited the Trojans to 34.5 percent shooting from the field. The Huskies also mauled USC on the boards, 44-28.
The combination finally proved enough to offset a 28-point, 14-rebound performance by Southern California’s Nikola Vucevic.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win down the stretch, but didn’t get it done,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We executed well, but had two big turnovers down the stretch and we gave them offensive rebounds again, which is really hurting us in close games."
The crowd of 5,584 included large portions of Washington fans in the area for the Holiday Bowl game tonight in San Diego. At times they created as much noise as the USC fans. And when the Huskies clinched it, they chanted “Just like football,” recalling the football team’s win at USC back in October.
“That was awesome support there,” Romar said. “They were loud. That was great.”
Washington (9-3, 1-0) will practice at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday, preparing for its to Pac-10 1 p.m. New Year's eve date at UCLA.
However, Romar said the practice will be over in time for the hoops Huskies to gather in their rooms and watch the football Huskies meet Nebraska.
2:37 of OT: Terrence Ross -- UW's leading scorer with 18 points -- has just fouled out on a rebound foul called by the farthest ref from the play. (However, both free throws were missed, and the Dawgs remain up 62-58 now with 1:57 left.)
End of regulation: Huskies had the last possession, but couldn't score and the game is going to overtime, 55-55.
2nd/4:49 Terrence Ross drills his fourth 3-pointer to put UW up, 51-46.
2nd/5:17 N'Diaye fouls out. SC free throw cuts UW lead to 48-46.
2nd/7:11 UW noses ahead, 46-45. Teams shooting better. Crowd getting into it. But lots of whistles taking the pace out of this one.
2nd/10:47: SC up, 42-40.
2nd/14:26 Suddenly shots have started going in. SC up again, 38-35.
Second half: ... has just tipped off.
Halftime: Amazingly, UW is up, 28-26 at halftime. Terrence Ross hit a 3-pointer -- his third of the half -- to finally get the Huskies ahead in the final minute of the half.
Vucevic leads all scorers with 10 points. Ross leads UW with nine on those three treys. Thomas has four points on just three shots. MBA nine points and eight rebounds.
UW shot 407. percent, but USC 33.3 percent. Huskies also out-rebounding the Trojans, 21-13. Here's an oddity: UW 10 turnovers and five assists. (SC, seven assists, five turnovers.)
Problem for the second half: three fouls on both N'Diaye and Holiday. But here's a potential issue for USC: five Trojans have gone at least 17 minutes, while Romar is using his bench regularly. (Although we have just received word that C.J. Wilcox is out with a sore hip and is doubtful.)
1st/3:43: SC up, 24-21, with the ball.
1st/6:02: Back to back threes by Terrence Ross got UW back. Then a Ross airball trey was put back by Holiday, and Dawgs are down just 19-18.
1st/8:51 Huskies make a little run, pulling to within six at 16-10, and forcing SC into a timeout.
(Also just an amazing moment a while ago, as the UW fans here got going a louder "De-fense" chant than anything we've heard here out of the SC fans.)
1st/11:34 SC, 16-4. UW's only points on a pair of difficult MBA shots around the paint. For now, UW looks perplexed on both ends.
1st/14:53 SC runs it to 12-2, and Romar calls time to try to stop the bleeding.
1st/15:31 SC, 6-2. Huskies missed their first five shots from the floor -- all OK looks -- until MBA hit one on a move through the paint.
Aziz N'Diaye to the bench with two fouls.
Tipoff: The Pac-10 season has begun.
Lineups: Washington going with its usual lineup of Thomas, Gaddy, Holiday, MBA and N'Diaye.SC going with Fontan, Jones, Simmons, Stephenson and Vucevic.
(Big cheer for the Huskies as they took the court. Lots of UW fans apparently took the drive up from San Diego, or flew in here before heading down for the Holiday Bowl tomorrow.)
Pregame: A little over an hour before tipoff there are more UW fans around Galen Center than USC fans.
Trojans and Huskies are out warming up (in black). Justin Holiday (foot) and Venoy Overton (ankle) are participating with their teammates.
We'll keep this post open before, during and after the game. And remember, there's no TV ... although the game will be on its usual 950-AM radio slot.