[caption id="attachment_34044" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Stanford's Chasson Randle celebrates after sinking a game winning basket to defeat Washington in an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Pac-12 conference tournament Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. Stanford won 71-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)[/caption]
LAS VEGAS – It's finally over.
Injuries, losses, a key dismissal, more losses -- this tortuous, at-times miserable 2014-15 men's basketball season is finally over for the Washington Huskies, who will leave Sin City feeling as if they should be here for at least another night.
Buoyed by another uncharacteristically strong 3-point shooting performance – and a well-timed missed dunk that changed the complexion of the game – it appeared as if the Huskies would find a way to extend their season on Wednesday night in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But Stanford guard Chasson Randle buried a long-range 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left, and the Huskies lost, 71-69. Their frustrating season ends with a 16-15 overall record.
"It was not a season that any of us wanted to have," sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. "Obviously we had some uncontrollables hit us. Some injuries. Players leaving the program. It’s just a lot to deal with on a week to week basis. Regardless of the circumstances, we wanted to have a better year and it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t.”
And it ended with a game they will feel should have been theirs. Stanford led by a single point when Anthony Brown caught an outlet pass, all by himself, and leapt for what should have been an easy slam dunk with a little more than four minutes remaining.
But he missed it, UW forward Jernard Jarreau grabbed the rebound, and Mike Anderson triggered a pass to Nigel Williams-Goss, who made a transition 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 66-64 lead with 3:58 to play.
Jarreau buried a corner 3-pointer on UW’s next possession to make it 69-64.
"I really, really feel for our players," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Our guys fought, guys played together. We came up short. You hate to see when someone puts forth an effort like that, that you come out on the short end. That was the case.”
The Huskies shot 13-for-20 from 3-point range, four days after hitting 8-of-14 in a shocking upset over Utah.
Washington’s savior in the first half was Dan Kingma, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound freshman walk-on from Jackson High in Mill Creek.
He’s received more playing time in recent games, and on Wednesday he made his biggest impact yet, connecting on each of his three attempts from 3-point range. The score was tied, 32-32, at halftime, and Kingma was UW’s leading scorer with nine points.
His hot shooting helped offset Stanford’s obvious interior skill advantage, which again was exploited most frequently by Cardinal forward Stefan Nastic. The 6-foot-11 senior scored 11 of his 21 points in the first half, mostly dropping soft, close hook-shots into the hoop.
But Stanford had a hard time defending UW’s guards, particularly Williams-Goss. And particularly in the second half. After a shaky 1-for-7 performance before halftime, Williams-Goss made his first five shots of the second half, and finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
He sparked a quick 10-2 run that gave the Huskies a 49-42 lead with 13:40 to play, their largest lead of the game at that point.
But a pair of turnovers on consecutive possessions yielded two easy baskets for the Cardinal, one by freshman forward Reid Travis and the next by Brown, tying the score at 51-51.
It was Andrew Andrews’ turn to take over after that. He pulled up and made a short jumper. He knocked down a 3-pointer. He pulled up for another jumper, this one just off the left baseline. And he made yet another short jumper on the next trip up the court, reeling off eight points in four possessions.
But Travis began asserting himself around that time, too, scoring nine of Stanford’s 13 points during a four-and-a-half minute period to keep the Cardinal within 60-59 with 7:45 left in the game.
After Nastic trimmed the lead to 69-68 with two buckets, it was Kingma who went to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 inside the final 30 seconds. He missed the front end. Stanford rebounded, and Rosco Allen missed a jumper with fewer than 10 seconds remaining.
But the Cardinal rebounded his miss – one of 13 offensive boards for Stanford – and the ball wound up in Randle’s hands. The senior guard, who finished with only 10 points, nailed a long 3-pointer to end the Huskies’ season.
Andrews, who led UW with 22 points, missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.
Romar said he was fine with Kingma, who had made 4-of-6 from the free-throw line this season, being at the line with the game in the balance.
"We were fine with him taking it. He came to the ball, we knew they’d be harping him," Romar said. "The most important thing is to get the ball inbounds. We were able to get the ball inbounds against Utah in our last game, crunch time, and he was in there the same way.”
Williams-Goss had Kingma's back, too.
"I told him I love him like a brother. I told him that there was not another walk-on in this tournament stepping up for his team like he did for us in the first half," Williams-Goss said. "Dan’s going to be a heck of a player and I just told him like I did after I missed my free throw, just got back in the gym, made 100 fee throws a day every day after that to not let it happen again in the future. We all trust Dan. If we could do it again, I’d have him up there again and have full confidence that he can make those free throws.”
But they can't. This season is in the rearview now.
Given how it played out, that's be a good place for it.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple