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Huskies rally for memorable finish against Marquette in NCAA tournament

Pondexter’s ‘storybook’ shot lifts Washington to victory

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
  • Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning (left) hugs Quincy Pondexter after Pondexter scored what turned out to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds ...

    Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

    Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning (left) hugs Quincy Pondexter after Pondexter scored what turned out to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds to play against Marquette. The Huskies won 80-78.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Of all the words University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has used to describe the Huskies’ first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament, the Marquette Golden Eagles certainly wore one of them best on Thursday evening.
And they weren’t the only ones.
After watching Marquette pull away early in the second half, Romar’s Huskies put up quite a fight of their own Thursday. UW came all the way back from a 15-point, second-half deficit, then got another memorable finish from its super senior to knock off the Golden Eagles 80-78 and advance to Saturday’s second round.
The Huskies (25-9) face New Mexico (30-4) Saturday afternoon, 30 minutes after the completion of the 12:20 p.m. game between Butler and Murray State.
It marks the fourth time in six seasons that the Huskies have won an NCAA tournament game, and in a way this one was the most hard-fought.
“It was very intense,” senior Quincy Pondexter said of UW’s first-round game on Thursday. “No one wants to go home.”
Thanks to Pondexter, the Huskies won’t have to.
After tracking down a missed 3-pointer from teammate Isaiah Thomas and saving the loose ball from going out of bounds with 30 seconds to play, Pondexter got the ball back at the top of the key and waited out the final seconds. Romar later admitted that he considered calling a timeout with 18 seconds to go, then again with 12 seconds remaining, but in the end he decided to let his star senior decide the Huskies’ fate.
Using a crossover dribble, Pondexter got a step on Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and drove past him for the winning bank shot with 1.7 seconds to play. A halfcourt heave by the Golden Eagles’ Lazar Hayward at the buzzer hit the backboard and fell away to secure the first game-winner in the final two seconds of an NCAA game in school history.
“Having the ball in my hands the last five seconds (of a tournament game) is something you dream of as a kid,” said Pondexter, who scored 14 of his 18 points after halftime. “It’s one of those storybook shots.”
Even putting themselves in position for more heroics from Pondexter was a minor miracle for the Huskies. After going back and forth with Marquette during a first half that included eight lead changes and no lead bigger than five points, UW got outscored 11-2 to start the second half and eventually trailed by 15 — at 60-45 with 13:56 remaining.
That’s when Romar turned to a quicker lineup that included deep reserve Darnell Gant and wing players Pondexter, Thomas, Venoy Overton and Elston Turner. The unit turned up the defensive pressure, forcing four turnovers in just more than two minutes, to spark the comeback.
Turner scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and UW hit 11 of 13 shots over a 91/2 minute stretch to come all the way back. The 27-11 run ended with a Turner transition 3 that gave the Huskies a 72-71 lead with 5:20 remaining.
After that, the relentless, back-and-forth basketball continued down the stretch. The final five minutes saw Marquette take leads of 74-72, 76-74 and 78-76, only to have UW tie the score every time.
And then came time for Pondexter to close the deal.
After turnovers by both teams kept the score tied at 78 as the clock ticked down under a minute, Pondexter tried to back down Butler in the lane but kicked the ball out to Thomas on the wing. Thomas fired a 3-pointer that bounced off to the far side, and Pondexter gave chase at the rebound.
He nearly went into press row trying to track down the ball, barely saving it with a swat toward Turner near halfcourt.
Pondexter got the ball back at the top of the key and waited as the clock ran down. Romar resisted the urge to call a timeout, allowing his senior to decide things for himself.
“I decided not to call a timeout, to let your senior have a chance to win it,” Romar said afterward.
Pondexter made Romar’s inactivity look like the biggest move of the night.
“Quincy didn’t want this to be his last game,” Thomas said. “And like the captain he is, he hit a big shot and put us on his back.”
Now, Pondexter gets one more chance. The Huskies beat one of the nation’s most relentless teams on Thursday, and they did it by being relentless.
During an unlikely run to the NCAA tournament, UW has proven to be tough as nails.
“To finish that way, and to beat a team that has done so well in those type of games,” Romar said, “I think it speaks volumes about our team. But also about where our team is now as opposed to six, seven weeks ago.”
All that matters now is where the Huskies will be on Saturday afternoon. And that’s back at the HP Pavilion, where they’ll be looking for another shot at getting to their third Sweet 16 in six years.
“That would be so great,” junior Justin Holiday said. “None of us have ever been there. Just to see it on TV, you always want to be a part of (the Sweet 16).”
Story tags » Huskies Basketball

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