Most importantly, the Washington Huskies junior forward wound up on his back on the game's most critical possession. Stanford guard Chasson Randle put him there before passing the ball to a teammate, before an official blew his whistle and called a charging foul, which will stand as the most memorable play from UW's 64-60 victory over the Cardinal at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
This was not a game for the meek. It was, however, a game the Huskies badly needed to win. And so they badly needed players like Simmons to make what coach Lorenzo Romar calls "winning plays," efforts that might not be reflected in a box score but that nevertheless help the Huskies navigate the fine line between close victories and heartbreaking losses.
"Desmond didn't score a lot of points," Romar said, "but he was relentless in terms of his effort. Those are the plays that we expect Desmond to make at the end of that game with the charge, taking that charge. Those are the things that he does that just help you win ball games."
Contributions varied for the Huskies (14-11, 6-6 in Pacific-12 Conference), who snapped a 3-game losing streak by finally playing sustained defense. And they did it against a Stanford team that beat them 79-67 in Palo Alto last month, forcing the Cardinal to shoot just 40.8 percent from the field.
UW's home court continues to provide an advantage. The Huskies are 5-0 in Pac-12 play at Hec Ed, and seem to play a different brand of basketball here — tougher, more aggressive, more resolved.
That's how they beat the Cardinal (15-8, 6-5), despite trailing by seven points at halftime. Twelve UW turnovers contributed to that deficit.
Romar also switched personnel, beginning the second half by subbing guard Mike Anderson for Andrew Andrews — he played only five minutes and sat the entire second half — and Shawn Kemp for Perris Blackwell. C.J. Wilcox, Nigel Williams-Goss and Simmons comprised the rest of the group.
Blackwell rejoined them after "taking care of something" in the locker room, Romar said. The coach was searching for the same chemistry that led to a comeback in a victory earlier this season against Oregon State, this time with Simmons in place of Kemp.
He found it. Washington surged ahead, 39-36, thanks to eight consecutive points from Anderson, who finished with 13.
"Those five play so well together," Romar said. "You can just see they're so into playing with each other. It proved to confirm it again tonight."
Williams-Goss scored 16 points, including a floater-and-foul that tied the score with 3:08 remaining. That was 10 minutes after he was forced into the locker room, clutching the hip that has been bothering him the past two weeks.
"I just had to go back and get a little bit of treatment," Williams-Goss said.
His floater was big, but Simmons' baseline jumper with 2:22 to play might have been bigger, because it gave the Huskies a 60-59 lead. After a Stanford turnover, Wilcox, who led UW with 17 points, was fouled and made a pair of free throws to extend UW's lead to three.
Randle made one of two free-throws after driving to the hoop and drawing a foul on Stanford's next possession. Wilcox followed with a miss on the other end. Stanford called timeout to set up its final shot.
"We knew Randle was going to get the ball and try to make a play," Wilcox said. "Des just did what he always does, and made a good defensive play to save us."
He did. Randle dribbled hard toward the rim, but Simmons anticipated this aggression, slid in front of him and stood still, waiting. Randle crashed into him before passing to teammate Josh Heustis, who dunked easily and would have tied the game if not for the whistle.
It was a clear charge. UW inbounded to Wilcox, who made two free throws with 4.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"Des was making plays all game," Williams-Goss said. "Stats doesn't really show how much he really affected this game tonight. He was huge for us."
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