LAS VEGAS — Washington soared in for dunks, dropped in 3-pointers and pushed the lead to 15 midway through the second half.
Comfortable? Maybe against some other team. When the Huskies play rival Washington State, they know no lead is safe.
Scott Suggs scored 19 points, C.J. Wilcox added 11 and Washington held off a furious rally for a 64-62 win in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday night.
“That’s not the first time we’ve played Washington State and the game didn’t end up something like that,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “It’s unbelievable that regardless of how the game starts, at the end it comes out that way.”
Washington (18-14) appeared to be headed toward a rout, leading by 19 early in the second half and still up 62-47 when Suggs hit a 3-pointer with 8:35 left.
Not so fast.
The Apple Cup rivals played two close games during the regular season, and the Cougars (13-19) mounted a charge, scoring 15 straight points to tie.
The reeling Huskies calmed themselves after going 8 minutes without a field goal and put together a good possession that resulted in Abdul Gaddy finding Desmond Simmons inside for a tough shot that put them up 2 with 1:16 left.
Gaddy finished with 11 assists for sixth-seeded Washington, which moves on to face third-seeded Oregon in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“We kept playing hard, but they got hot and they started scoring,” Gaddy said. “So when they tied the game, the main thing was calm ourselves and get the best shot available and make sure we’re solid on both sides.”
Washington State had a final shot, but Brock Motum badly missed a 3-pointer while trying to draw a foul with 3 seconds left. Washington was then able to get the ball inbound and kill the clock.
Motum had 28 points in what’s likely his final game for Washington State, and D.J. Shelton added 19.
“It’s happened quite a bit this year,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “The really good teams around the country win those games.”
Washington came into the tournament after a regular season filled with streaks.
The Huskies opened Pac-12 play with four straight wins, lost seven of eight, then closed the season 3-1. Washington finished tied for sixth in the conference 9-9 and was likely looking at a Pac-12 title as its only shot at making the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies fell flat at last year’s tournament, losing to Utah in the opening round to become the first team from a power conference to win the regular season title and not make the NCAA tournament.
Washington State went through a tough regular season, losing games to ranked teams like Kansas and Gonzaga before laboring 4-14 through the Pac-12. The Cougars did end the season on an uptick, beating then-No. 23 UCLA by 12 and completing the Southern California sweep by blowing out USC by 25.
Washington swept two meetings between the rivals during the regular season, but both games were close: by five in Spokane on Jan. 5 and by four 10 days earlier in Seattle.
The Huskies jumped on the Cougars early in the 277th meeting between the schools, hitting five of their first nine shots and using an 11-0 run to go up 15-5.
After going more than 7 minutes without a field goal, Washington State started hitting shots, but had a hard time trimming that initial deficit.
Suggs had 13 points by halftime, and Washington led 36-25.
The Huskies opened the second half with a pair of alley-oops by Gaddy and kept flying, going up 48-31 on consecutive 3-pointers in the corner by Wilcox.
Washington State fought back with the 15-0 run, capped by consecutive layups by Royce Woolridge that tied the game at 62 with just under 3 minutes left.
Simmons answered with his shot inside, and Washington State failed on two possessions while trying to tie, fumbling the ball away before Motum’s last-second shot was off the mark.
“I thought I’d draw a foul,” Motum said. “There was contact. The referees didn’t see it.”