SEATTLE — Even after getting the signature win that had eluded the University of Washington men’s basketball team all season, the Huskies were not in a celebratory mood Tuesday night.
UW’s first win over a ranked opponent this season came against a shell-shocked Texas A&M team that saw one of its senior leaders go down with an injury so gruesome that the entire Aggies’ bench had to look away. When Derrick Roland went down with compound fractures of the tibula and fibula bones in his right leg early in the second half, a hard-fought game between ranked opponents turned into a one-sided affair in a matter of minutes.
As the Huskies went on to beat 19th-ranked Texas A&M 73-64, there was a sense that only one team was really in the game over the final 17 ½ minutes.
“I could tell,” UW senior Quincy Pondexter said when asked whether the injury took the life out of the Texas A&M players. “With a basketball team, you’re a family. To see something like that, everyone’s heart is a little heavy. It’s tough to see that.”
The Texas A&M players were so distraught afterward that tears flowed freely in the post-game locker room. While Roland was resting comfortably at Harborview Medical Center late Tuesday night, his teammates were more concerned with his well-being than any basketball game.
“It affected, obviously, our team in more ways than one,” said Texas A&M associate coach Scott Spinelli, the team’s lone representative who spoke to reporters after the game.
At the time of the injury, the Huskies held a narrow 34-33 lead. Roland went down underneath the Texas A&M basket after landing awkwardly, and the game was delayed 10 minutes while he was loaded onto a stretcher. When play resumed, the Huskies went on a 15-4 run and never looked back.
“It’s hard for his teammates,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, who went through a similar incident when Cincinnati star Kenyon Martin broke his leg in a game against Romar’s St. Louis University team in the 1990s. “How do you respond after that? … It’s sad to see something like that happen.”
When Roland went down, play continued at the other end of the floor. But several players and coaches heard the break, and trainers from both teams immediately rushed to Roland’s side as he lay crumpled under the basket. The entire Texas A&M bench, which was only a few feet from where Roland was, turned away.
UW’s Pondexter, who had grabbed a rebound away from Roland and taken off down the floor, did not see the injury but certainly heard it.
“I heard a loud slap, like his hand hit the floor, but that was the (bone) break,” Pondexter said. “It’s one of the nastiest things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Texas A&M’s Spinelli said that Aggies trainer Matt Doles “almost passed out. It was a very gruesome sight for anybody to look at.”
Spinelli added that a bone could be seen sticking out of Roland’s skin.
Fellow Texas A&M senior Donald Sloan, who grew up with Roland in Dallas, openly wept and had to be helped off the floor by assistant coaches as trainers tended to Roland.
After about a 10-minute delay, the game resumed and saw the Huskies (8-2) pull away. Texas A&M scored the first basket to take a 35-34 lead, but UW followed that with a 15-2 run and eventually led by as many as 14 points.
The gory injury was undoubtedly a factor in the Aggies’ play. At one point, the 19th-ranked team had turnovers on three consecutive possessions as UW turned its one-point lead into a 12-point advantage in a matter of six minutes.
Texas A&M (9-3) did not get the deficit back into single digits until B.J. Holmes hit a baseline 3-pointer with 4:14 remaining to get the Aggies within 58-49. Holmes hit two more 3-pointers within 26 seconds of each other to pull A&M within 66-61 with 1:55 remaining, but that was as close as the Aggies would get.
Pondexter, who was the Huskies’ only offensive threat for most of the first half, finished with a game-high 25 points. UW overcame a slow scoring night from Isaiah Thomas, who had all nine of his points after halftime. Thomas, who averaged 19.9 points per game heading into the contest, shot 3 of 13 from the field.
Holmes, who had four 3-pointers in the final 4:14, led Texas A&M with 17 points. Sloan, a senior, had 16 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
The rattled Aggies missed 19 of their first 23 shots of the second half.
Before Tuesday night’s game, UW had not beaten a ranked opponent, or a team from a power conference, all season. Their first seven wins came against teams from smaller conferences, while games against Texas Tech and Georgetown resulted in losses.
“It feels great (to beat a ranked opponent), especially before Christmas,” Pondexter said. “It’s something to be proud of moving forward going into conference play.”
UW hosts San Francisco on Sunday before facing its first Pac-10 opponent later in the week.