SEATTLE — As the pile of celebrating bodies grew, Washington’s Dominic Green started to get uneasy. He’d never been in the situation of celebrating a game-winning basket like this, let alone where he was the one hitting the shot.
“I was really nervous,” Green said. “Just because something like that had never happened, so it gave me the butterflies.”
Green was at the center of Washington’s raucous celebration Saturday night after his 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Huskies a 78-75 upset of No. 9 Arizona.
Washington went to freshman Jaylen Nowell with the clock winding down, but his shot was blocked by Arizona star Deandre Ayton. Green grabbed the swatted shot near the Washington bench and beat the buzzer with his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cap a huge week for Washington’s improving NCAA tournament chances.
“When he shoots, I think it’s going in. In that moment, there’s a lot of stuff going on. It left his hand and your body is trying to spiritually put it in the hole and when you see it, it’s just like pure mayhem,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said.
Green finished with 14 points off the bench and the biggest shot of his UW career as the Huskies (17-6, 7-3 Pac-12) knocked off ranked teams at home in back-to-back games. The Huskies beat No. 25 Arizona State 68-64 Thursday night.
Lost in the mayhem around Green’s shot was possibly the best game of Noah Dickerson’s career. Despite being undersized against the Arizona duo of Ayton and Dusan Ristic, Dickerson finished with a game-high 25 points and at times was Washington’s only offensive option.
Ristic scored 21 points for Arizona (19-5, 9-2) and Allonzo Trier had 17 of his 20 in the second half. Ayton was a force on the inside with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, but missed a free throw with 21 seconds remaining that would have given Arizona the lead.
Arizona had won 16 of 17 and eight straight against Washington. Arizona coach Sean Miller was unhappy with the defensive effort.
“Their offense was too good for our defense and I would just sum it up like that,” Miller said.
Nowell has been the main option for Washington in the closing seconds of close games this season and he was able to get into the lane, but Ayton was there to block the attempt. Green had been deadly when given open looks all night and was unguarded on the wing after the defense collapsed on Nowell. Emmanuel Akot made a late attempt to get a hand in Green’s face, but the shot was already gone, setting off a celebration that included students storming the court.
“I just knew I was going to get it up as quick as I can,” Green said. “I knew there was only two or three seconds left.”
Washington played inspired from the start and led by as many as 14 points early in the second half.
A run by Arizona felt inevitable and it finally arrived. Parker Jackson-Cartwright got to the rim on a second-chance opportunity and his three-point play pulled Arizona even at 61-all with 7:05 left. Ayton’s jumper on Arizona’s next possession pushed the Wildcats in front for the first time and the teams exchanged the lead six more times over the next three minutes.
Green’s corner 3-pointer with 1:19 left pulled the Huskies even at 73-all. It turned out not to be the most important 3-pointer he’d make.
“Dom made a legendary play for Husky basketball,” Hopkins said.
Arizona’s inability to get anything from behind the 3-point line was huge. Arizona was 2-of-12 on 3-pointers after entering the game shooting 40 percent from deep.
Washington employed a similar defensive strategy to beat Kansas in December. Washington was willing to let the Wildcats shoot 15-footers but challenged 3-point attempts and shots down low. The strategy worked in the first half when the Wildcats shot just 36 percent. But Ayton started knocking down the free-throw line jumpers in the second half to help the Wildcats rally.
Arizona assistant coach Lorenzo Romar made his first return to Washington, where he was the head coach for 15 seasons before being fired last March. Romar was greeted with a standing ovation and chants of “Romar” when he took the court with the rest of the Arizona coaching staff minutes before tipoff. Washington also showed a brief video of Romar’s accomplishments during pregame introductions.