Thomas' Buzzer-Beater Gives Washington Tournament Title
By Michelle Smith
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LOS ANGELES - Isaiah Thomas' step-back jumper at the buzzer in overtime ended the final men's basketball game in Pac-10 history Saturday at Staples Center in thrilling fashion, sending Washington to a 77-75 win over Arizona in the title game of the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament.
Thomas' heroics came after Arizona's Kevin Parrom hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with 19 seconds go to, giving Washington one last possession to get the win.
It was the first overtime game in tournament title game history and Thomas was its star.
The dynamic point guard finished with 28 points, and led Washington to back-to-back tournament titles. The Huskies won both titles as a No. 3 seed. Washington becomes the first Pac-10 school to win back-to-back tournament titles since the new incarnation of the tournament began in 2002.
"We felt from the beginning of the year if we came out and played Husky basketball and played the way we were capable of, we'd have a chance to be successful in most any game," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "So we'll go see. We'll see what happens. It's a good time for us to be playing together and playing right."
Arizona is credited with winning four in a row from 1988-90 and then 2002 when the tournament returned.
The Wildcats (26-8) lost the contest, but won the conference regular-season title and await a high seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Arizona was making its first title game appearance since 2005.
Arizona was led by Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Williams credited Thomas after the game.
"Give him credit. Great players make great shots and it's going to go down as one of the greatest shots in Pac-10 tournament history," Williams said.
The two teams split the regular-season series, and this was a nip and tuck game for much of the afternoon. The lead changed hands 12 times with eight ties. Arizona led by as many as eight points in the first half. Washington had a six-point lead with 10:52 to go in the second half.
"These were teams that were playing their hearts out," said Arizona coach Sean Miller. "In terms of this game, we gave them 16 second-(chance) shots. Some of their possessions on defense seemed like an eternity because they were getting second and third shots. It's tough to win against Washington when you give them 16 second shots.
"The good news for us is that we played hard and we played well and we are looking forward to the NCAA Tournament."
Thomas, who also set the tournament record for assists in a three-game effort, scored nine of his points in the final seven minutes of the game. He finished with seven assists and played all 45 minutes.
I was just worried about making plays for my teammates," Thomas said. "When it came down to it, when I needed to score, I did. At the end of the day it was just about making plays and seeing where I could get people open shots."
Washington freshman Terrence Ross, making just the third start of his career, finished with 16 points.
"One of these days when I'm not coaching anymore I'll sit back in the rocking chair and reminisce about this game," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "I'll remember a lot of things about this tournament, and they're all good."
Arizona led 36-31 at the half, but Washington stayed close thanks to Thomas, who had 19 at the half, the single-best half from a Huskies player this season.