Wildcats Battle, but Fall Short at Washington

Feb. 28, 2009

SEATTLE (AP) -- Jon Brockman and Washington can claim a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

Brockman scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half and the 21st-ranked Huskies clinched at least a tie for the Pac-10 regular season championship by rallying for a 83-78 win over Arizona on Saturday.

Washington (22-7, 13-4) trailed by 10 midway through the second half, but led by their bullying senior forward, the Huskies came back. Washington took the lead for good on Isaiah Thomas' three-point play with 5:25 left and then hit 10 of 12 free throws in the closing minutes.

Jordan Hill led Arizona (18-11, 8-8) with a gutsy 27 points and 10 rebounds, playing the final four minutes after injuring his left ankle.

But this day belonged to Brockman and the Huskies, who claimed a piece of the conference title for the first time since 1985 when the Huskies were co-champs and led by the international duo of Chris Welp and Detlef Schrempf. The Huskies will have the opportunity to claim their first outright conference title since 1953 with a win over rival Washington State next Saturday.

On an afternoon filled with apprehension and nervous energy, it was Brockman and Thomas, the Huskies diminutive and talented freshman, that brought the Huskies back in the second half. Then after struggling all day with free throws, the Huskies were nearly perfect in the final three minutes to hold on to their lead.

Thomas finished with 19 points and Quincy Pondexter added 12 for Washington, which kept the celebration relatively low key, hoping the real party comes in one week.

Chase Budinger added 20 points for Arizona before fouling out in the closing minutes. Nic Wise, who went off for 29 points against Washington in late January, was 3-for-15 and finished with 11 points. Arizona has now lost three straight after its seven-game winning streak and could use wins next week over California and Stanford to shore up its NCAA tournament resume.

It looked good for Arizona early in the second half. Hill and Budinger combined for 10 straight points as the Wildcats built on a 36-32 halftime lead. While Washington continued to clank free throws, missing out on a pair of three-point play opportunities, Budinger gave the Wildcats a 56-46 lead with 12:26 left on a textbook 16-foot bank shot from the wing.

An arena full of jitters only got more on edge.

Then Brockman got started. Following Elston Turner's 3-pointer, Brockman finally finished a three-point play for Washington. He then scored on a putback, assisted on Matthew Bryan-Amaning's dunk and followed up Turner's miss to get Washington within 62-60.

Thomas split a pair of free throws, but tracked down the rebound on the miss and Pondexter's tip-in of his own miss gave Washington its first lead since 25-23.

As if losing the lead wasn't bad enough for Arizona, Hill missed a jumper in the lane and injured his left ankle landing on the foot of Bryan-Amaning. Hill laid on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the bench, putting very little weight on the foot.

Arizona responded with consecutive 3-pointers from Wise and Budinger to retake the lead, but Thomas answered with a three-point play and a sprinting full-court drive and layup to put Washington up 71-68.

Hill returned with 3:56 left and score six more points for Arizona, but the Huskies were up to the task at the free-throw line and Justin Dentmon's jumper with 40 seconds left gave Washington a five-point cushion it needed.

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