Beating Washington on February 26th would have put Arizona in first place in the Pac-10.
It didn’t happen. The Sun Devils lost 73-70 in overtime to the Huskies, the second straight loss after a 7 game winning streak. They still have a chance to make it, as they are only 1 1/2 games behind Washington in the standings, tied with UCLA and California at 10-5.
Washington held the lead for most of the first half, separated by up to 13 points. Jeff Pendergraph led the Sun Devils with 24 field goals and 13 rebounds. James Harden added 19 points, though he only scored 4 in the second half and fouled out early in overtime. “Unbelievable,” senior Jon Brockman said of Holiday and Gant’s tag-team effort.
“They were always just pestering James, always around him, denying him. They wore him out just trying to get the ball. They were always there, always had a body on him.”
“All our help-side did a great job on him as well. He’s a heckuva player, and we did a pretty good job guarding him.”
“It’s a big challenge,” Justin Holiday said. “It took the whole team for us to stop him, and that’s what we did. The first half he had his way a little bit, but the second half we took our business to him and clamped down as a team. And that’s why we won.”
At the end of the first half Arizona trailed only by one point (34-35), but Washington dominated the second half until Venoy Overton turned over the ball and Pendergraph got the steal, taking the lead with a jumper.
Arizona held the lead until 46 seconds left in regulation when Justin Dentmon sank a jumper to regain the lead for the Huskies. Two turnovers by Dentmon and a dunk by Harden sealed the regulation at 61-61, sending them into overtime.
“We played our butts off, it just didn’t come out the way we wanted it to,” Harden said.
The Sun Devils were unable to hold the lead at any point during the overtime battle. Two missed field goals, two turnovers, five fouls, and four missed free throws in the last five minutes contributed to the problem.
Dentmon also made a huge contribution to the win for the Huskies, making up for the crucial mistakes at the end of the second half. He scored the last point on a free throw after a foul by Rihard Kuksiks with 3 seconds left.
The game solidifies Washington in first place, though with only a few weeks and a couple of games in the regular season, anything could still happen. Arizona is obviously disappointed in the loss but is concentrating on the next game.
“Every loss hurts,” Sendek said Thursday night outside a quiet locker room at Bank of America Arena in Seattle, “but they all count one-eighteenth. They all have equal weight in the standings. When you pour your heart out like our guys did, of course it doesn’t feel good. But we credit Washington. They’re an excellent basketball team.” (AZcentral.com)