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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA slips in back-and-forth contest

SEATTLE — Eerie, awkward and inconceivable — unpredictable play was exactly what made Thursday’s game for first place in the Pacific 10 Conference a classic.

Despite bouts of wild flurries, the Arizona Wildcats’ match-up against the Washington Huskies lived up to its billing, highs and lows accentuating an atmosphere that perhaps renewed a recent but diminished rivalry.

Or was it just the usual gutty play by the Huskies in front of their home crowd?

“”Exactly what I expected,”” UA forward Solomon Hill said of playing the Huskies at their arena. “”They play the same game everyday.””

It was 2005, not that long ago, when Arizona’s Hassan Adams and UW’s Brandon Roy, leading the two best teams in the league, battled head-to-head in a 96-95 Arizona double-overtime win after UA overcame a 13-point deficit.

Again, there the Wildcats and Huskies were Thursday night, scrapping for Pac-10 supremacy. Only this time the conference’s longest tenured coach, UW’s Lorenzo Romar, in his ninth season, was in a heated battled with a sophomore head coach in Arizona’s Sean Miller. The Wildcats, however, fell 85-68 in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

The veteran won out.

“”It was for first place,”” Arizona’s Derrick Williams said. “”They played better than us tonight.

“”They’re the better team.””

Though the game played out as both teams missed opportunities, earned opportunities, then fizzled them away once again, the usual suspects from each team spouted their normal swagger and skill.

It was when UW junior Isaiah Thomas, as advertised, drilled timely buckets and made the seemingly impossible plays that wouldn’t show up in the box score. When his out-of-bounds save and resulting pass to forward Darnell Gant resulted in a nine-point UW lead halfway through the second half, it was the epitome of the junior’s savvy and never-back-down swagger.

Though Williams struggled in the first half and recorded his fourth foul with 10 minutes yet to be played, nothing kept him from dominating. He played most of those final 10 minutes as Miller stuck with him. What else was the coach to do? Williams was the only counter to Thomas.

Still, the veteran won that battle, too. It was the plays made by the veteran Huskies and the possession squandered by Arizona.

And it wasn’t as if UW didn’t give Arizona opportunities. Early on, Thomas, fouled by freshman point guard Jordin Mayes on a 3-point attempt, missed three free throws in a row. The teams combined to hit just five of their first 13 free throws.

The Huskies had one series where they grabbed three offensive rebounds, took four shots and still couldn’t stick the ball in the hole.

Adding to the perplexing nature of the contest, the officials had some nonsensical calls as well, giving Thomas a free throw after UA forward Kevin Parrom fouled UW’s Matt Bryan-Amaning hard on a fast break. Bryan-Amaning was seemingly getting his eye looked at and Thomas was shooting in his place. Instead, they rescinded Thomas’ first foul shot — a miss — to give Bryan-Amaning two more, which he made.

But like everything else, the officiating went both ways.

UW’s Justin Holiday knocked down a 3-pointer on the Huskies last possession, an unnecessary dagger to the Wildcats with just seconds to make up a double-digit lead.

In the end, you couldn’t knock Washington or Thomas’ egos.

The Huskies gave Arizona a lesson in how to win.

“”Once we were down, we never caught back up,”” Williams said. “”When we go to Pullman, we’ll be a whole different team.

“”Everybody’s going to play hard. I’ll make sure of that.””

 

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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