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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“No words, just respect”

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

LOS ANGELES – For all the grief that we’ve given the Miami Heat for crying in a locker room after a mostly-meaningless loss, grief was exactly the feeling in the Arizona Wildcats’ locker room after their heartbreaking loss to the Washington Huskies.

It was only meaningless because the Wildcats, who lost 77-75 on a last-second shot in overtime, are already locked into an NCAA Tournament bid. And as a loss it was so meaningful as well. This is a team with head coach Sean Miller’s winning blood running through its players’ veins.

For the second year in a row, players held back their tears as the media entered their dressing room.

Still in his jersey, junior Kyle Fogg lay on his back, ice upon his strained quad. He stared blankly at the ceiling as his teammates got packed to leave Staples Center, where Arizona sat one step removed from winning the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament.

“”What just happened?”” his expression-less face seemed to say.

The postgame atmosphere was somber. Despite late game breakdowns, there wasn’t much to say for Arizona’s coach.

“”He was a little bit calm,”” point guard Momo Jones said. “”I know he’s upset inside, but there’s nothing more to say.

“”We lost a game that we had.””

And so when Miller and Derrick Williams, who scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, left the main media conference room after interviews and ran into the waiting Huskies with their head coach, Lorenzo Romar, there was nothing but respect.

“”Good shot,”” Williams told hero Isaiah Thomas, who won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors and hit the biggest shot of it all.

Miller followed.

He approached the diminutive point guard as he sat — dead tired — on a table outside the media room. It was Thomas who averaged an astounding 41 minutes per game over three Pacific 10 Conference contests in three days, dictating his team Saturday with a 19-point first half and then a game-winning shot.

Through it all, maybe Thomas was indeed the “”little monster”” that Miller, back in Seattle, had sworn to be.

So it was, that the former Pittsburgh point guard and fiery competitor hugged the guy who had probably just ripped his heart out. And Thomas, so tired, clutched the Arizona head coach, not letting go as Miller tried to pull out of the hug, instead helping lift Thomas off the table to stand upright.

It was that kind of night, that kind of fight.

After his 19-point first half, it was odd enough that Thomas didn’t score again until 6:58 remained in the second half. Yet, the lack of the point guard’s scoring saw Washington go from a 36-33 halftime deficit to a 57-54 lead.

“”I score in bunches, so I’m really not worried about scoring,”” Thomas said. “”I was just worried about making plays for my teammates. When it came down to it, when I needed to score, I did.””

It was too much for Arizona, who even with their own star in Williams couldn’t make the big plays. But it wasn’t just the numbers and the plays that Thomas exerted upon poor Arizona, who had unquestionable effort in defeat.

It was an all-encompassing demeanor that had his teammates still believe.

Said Husky forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning: “”One of our timeouts, Isaiah was just talking to us before the coaches came in, talking about … ‘I’m giving the ball up. I believe in you guys.'””

The Huskies then believed in themselves.

And Thomas made us believe in him.

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

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