Up 50-31 with 15:14 to go in the second half, Washington appeared set for the second round. The Huskies were dunking, driving and stopping Washington State.
Some old adages were at work. Difficult to beat your rival. Difficult to beat a team three times in a season. So on and so forth.
When Royce Woolridge drove past Scott Suggs to tie the game 62-62, Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar was calm in the huddle, according to his players. Though, Romar contends he was going crazy on the inside.
“Just call me Denzel, because that was a great acting job” Romar said.
It was fitting for a play that almost became a tragedy before Washington won 64-62.
Washington’s failure to hold its expansive lead turned the final two minutes into a possession-by-possession game, a dangerous prospect when the other team has a lethal scorer like Brock Motum (28 points). Desmond Simmons became the unlikely owner of the game-winning basket when he dove and Abdul Gaddy (11 assists, two turnovers, two questionable 3-pointers attempted late in the game) , hit him on the dive following a pick. Simmons almost always pops after setting a pick.
“I told Gaddy in the timeout, I was going to dive instead of my usual pick-and-pop. In case the shooters were open, I didn’t want to clog it up,” Simmons said.
He spun and put the ball just over the front of the rim. That was the last field goal and came with 1:16 to go in the game.
Washington forced a turnover on WSU’s next possession, then Gaddy shot a deep 3-pointer that didn’t go in. Down two, Washington State came out of a timeout and Motum shot a 3-pointer. Washington had a small group on the floor at the time — Simmons was the “center” — and Scott Suggs was on Motum to start the possession.
Andrew Andrews switched on to him and Motum leaned in to him on a 3-point attempt that was well off. Motum was looking for a foul.
“I thought he reached in and I shot a three.,” Motum said. “I thought I drew a foul. I heaved it up there trying to get three shots. The referees didn’t call it or they didn’t see it and they got the rebound.”
“Up 19, you just have to keep playing,” Gaddy said. “It’s the hardest thing when you’re up 20 and you have so much time left. You get in this chill mode. I tried to tell the guys to keep playing and they got hot. When they tied the game, the main thing was to calm ourselves and get the best shot available. Coach calmed everyone down and drew up a play. He was confident in us.”