For Washington‘s first game of college basketball’s premier month, it was March Blandness, a good one to have kept off TV.
The game matching the best and worst of the Pac-12 Conference went to form: RPI vs. RIP. Washington 80, USC 58, and get the Trojans off the stage.
Beset by injury and NCAA scandal, the decimated Trojans tried valiantly to bring some dignity to the Thursday night proceedings, watched by a paltry 2,763 at Galen Center, cutting an 18-point deficit to nine early in the second half. But the Huskies re-engaged the throttle to clinch at least a share of the league title for the seventh time in school history. The points were the most allowed this season by the normally defensively tough Trojans, who lost 69-41 in Seattle Feb. 4.
The Huskies (21-8, 14-3) won their fifth in a row and 16th in the past 19 games. The caliber of the opponent did no favors for UW’s profile for the NCAA tournament selection committee — the 1-16, 6-24 Trojans have lost more games than any in school history — but the caliber of the Huskies is speaking for itself.
“After the Oregon loss (82-57 Feb. 9), we said we had to come out and find a way to play five good games in a row,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “We’re four for four. But that isn’t five for five.
“Our group came out with a great focus Monday in practice. That didn’t surprise me, but after (USC) cut into lead when we had defensive lapses, we constantly talked to them about finishing right.”
After fouling out with two points in 21 minutes against Washington State Saturday, Terrence Ross scored 18 to lead Washington. Los Angeles native Darnell Gant justified his third consecutive start with 14 points and nine rebounds, the latter part of a 49-23 board advantage. Tony Wroten missed 11 of 13 shots, but had eight rebounds and six assists. Abdul Gaddy had 12 points and five assists. Byron Wesley led USC with a game-high 23 points.
“We wanted to play like champions, no matter what their record was,” said Gant. “Tone and C.J. didn’t have good scoring nights. So I just tried to do what team needs.
“Romar told us after Oregon loss that we had to win out. We’ve been coming out with a serious mindset — no joking around.”
In their nationally televised regular-season finale at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Huskies will try for a fourth consecutive road win and only the fourth sweep in school history of the LA powers when they play UCLA, which clobbered Washington State 78-46 Thursday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
The Bruins were highly charged after being embarrassed nationally by a Sports Illustrated story this week detailing many misdeeds in the program under coach Ben Howland.