As spectacular in the second half as they were dreadful in the first half, the Huskies stunned Washington State 75-65 Sunday afternoon at Hec Ed with an emotional rally sparked by a technical foul on Romar.
Struggling in the first half with four points, Terrence Ross exploded in the second, scoring UW’s first 10 points of the period and finishing with 30 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs.
The Huskies (11-6. 4-1 Pac-12) found out before the game that C.J. Wilcox, their premier scorer off the bench, would not play because of a chronically sore hip. They appeared to pine for him in the first 20 minutes, trailing at the break 31-25, tying their lowest scoring half of the season. The Cougars sat back in a 2-3 and dared the Huskies to beat them over the top. UW missed 11 of its 14 three-pointers before the break.
The Huskies fell behind 45-37 when Ross was called for a foul that threw Romar into a sideline rage, which drew the technical foul. The two free throws by Faisal Aden put Washington State (9-8, 1-4,) up 47-37, but the sellout crowd — minus a few hundred fans who were probably snowbound — jumped into the fray and energized the team. The Cougars, who won both regular-season games with the Huskies last season, had no counter, and lost for the fourth time in five games.
“Sometimes our guys can get excited about things,” Romar said of the T. “Then the crowd got excited. When they do that, none is better.”
Washington ripped off an 18-2 run from the tech, supplemented by a pair of big three-pointers from senior co-captain Darnell Gant, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds despite coming off the bench for the second game in a row. He also had an electrifying alley-oop slam along the baseline, that was preceded by a fast-break dunk off a Tony Wroten steal that provided Washington a 50-49 lead, its first since the opening basket.
“It really helped,” Romar said, “that Darnell came out shooting like a guard.”
Aziz N’Diaye, who hit four consecutive free throws in the second half, had 12 points and eight boards, helping UW to a huge 46-24 rebound advantage that deflected some of the consequences of the cold shooting (29 percent) in the first half. Also instrumental in the second half was a commitment to defense. Brock Motum, WSU’s leading scorer in the first half with 13 points, finished with 17 as the Huskies denied him inside passage.
“Our defense kept us in it,” said Ross. ” We weren’t shooting well in the first half. In the second half, we played D and our shots started falling.”