No loss is good, but some are way more galling than others, especially when they come in the postseason when a major upset seems imminent. Washington’s hoopsters twice endured Maalox moments in NCAA Tournament hair-raisers against their nickname counterparts from the East, the Connecticut – UConn — Huskies.
We resurrect the debacles of March 19, 1998 and March 24, 2006 as a means of introducing the fact that Huskies vs. Huskies is on tap Sunday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena (12:30 p.m.). The schools have never met in Seattle and have played three times, each result falling in UConn’s favor.
UConn enters as the nation’s No. 10 team, Washington unranked, The likelihood of a UW upset is minimal. On the other hand, UConn is coming off a stunning home loss to Stanford in Hartford, CT., Wednesday, proving the Eastern Huskies are not invulnerable.
It’s been a long time since Washington defeated a non-conference, top-10 team on its home court — Dec. 4, 2006. It required double-digit scoring from Jamaal Williams (22), Justin Dentmon (17), Bobby Jones (15) and Brandon Roy (10) to offset Adam Morrison’s 43 in a 99-95 victory over No. 6 Gonzaga.
But the close encounter that night failed to match the theatrics of the two UW-UConn thrillers, the particulars of which are still painful to Huskies diehards.
March 19, 1998, Greensboro, NC. / UConn 75, UW 74
Richard Hamilton had never nailed a buzzer-beater in his career, let alone in the NCAA tournament, but his rebound jumper in the lane at the buzzer, Connecticut’s third shot in the final eight seconds, gave the second-seeded Huskies a victory over Washington in the East Regional semifinals.
Hamilton’s unlikely fadeaway denied Washington, coached by Bob Bender, an opportunity participate in the Elite Eight against top-ranked North Carolina.
Washington (20-10), the 11th seed that had one of the tournament’s more surprising runs, took its first lead at 74-73 with 33 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Donald Watts. With that, Connecticut called a timeout with 29 seconds remaining.
“When you go to the sidelines at a timeout you never think you’re going to lose,” Watts said. “I thought I put us over the top, but they didn’t give up and they won.”
At the resumption of play, UConn freshman point guard Khalid El-Amin dribbled the ball near midcourt until 10 seconds remained. Then he drove toward the basket and passed to center Jake Voskuhl, whose shot bounced off the rim. Hamilton grabbed the rebound and shot, again with the ball coming back off the rim.
After it was tipped from the other side, Hamilton grabbed the loose ball and hit a fadeaway over 7-foot Patrick Femerling, the ball falling through the basket as the buzzer sounded.
“The ball just came to me and I said, ‘Make sure I gather myself before I let his one go,”‘ Hamilton said. “I gathered myself, let the ball go and it went in.”
Watts couldn’t believe the ball stayed alive as long as it did.
“It seemed all 10 guys got a hand on it,” he said. “Then the worst thing that could have happened, happened.”
The Connecticut players fell to the floor in a huge pile as the Eastern Huskies advanced to the regional finals for the third time.
Hamilton, Big East Player of the Year, finished with 22 points, 18 in the second half, while El-Amin had 19 on 7-for-20 shooting. Watts led Washington, which beat sixth-seeded Xavier and 14th-seeded Richmond to reach the round of 16 for the first time since 1984, with 22 points, while Todd MacCulloch had 18 and Deon Luton 17.
March 24, 2006, Washington, D.C. / UConn 98,UW 92
Despite a season-high 26 turnovers and 10-point second-half deficit, Connecticut rallied to force overtime on Rashad Anderson’s 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation. Then the Huskies of the Big East held off the foul-depleted Huskies of the Pac-10 in the extra period for a berth in the NCAA’s Elite Eight.
Connecticut did its best to give away the game, even after it appeared the contest was sewn up in overtime. Taking the ball out of bounds with UConn leading by two with 16 seconds left, Rudy Gay committed the 26th turnover when Ryan Appleby of Washington intercepted his inbounds pass.
But Appleby tossed to Joel Smith, who inexplicably threw the ball right back to UConn. Marcus Williams grabbed the pass, was fouled, and then made both free throws with 11.3 seconds to play.
UW senior Jamaal Williams came off the bench to score a career-high 27 points, including the first 3-pointer of his college career, to lead the fifth-seeded UW Huskies (26-7), who held a 10-point lead with 15 minutes to play but ran out of players down the stretch: Two fouled out in regulation, and two more in overtime.
Sunday will provide Washington an opportunity for payback, but defeating top 10 foes is a rare accomplishment for the Pac-12 Huskies. In the Lorenzo Romar era (since 2003), Washington has faced a top-10 opponent 30 times. The Huskies have won nine:
|1/29/04||UW 96, #9 Arizona 83||Nate Robinson career-high 31 points and five steals|
|3/6/04||UW 85, #1 Stanford 62||Tre Simmons 16 pts; UW fans stormed court|
|2/26/05||UW 93, #9 Arizona 85||Tre Simmons 24 points; UW’s 22 straight home win|
|3/12/05||UW 81, #8 Arizona 72||Nate Robinson tallied 6 points in final 1:07|
|12/4/05||UW 99, #6 Gonzaga 95||Jamal Williams 22 points; Adam Morrison 43|
|1/25/07||UW 89, #7 Oregon 77||J. Dentmon 24, R. Appleby 16, S. Hawes 15|
|3/3/07||UW 61, #2 UCLA 51||Jon Brockman 20 points, Spencer Hawes 15 boards|
|2/10/08||UW 71, #5 UCLA 61||J. Dentmon 20 points, J. Brockman 17 rebounds|
|3/20/10||UW 82, #8 N. Mex. 64||Q. Pondexter (18) led NCAA tournament win|
Four of the nine occurred from 2004-05, when future NBAers Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy, both All-Americas, wore purple and gold. Four more came with Roy playing his way into a UW jersey retirement, and only one has happened since, an 82-64 victory over No. 8 New Mexico in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Since that game, Washington has confronted a top-10 opponent seven times, most recently dropping a 57-53 decision to No. 8 Arizona Jan. 31.