March 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Quincy Pondexter scored 18 points, Isaiah Thomas added 16 and Washington rallied from a late deficit to win the Pac-10 tournament with a thrilling 79-75 victory over California on Saturday.
Venoy Overton hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left for the third-seeded Huskies (24-9), who emphatically salvaged their inconsistent regular season with seven straight wins.
Washington gets the Pac-10's automatic NCAA tournament bid with a come-from-behind win over the top-seeded Golden Bears (23-10), who also are likely headed to the NCAAs with their first regular-season league title in a half-century.
After a four-day tournament filled with blowouts and poorly played games, Cal and Washington finally put on a show worthy of the Staples Center stage _ albeit in front of thousands of empty seats. Both teams made impressive rallies while the lead swung wildly in the final minutes.
Cal trailed 61-52 with 11 minutes to play before scoring 14 consecutive points and holding Washington scoreless for more than 5½ minutes. The Bears led 66-61 before the Huskies made their own 12-2 rally, reclaiming the lead with 3:22 left on a 3-pointer by Elston Turner, who didn't score until the game's final minutes.
Jerome Randle halved the Huskies' lead with a 3-pointer with 1:02 left, and Pondexter committed a turnover _ but Randle was fouled on a loose ball with 4.4 seconds left. The Pac-10 player of the year made the first shot and missed the second intentionally, but the Bears were called for stepping over the line too quickly before Randle could grab his own rebound, and Overton's free throws sealed it for Washington.
Theo Robertson scored 25 points and Jamal Boykin added 20 for the Bears, whose six-game winning streak ended in a back-and-forth final between the Pac-10's last two regular-season champions. Randle managed just 12 points while battling foul trouble.
The Bears have never won the conference tournament, but were the top seed for the first time. They reached the final with comfortable wins over Oregon and UCLA.
Washington, which won the 2005 tournament title, entered this tourney with nine wins in its final 11 games. The Huskies finally gathered some momentum after a choppy regular season that they began ranked before slipping to a 1-3 start to the Pac-10 schedule.
The third-seeded Huskies advanced by beating Oregon State and Stanford in the past two days. Those victories meant Washington seemed likely to make the NCAAs even without a tournament title, but the Huskies removed any doubt.
The teams traded the lead 16 times in the first half. Pondexter had 12 points in the final 12 minutes before halftime, pushing Washington to a 41-37 lead.
The Bears' main problem was foul trouble for Randle, who scored 33 points against Washington last month in Berkeley. He picked up two fouls in the first half and a third early in the second, and the Huskies surged whenever Randle was on the bench.
Washington scored seven straight points while Randle briefly left midway through the second half, jumping to a 59-51 lead with 12 minutes to play.
Yet just when the Huskies appeared poised to put it away with a nine-point lead, Cal made its 15-0 run, starting with five points from Boykin. The Bears made a similar run in their semifinal victory over UCLA, holding the Bruins scoreless for nearly six minutes in the second half.
Randle's free throws with 9:29 to play _ his first points in more than 20 minutes _ put the Bears back ahead. Cal led by five before Washington finally scored again, but the Huskies quickly tied it on Overton's 3-pointer with 4:54 to play.