By Tony Solorzano
(Los Angeles) – a 43-point output from Klay Thompson was not enough to get Washington State past their in-state rivals as Washington held on for a 89-87 victory to advance to the Semifinals of the Pacific Life PAC-10 Tournament Thursday night at Staples Center.
Thompson returned to the lineup for the Cougars (19-12) after missing the regular season finale against UCLA while serving a suspension for violating team rules the previous week. However, despite the layoff, Thompson sparked a Cougar comeback that nearly upset the third-seeded Huskies (21-10) in a game that seemed to be firmly in hand of the Cougars after the first half.
“We had a great beginning but in the second half, Washington started scoring on each possession and that really set the tone,” Cougars head coach Ken Bone said after the game. “We played some great defense in the first half, limited their runs but Washington’s eight to nothing run to start the second half really got them ahead of us.”
It was all Cougars in that first half, as Thompson hit four three-point shots en route to 18 points in the first half. DeAngelo Casto and Faisal Aden contributed eight points each in the half as the Cougars stretched their lead to as much as 13 points midway through the half, but the Huskies managed to close the gap to eight points, but trailed 40-32 at the half.
At the start of the second half, Washington wiped out the eight-point hole within the first two minutes. Justin Holiday pulled down an offensive rebound off Matt Bryan-Amaning’s jump shot and put in an easy layup. One minute later C.J. Wilcox hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to three. Thirty seconds later, Isaiah Thomas tied the score with a three-pointer of his own two minutes in. From there, the teams tied the score two more times before Thompson and Casto helped to pull the Cougars out to an eight-point advantage nearly six minutes into the second half.
However, the Huskies began to dig their way out of the hole Thompson’s shooting put them in. Holiday brought the crowd to their feet with a monster dunk that caught the Cougar defense off-guard. Thomas then hit a three and converted a steal for another score to briefly give the Huskies a 60-59 midway through the second half.
Three minutes later, just past the nine-minute mark Holiday helped spark an 11-2 run over the next three minutes that put the Huskies ahead by six. However, Thompson hit two straight three-pointers in a 30-second span that tied the game, 73-73, with just over five minutes left in the game.
Wilcox responded with two threes of his own to put the lead back up to six, then hit a third in response to Reggie Moore’s two free throws. Casto and Aden answered with scores to put the Cougars within three but Thomas responded with a score of his own. Thompson then scored the last nine points for the Cougars as he closed the lead to a single point three times. He was going to attempt to steal the inbound ball with a second left when the Cougar bench was called for a technical foul for calling a time out after using up their timeouts in the half. Wilcox sank one of the two free throws, giving the Huskies the two-point victory as time ran out.
“Well, obviously it was a heck of a college basketball game,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. “Our guys scrapped and gave every ounce of what they had for us to come back and get that victory.”
Thompson’s 43 points and eight 3-pointers set a PAC-10 Tournament record for most points in a single game, while his 15 field goals tied the record held by UCLA’s Reggie Miller. He tied his career high and he is now tied for the fifth-highest single-game points in Division I this season. Aden finished the game with 17 points and Casto had 13 in the losing effort.
Five Huskies finished in double figures, led by Thomas’ 21 points and 11 assists. Terrence Ross dropped in 17 points, Wilcox and Bryan-Amaning each added 16 and Holiday added 12.