By Tony Solorzano
Thomas’ shot, just to the left of the key, capped off a stunning comeback for the third-seeded Huskies (23-10) after they erased a four-point lead by the top-seeded Wildcats (27-7) held late in regulation. The Huskies’ Kevin Parrom had tied the game with 19 seconds left in the overtime period. As the seconds ticked down, Thomas took control of the team and directed them into position as he launched the winner with one second left on the clock, and swished through with 0.1 seconds on the clock, giving the Huskies the win and the conference’s automatic berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
Thomas, named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, said he knew what needed to be done and told Head Coach Lorenzo Romar in his own way.
“Coach was going to call a time out. He trusted me. I told him let me just try to take it and get something, I knew,” Thomas said after the game. “I knew I had a smaller guy on me, so I could get a shot off and I just made a little step back and God made the ball go in the hoop.”
In the first half, the Huskies got out to an early 3-0 lead but two three-pointers from Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg and three points from Williams quickly turned the tide for the Wildcats. They extended their lead to eight with just under five minutes left in the half before Thomas and freshman Terrence Ross began to chip away at the lead until Thomas dropped two free throws with 16 seconds left in the half, cutting the Wildcat lead to three, 36-33, at the end of the half. At the half, Thomas had19 points, hitting six of nine field goals and four-for-four from the free throw line.
In the second half, Williams and Solomon Hill quickly put Arizona up by seven but the freshman Ross hit the next five consecutive points. Each side tied up the score in a span of three minutes before the Huskies started to pull away midway through the half, getting a six point lead with 10:52 left in the game, but Kevin Parrom and Williams hit the next four scores for the Wildcats. Late in regulation, Arizona held a four point lead with two minutes left and all signs pointed to the Wildcats holding serve for the win, but Thomas buried a three from the left side to cut the lead to one with 33 seconds left.
However, Williams restored the lead to four when he was fouled by Scott Suggs while shooting. The basket counted and Williams sank the free throw to put Arizona back up to four. But Ross, on a quick pass from Thomas, Hit another three from the right corner and the lead was down to one, 66-65, with 17 seconds left. Lamont Jones hit two free throws and put Arizona back up by three, 68-65, but with seven seconds left, C.J. Wilson hit the third straight three for Washington. Jones made the last shot of regulation, but his potential winning three was short and clanked off the front of the rim, as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
Thomas led all scorers with 28, the second-highest output of the tournament after Klay Thompson’s 43 on Thursday. Ross was the only other Husky in double figures, hitting 16 points. Williams hit 24 for Arizona going eight-for-14 from the field and hitting eight free throws. Both Parrom and Hill had 12 points in the loss.