LAS VEGAS – A hopeful patron watched as the ball left Andrew Andrews’ hands, hurtling toward the hoop as the final seconds ticked down around 11 p.m. Thursday night.
As the net thwacked and the rest of the crowd murmured and finalized plans to sprint for the blackjack tables, the excitable man sitting courtside thrust his arms skyward and jumped up and down in what presumably was a lonesome but jubilant display of gambling euphoria.
Yes, the Washington Huskies had covered the 3.5-point spread, Andrews’ otherwise meaningless basket pulling UW to an 80-77 overtime loss to the Oregon Ducks in Thursday’s Pac-12 quarterfinal round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Hey, it’s Vegas. You choose your own victories here.
There weren’t any for the guys in purple – though they dressed primarily in black, a uniform combo that hasn’t suited them well this season – as coach Lorenzo Romar waxed uncertain afterward about his team’s chances of receiving an NIT bid.
One bet is safe: they won’t play in the CBI. Romar made that clear.
“I can’t predict what happens in postseason. In 2007, we won 19 games. I thought we were two wins away from being in the NCAA tournament and we didn’t get an NIT bid that year,” Romar said. “So, not sure what’s going to happen. Obviously I think we’re deserving of it. I don’t know.”
That the Huskies (18-15) aren’t still playing is due to another spasm of the kind of things that plagued them during this mediocre season.
Opportunities to seize control were presented. Chances to win were tangible and attainable. They just couldn’t make it happen.
Not with a 56-50 lead with 7:05 to play, nor with a 60-57 edge with 4:23 left in regulation, nor with the ball in a tie game and 16.6 seconds on the regulation clock.
Oregon’s (24-8) Johnathan Loyd forced the tie by making two free throws after Abdul Gaddy fouled him on a jump shot, one of a few critical mistakes made by the senior point guard.
The Huskies still had life. There were 4.4 seconds left when they inbounded to star guard C.J. Wilcox, who saw a whole lot of open space on his way to the rim but had the ball swiped from him as he drove.
“It was just me rubbing off and trying to take a shot,” said Wilcox, who has said he is undecided about whether he returns for his senior season. “But they helped on me and stripped the ball.”
Time expired, overtime ensued, and Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi thumped the Huskies in the paint to take Oregon into the semifinals.
Wilcox, who led UW with 19 points, marveled: “He started making some grown-man plays.”
Among them: three rebounds, a dunk, five free throws and 11 points, including a devastating 3-point play that gave Oregon an insurmountable 75-67 lead with 1:17 to play.
Kazemi wasn’t alone in burning UW down low. His teammate, center Tony Woods, led the Ducks with 19 points and snagged eight rebounds. Scott Suggs, one of UW’s three seniors, scored 18.
“Going into overtime, we were very confident that we were going to win the game,” said Gaddy, whose up-and-down UW career was captured in 45 minutes as he scored 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting, committed six turnovers, handed out five assists and grabbed five rebounds. “Unfortunately we had a couple turnovers, (and) they had a couple offensive rebounds.”
Choking back tears, Gaddy voiced his desire for an NIT bid.
“I just don’t want it to be my last game,” Gaddy said. “These are all my brothers. I love playing with these guys, the coaching staff. I just don’t want it to be my last game.”
Oregon’s win gave it three this season over the Huskies, who lost nine games by single-digits.
“They’re a good team,” Romar said. “They were better than us this year.”
Too many Pac-12 teams were. Now, the Huskies wait.
“I think if we get invited to the NIT, it gives our seniors some more games,” Romar said.
“Last year we were in the NIT and I don’t know how excited our guys were at first, but after we won a couple we were pretty excited.”
Maybe even more excited than that guy sitting courtside, now perhaps counting his money at whichever sports book took his bet on black.