Although they frittered away most of a second-half lead before defeating USC 82-75 Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Washington Huskies likely secured the No. 9 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament Wednesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. UW will face probable No. 8 Utah after the conference announces official pairings.
Washington and Utah will play the game, tipoff at noon on Pac-12 Networks.
If the Huskies win, they will face No. 1 seed Arizona, which proved itself vulnerable Saturday by losing at Oregon 64-57. Arizona already had the conference tournament’s No. 1 seed locked up before the loss. UCLA is the No. 2 seed.
Utah also proved fallible Saturday, dropping a 61-60 contest at Stanford. The Utes and Huskies split their games during the regular season. Both schools finished with 9-9 league marks. Utah had the better overall record at 20-10 to Washington’s 17-14.
In another tiebreaker to determine tournament seed, record vs. the regular-season champion, Washington went 0-1 vs. Arizona while Utah went 0-2. But when the teams meet Wednesday, seeds won’t matter.
Washington defeated Utah 59-57 Jan. 8 at Alaska Airlines Arena as Andrew Andrews scored 19 points and the Huskies held off a late Utah rally. The Utes came back to post a 78-69 win in Salt Lake City Feb. 6. Utah native C.J. Wilcox scored 20 points but largely vanished in the second half.
“Utah is a tough team,” said head coach Lorenzo Romar. “Rarely are they not in any game. But we’re looking forward to playing them. It’s a cliche, but there’s no doubt now that we have to take this one game at a time. We have to try and build on this (the win over USC).”
Unless they win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Huskies are likely looking at an NIT berth if they can defeat Utah — or maybe even if they don’t, given the Pac-12’s No. 3 ranking among power conferences.
To win the conference tournament, the Huskies will not only have to get past the Utes and No. 1 seed Arizona, but win four games in four days. Only one team — 2012 Colorado — has accomplished the four-in-four feat in tournament history.
In Saturday’s game, the Huskies had a ragged start, shooting just 32.9 percent, and trailed by two points, 37-35 at halftime. But they went on a 15-0 run to start the second half — UW scored most of its points in transition as USC committed four turnovers in the first three minutes — to lead 57-42, and appeared ready to blow USC out of the arena. But after Romar took out Wilcox, playing his final home game, the Huskies fell apart.
USC went on a 23-14 run and sliced Washington’s lead to as few as six points three times in the final five minutes, the last time with 2:15 to play. But Washington held on as Wilcox finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. Andrews added 19 and Shawn Kemp Jr. 12, a total highlighted by two massive jams. Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss scored only seven points, but dished nine assists.
“We started kind of slow but we got our energy going in the second half,” said Wilcox. “Our mentality going into the (Pac-12) tournament is to try to get four in a row. I think we’ll step up our game a lot once we see the energy in the building.”