The most dubious place imaginable to behold the Saturday battle for the Pac-10 championship had to the Sports Page Tavern, positioned as it is on what is presumptuously called Grand Avenue in Pullman. There the bartender told us (visiting parents of a Coug) to characterize what we were seeing as "the Cal game" because "people here hate the Huskies."
Fans in Seattle undoubtedly love them. The Husky men, after all, Dawg tired after Thursday and Friday triumphs over lesser Pac-10 contenders, played loose, well-paced basketball against an exceptionally well-matched rival, outlasting the Golden Bears at the buzzer for the 79-75 win that gets them unchallenged into the NCAA tournament commencing next week.
The Dawgs led by as many as nine at the three-quarter point of the game. They then went cold, letting Cal back in a few minutes later. But a Husky team that hit free-throws like players were dropping Easter eggs into a bag saved the critical two for the very end. Venoy Overton swished in the final pair with just two seconds left and the team (17 for 18 from the line) left Staples Center in Los Angeles an impressive 24-9 for the season and assured of a part of March Madness.
Improbably, even the few Coug partisans watching at the Sports Page begrudgingly had to hand it to the hated Huskies, scrappy through the entire game. A sign at the Sports Page reads: 'êWe reserve the right to refuse service to anyone (especially Huskies)." Above the bar is a row of football helmets from teams Wazzu played the previous season. All of the hard-hats are full-size except the last in the row: a miniature Husky helmet.
But what was to dislike about these guys? The Dawgs clawed back from midseason mediocrity, winning their most recent seven and 12 of the final 14. Their marquee player, senior Quincy Pondexter, had a late start scoring but wound up with a team-leading 18. Q-Pon had only partially recovered from a debilitating cold.
Fans will have to wait until Sunday afternoon (March 14) to learn where and when Lorenzo Romar's charges will play next. Some arbiters figure the Dawgs for a less-than-celebratory 10 seed but players and coaches don't seem to care. Matters could be a lot worse for the Huskies. They could, for example, be spending the rest of the month not playing basketball but perched on bar stools in Pullman watching other teams perform.