The loss that ended the Washington Huskies’ season will be remembered for clock-related aspects that may have aided North Carolina’s 86-83 win Sunday (March 20) at the NCAA basketball tournament.
After a game that the Huskies mostly led, analysts established that referees inadvertently failed to check a critical clock setting before the final play. The Dawgs supposedly had just half a second under their own bucket to set up what would’ve been a game-tying three-point play.
Actually there may have been more than a second left. While half a tick is scarcely time enough for a player to grasp and shoot (or for a fan to gasp and shout), with 1.1 seconds you could catch an inbounds pass, fade, and put up the kind of three-point swisher that Isaiah Thomas seems capable of every game.
That would’ve sent an 86-all game into overtime.
Instead the stellar guard put up what would’ve been a two-pointer. It didn’t much matter, then, that the baseline jumper fell short. It means the Huskies won’t go to the Sweet Sixteen phase of the NCAAs, as they had last season.
The game didn’t necessarily hang on the final play, as analyst Charles Barkley later insisted and reiterated several times. The Huskies, who led by as many as 11, lost the lead for good at the four-minute mark and were down by seven two minutes later. Despite having looks and opportunities during the waning minutes they couldn’t quite make anything miraculous happen, as fans had come to expect during recent wins.
Many followers thought the Dawgs’ fate may have been firmly sealed when the bracket masters made it fairly certain that the Pac-10 Tournament champs would meet the second-seeded Tar Heels if the Huskies got to the second game in Charlotte. North Carolina was playing, after all, within a two-hour drive from home and hearth and, anyway, boasted a giant-sized lineup determined to clog up the inside. The Huskies’ main hope was to hit enough perimeter shots to stay close with the hope that the opponent’s own inept shooting would offset its height advantage.
That scenario seemed to play out despite the N.C. first-half chances at the free-throw line. The Dawgs out-fouled the opponent 11-2 during the first frame, a spread that became less lopsided during the second half.
Getting close to being with the elite 16 teams is impressive given where the Huskies stood a few weeks ago. The late run of four W’s prior to Sunday should leave the team with a lot of confidence despite losing senior big man Matthew Bryan-Amaning and guard Venoy Overton. Terrence Ross, the freshman phenom from Portland, seems poised to be a major player next season. He led Husky scorers with 19 Sunday and also showed impressive rebounding skills.
The program’s prime mover, Thomas, obviously has been Dawg tired for several weeks. After his shot that won the Pac-10 tournament, the usually animated guard could barely stand much less run. He’ll obviously benefit from the return of Abdul Gaddy, the injured freshman who barely played this season. The team also can take comfort that 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye can be a multi-dimensional force in the middle.
One imagines the Huskies also could take solace should North Carolina go on to win the national championship. Many observers doubt this will happen, especially those who cling to the belief that the Tar Heels might have eventually lost Sunday if an official had bothered to check the game clock.