Fans were seeking autographs after Washington’s latest game as if this was going to be the last contest of the year at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Nobody knows for sure.
Not even the Washington Huskies.
This is the reality for UW after a crippling 72-64 loss Saturday to rival Oregon. UW (20-11, 10-8 Pac-12) entered with an outside chance of grabbing a first-round bye for the Pac-12 Tournament and moving to 11 games over .500. Instead, the Huskies are facing the fact they’ll need to go on a lengthy run next week in Las Vegas in the hopes of salvaging their postseason hopes to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than five years.
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Or the Huskies could host at least one more game at Alaska Airlines Arena when they play in the NIT.
“I think it’s just, we gotta get some rest,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said about preparing for the Pac-12 Tournament. “We don’t have any secrets. We do what we do and rest is a big factor.”
Oregon (20-11, 10-8) held a 16-point lead until less than 11 minutes left when UW stormed off on a 17-5 run and cut the lead to 68-64 with 3:12 left. Huskies junior point guard and Tacoma native David Crisp powered his team’s pursuit by scoring nine points and picking up a steal during the run.
UW had everything it needed. Oregon only had one field goal in the final 10 minutes and the momentum UW gained sent The Triple A into a frenzy.
Any time the Ducks had possession, the crowd was deafening. But in certain situations, like when Noah Dickerson was at the free throw line, the audience was eerily silent.
Dickerson’s shots from the charity stripe with 3:12 left gave the Huskies an opening they just couldn’t walk through. The Huskies wouldn’t score another point while the Ducks went to the free throw line to create a cushion.
“We weren’t poised and I put that on me,” said Crisp, who scored a game-high 19 points. “We didn’t get into a set we wanted to get into to get the shot we wanted.”
Washington began the afternoon with the hopes of backdooring its way into a first-round bye for the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford’s win over Arizona State meant UW could finish no higher than fourth in the regular season conference standings.
The loss sent the Huskies to seventh in the Pac-12 and they’ll face No. 10 seed Oregon State at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the T-Mobile Arena. UW is 1-1 against OSU this year and beat the Beavers by two points on Thursday.
Should UW win, it would set up a date with No. 2 seed USC the following day. The Huskies and Trojans opened conference play with UW taking the only meeting of the season in a 88-81 victory in Los Angeles.
ESPN, which updated its bracket Saturday, projects the Huskies to be among the ‘First Four Out’ while the Trojans are in the “Last Four In” category. Based off those projections, a USC-UW meeting could ultimately decide who goes to the NCAA Tournament and who heads to the NIT.
“Listen, at the end of the day we’ve won 20 games. We have a winning record in the league and we beat three teams that at one time were rated No. 2 in the country,” Hopkins said. “We have a good resume. ... We’ve done enough.”
UW honored forward Greg Bowman and guard Dan Kingma before the game as part of the team’s Senior Day celebration.
Hopkins started the team’s only seniors and they played in the opening two minutes of the game. Bowman scored the opening basket off a bank shot, which sent the UW bench and the Hec Edmundson crowd to its feet. When it came time for them to leave, they received a standing ovation. Kingma, who is from Mill Creek, played 36 games with the Huskies. Bowman, a Mountlake Terrace native, had 24 career appearances with UW.
“It’s a great opportunity and you love to play in your conference tournament,” Hopkins said. “That’s what all that hard work ... I’m really excited to be a part of it. I heard its an incredible tournament. Las Vegas is a great city and I know the kids will be looking forward to it.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark