SEATTLE – Some basketball games seem to carry weight beyond a single game.
Washington’s 88-85 triple-overtime loss to California on Saturday was one of those – and not just because of its epic 55-minute length.
Afterward, both teams acknowledged this was the kind of game that could affect other games – something the Golden Bears hope for and the Huskies hope to avoid.
“You can allow something like this to send you into a tailspin,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said of his dejected players. “We’ve worked too hard to allow that to happen. … Am I disappointed and frustrated? Yes. At about 2:30 in the morning when I throw a banana at the TV when I’m looking at the film, I’ll be frustrated again. But we’ve got to understand that we’ve got to go on the road for two games, and we’ve got to bounce back.”
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The loss was especially disappointing for the Huskies because they controlled the game for longer stretches than seems possible in a three-overtime game.
Cal (15-2 overall, 4-0 Pacific-10 Conference) led 1-0 and didn’t lead again until a Theo Robertson free throw put them ahead to stay almost three hours later.
Washington (11-3, 2-1) controlled long stretches, and several times seemed on the verge of putting the game away. UW led by four points at halftime, by 11 with 9 1/2 minutes to go in regulation, by nine with less than four minutes left in regulation, by three in the first overtime, five in the second and four in the third.
Each time, they failed to slam the door.
“I was praying the whole game,” said Cal junior Patrick Christopher, who had a game-high 27 points. “I’m just happy. … The toughest game I’ve played in; probably the most fun game I’ve played in as well. But thinking we were going to lose, that never crossed my mind.”
If that’s true, Christopher may have been alone among the 9,946 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the end of the second overtime when Washington led by three with 3 seconds remaining and a his 3-point try missed. D.J. Seeley got the rebound and put back what would have been a harmless two-pointer with a second remaining. However, Seeley was fouled by UW freshman Isaiah Thomas and hit the free throw that sent the game into its final overtime.
“I missed a box out,” Thomas said. “Plain and simple.”
There were plenty of other crucial moments through this marathon – not least among them Washington’s 13 misses scattered among 40 free throw attempts. However, this was the moment that Cal coach Mike Montgomery singled out.
“As a coach you’re sitting there going, ‘Anything but that,’ ” he said. “That was the worst possible scenario when you’re trying to take away the 3. I would say that was probably … as good a turning point as any.”
The Huskies weren’t in the mood to pick among their many regrets.
“You can’t really do that,” senior forward Jon Brockman said. “Of course, we’re gonna, but you can’t think like that. There are so many errors in a basketball game. You can’t really beat yourself about that. What’s done is done. You can only learn from it now.”
For a while, Thomas seemed to be the unlikeliest of goats. He scored 24 points – 13 in the first half when he repeatedly shook his defender and flew to the rim.
Other would-be heroes were Justin Dentmon, who led the Huskies with 24 points, became their go-to guy late, and hit 11 of 13 free throws over the final two overtimes. Brockman produced another double-double: 16 points and 18 rebounds. And Justin Holiday was a defensive stopper at several key points.
“We obviously had our chances,” Romar said. “We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. We did a lot of things to gain a victory in this game, but we also did too many things to allow it to slip away.”
The next chance comes Thursday when the Huskies begin a two-game trip at Oregon.
“This game is over with,” Thomas said. “We’ve got the Oregon schools next, and we’ve got to get after it in practice and just try to forget about it as best we can and try to get two wins (this) week.”