March 7, 2009
No wonder the No. 16 Huskies weren't thinking about cutting down nets. They hadn't done it in 56 years.
"Definitely gave me an adrenaline rush," Brockman said.
Brockman tied his career high with 18 rebounds in his final home game and Quincy Pondexter scored 16 points to lead Washington to a 67-60 victory over Washington State on Saturday, clinching its first outright conference championship since 1953.
"We all have learning methods. Some are more visionary learners," Romar said, smiling.
He came up with the ploy while staring at the ceiling during one of his sleepless nights in anticipation of history this week.
"A little incentive to tighten the chin straps just a little harder," Romar called it.
Venoy Overton scored 14 points and threw the ball high toward the roof of raucous Hec Edmundson Pavilion as the final buzzer sounded, erasing two years of Washington emptiness from not making the NCAA tournament.
Overton, who pestered Washington State's Taylor Rochestie all day, then danced across the edge of the scorer's table as fans stormed the court and Romar finally used his locker room prop to cut down those nets.
The Huskies (24-7, 14-4) won their first Pac-10 outright title, and first outright championship in any league since winning the Pacific Coast Conference 56 years ago.
Romar had tears in his eyes after an extra-long embrace amid the crowd on the court with Brockman, who grew up in the Seattle suburb of Snohomish and chose to stay home to do just this, instead of playing for Duke.
Brockman was one of the first to climb the aluminum ladder and snip the net.
"Unbelievable feeling," he said. "You see it on TV every year and wonder. When I got up there, it was probably 100 times better than I thought it would be."
Rochestie overcame Overton annoying him into a cold start to score 23 points for Washington State (16-14, 8-10), which lost both games to its archrival this season after beating the Huskies seven consecutive times.
WSU's leading scorer got in the face of Overton when Washington's pest was at the foul line in the first half.
"For some reason he told me to chill out and I'm not cool," Overton said.
On the Cougars' ensuing possession, Overton hip-checked Rochestie to the floor away from the ball.
"It was just two players out there playing the game," Rochestie said. With Gov. Chris Gregoire attending her first basketball game in anyone's memory, seniors Brockman and Justin Dentmon being honored for their last home game and the Huskies' archrival that had recently dominated them in the sold-out house, Washington's 2,633rd regular-season game was like none other.
Yet it wasn't easy. Washington State, the national leaders allowing 54.8 points per game, turned Washington's historic day into a tense grind.
Rochestie was 2-for-8 with three airballs in the first half. He made two in a row, the first a 3-pointer, and Klay Thompson made a 3-pointer to cut Washington's nine-point lead to 42-41 with 12:10 left.
Then Thompson, WSU's co-leader in scoring with Rochestie coming in, had to leave with his fourth foul.
Washington State coach Tony Bennett thought the foul should have been on Nikola Koprivica. Bennett slammed a clipboard on the floor in a timeout huddle when the officials ignored his opinion.
"I lost my head and acted like a raving lunatic (because) I thought in this kind of game, where we're fighting for our postseason lives, I think it's owed to us to have the right call made in this kind of setting," Bennett said. "It's a fourth foul that put one of our main scorers, one of the guys we need, on the bench.
"That just took our heart out."
Yet Rochestie kept coming. He made a deep 3 with 5:49 left to keep the Cougars within 54-52, and another 3 that made it 58-56 with 4 minutes to go.
But Pondexter then made a shot in the lane off a spin move and a bank shot underneath, after Rochestie turned the ball over banging into Brockman at the other end. Pondexter's first points in almost 15 minutes put Washington up 62-56 and essentially clinched the long-awaited conference title.
"Quite an amazing feeling. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work," Pondexter said. "For a lot of guys, it's a big monkey off our backs."