March 12, 2010
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LOS ANGELES - In the game's final minute, Darnell Gant took a pass and made an emphatic statement about the type of message Washington is trying to send in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament.
The Huskies are here to play.
With a 79-64 win against No. 7 seed Stanford, the Huskies are doing their best to take the postseason decision away from NCAA committee members. They can confirm it with a win over Cal on Saturday afternoon, which would send the Dawgs dancing for the second year in a row. The Bears and the Huskies split their regular-season series, with each winning on their home floor, but this is the postseason and a lot more is at stake.
"We have to come out and play as hard as we possibly can," said senior Quincy Pondexter afterwards. "We don't know if we're in the NCAA Tournament or not. We haven't been given invitation yet, so we have to come out and play as hard as we can and let Selection Sunday take care of itself."
First was a potential hurdle with Stanford, but the Dawgs shook off a slow start to turn the nightcap at the Staples Center into a track meet, with the L.A. native Gant doing his best to impress his family and friends with a series of dunks near the game's conclusion.
Pondexter led UW with 19 points, teaming up with Isaiah Thomas (17 points) to chop up the Stanford zone defense after some initial struggles from the floor. Washington shot 51 percent in the second half, capping it with a spectacular aerial display.
While Gant had most of the late fireworks, there was no better dunk than Matthew Bryan-Amaning's ferocious stuff in the second half. The Huskies post took a pass as the trailer and sent home a one-handed slam that sent Staples into a tizzy.
Following the game, Coach Lorenzo Romar made it a point to mention Bryan-Amaning by name as one of the Huskies who have improved the most over the course of the season. MBA was a defensive presence in the post, pulling down 11 rebounds and swatting a pair of Cardinal shots into the seats at Staples.
"(Bryan-Amaning's) been blocking some shots, getting some rebounds and giving us an inside presence," Romar said. "He's really helped us. He's come alongside Isaiah and Quincy and helped us in scoring."
Washington has its work cut out with Cal, the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Golden Bears boast the Pac-10 Player of the Year in Jerome Randle, who most will remember won the postseason award in a surprising decision over Pondexter. Cal advanced to the final with an 85-72 win over No. 5 seed UCLA. Randle averaged nearly 19 points a game and scored 33 points in the team's last meeting at Haas Pavilion on Feb. 11, a 93-81 Cal victory. The Golden Bears have won six in a row and, like the Huskies, are searching for a Pac-10 Championship.
Both teams have their destiny in front of them Saturday, a fact Romar was quick to point out in the postgame press conference.
"It doesn't matter if they're the one seed or the eight seed, it's an opportunity for us to win a championship," Romar said. "And make sure we take (a decision) out of the committee's hands for the NCAA Tournament. It goes beyond playing the No. 1 seed."