March 1, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) - Whether he was in a dead sprint on the wing, or curling off a screen, Ryan Appleby's four minute display of flawless 3-point shooting was the catalyst Washington needed to break its recent slide.
Appleby hit five 3-pointers, en route to 22 points, and Washington snapped a four-game losing streak with an 85-70 win over No. 23 Southern California on Thursday night.
Washington's only NCAA tournament hopes lie with next week's Pac-10 Conference tournament. A sweep of four games and the tournament title is the Huskies (17-12, 7-10 Pac-10) only realistic NCAA chance.
Needing to regain some lost confidence, the Huskies took a positive step against the Trojans.
"We did some things that we have been doing for some time now, but I don't think we had the wins to show for it," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Some guys played good and stepped up offensively."
None more than Appleby, who made four consecutive 3-pointers midway through the first half, as Washington built an 11-point halftime lead. The Huskies hit nine 3-pointers in first 20 minutes, taking advantage of USC's poor transition defense.
The nine 3's were more than their game total in all but three contests this season, and more than half of the Huskies first-half field goals.
Appleby's sharp shooting, opened up the inside in the second half and freshman center Spencer Hawes took advantage. Hawes scored eight of his 13 points in the final four minutes after USC had trimmed a 17-point deficit down to five.
Washington improved to 16-2 at home this season.
"We're just a little more comfortable at home. That's why we play better," Appleby said.
Nick Young led USC (21-9, 11-6) with 26 points and hit 11 of 15 shots, but the Trojans lost for the sixth time in their last seven against Washington. The only win was a double-overtime victory earlier this season in Los Angeles.
Of bigger concern, the Trojans have dropped three of four on the road and close out the regular season at No. 13 Washington State on Saturday. Still, a win over the Cougars would give USC the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
"We should have known it was going to be a hard test," Young said. "We just kind of let up a little bit and they fed off our mistakes."
Leading 48-37 at halftime, Washington pushed the advantage to 17 as Quincy Pondexter converted a pair of three-point plays in the first three minutes of the second half, putting the Huskies up 58-41. Washington's fluid offense then stagnated, giving USC opportunity to rally.
Young's three-point play with 9:56 left finally got the deficit under 10 points and the Trojans pulled to 69-64 on Abdoulaye N'daiye's basket on the inside with less than 7 minutes left.
Reserve forward Artem Wallace - a 33 percent free-throw shooter - then made 3 of 4 attempts at the line, pushing the Huskies lead back to eight and USC got no closer than six the rest of the way.
Jon Brockman battled through foul trouble and scored 17 points with nine rebounds for Washington. Gabe Pruitt added 13 and Taj Gibson scored 10 for the Trojans.
"It was not one of our better defensive efforts," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "We fought pretty hard there for about 15 minutes in the second half."
Floyd tried to put some intensity into his players. During one first-half timeout, Floyd screamed at Lodrick Stewart and Daniel Hackett after Appleby knocked down another open 3-pointer.
"We made some real mistakes as far as location and they made us pay for it," Floyd said.
Late in the half, Floyd erupted after an offensive foul was called on Washington's Pondexter. Floyd claimed Pondexter threw a forearm into Stewart's chest as Appleby sank a 3. Incensed that the basket stood, Floyd took turns screaming at officials Verne Harris, Bruce Hicks and Michael Eggers before picking up a technical.
Afterward, Floyd said league rules against criticizing officiating kept him from commenting on the call.
Appleby missed the first technical free throw, breaking a string of 21 straight makes. He's missed just two free throws all season.