After suffering three straight losses, the Washington Huskies knew they were in a must-win situation against the Southern California Trojans if they had any hope of staying competitive in the Pac-10 standings. Brandon Roy scored 25 points and the Huskies affirmed that they were still very much in the hunt as they defeated the Trojans 87-73.
The Huskies opened the contest outscoring the Trojans 11-2 while holding USC to a single field goal in the first 10 minutes of play. By half-time USC found itself attempting to dig its way out of a 17-point hole, down 44-27. The Trojans, however, were without the services of second-leading scorer Gabe Pruitt. Pruitt who averages 17.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for USC suffered a tibial plateau fracture of his left knee during practice on February 6 and will likely be sidelined for three weeks.
"We felt sluggish," said Trojan guard Nick Young, who led his team with 28 points and seven rebounds "It was hard going out there without Gabe (Pruitt). We were a little disappointed in ourselves that we couldn't seem to play together without him."
The Trojans' poor shooting kept them from being competitive for most of the game. USC was 32 percent from the field on 8-25 shooting compared to the Huskies who sank 52.9 percent of their shots from the floor while dishing out 12 assists as a team in the fist frame.
The Huskies extended their lead to 24 points after a three pointer by Ryan Appleby with 9:46 remaining but the Trojans made the game interesting before the evening was over. USC battled its way back into the game as Young and Dwayne Shackleford delivered a flurry of three pointers to close to within nine points. The Trojans were down 79-70 following a pair of free throws by Young, but USC's hopes of an improbable comeback vanished when Roy answered with a momentum- killing three-point bomb of his own to give the Huskies a 12-point lead with 2:41 left in regulation.
"As I was shooting, I really didn't know if I should have shot the ball," said Roy. "There was still a lot of time left on the shot clock, It was one of those shots where if you make it then it was a good shot, but if you miss it you think it might have been kind of early."
While the Huskies were happy they won the game, they weren't exactly celebratory knowing they must also beat UCLA this weekend. "We have to play much better than we did tonight to beat (UCLA), " said Husky forward Jamaal Williams. "We'll see in the real test on Saturday how good we really are." Williams finished with 15 points and five rebounds off the bench for Washington. Senior Mike Jensen started his first game for the Huskies since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the first half of the season. Jensen tallied four points and five rebounds.
Following the win, Romar had some words of caution for his team after watching the Trojans slash Washington's lead in the closing minutes. Shackleford turned in 15 points while teammate Lodrick Stewart added 16 points for the Trojans.
"We got back on the winning track, but we didn't do it for 40 minutes," said Husky coach Lorenzo Romar. "We have no choice we have to do it for 40 minutes on Saturday. Tonight it wasn't a lack of effort it was a lack of focus."
Points: Roy 25, Williams 15 Appleby 12, Dentmon 12, Jones 10, Burmeister 7, Jensen 4, Brockman 2 Rebounds: Roy 11, Jensen, 5, Brockman 5, Gasser 5, Jones 3, Williams 3, Appleby 2, Smith 2, Burmeister, Dentmon Assists: Appleby 6, Burmeister 3, Roy 2, Dentmon 2, Brockman 2, Williams 2, Smith Steals: Jones 2, Brockman, Roy, Dentmon Blocks: Burmeister 2, Williams 2, Appleby Turnovers: Brockman 4, Jones 2, Dentmon 2 Appleby 2, Williams 2, Roy, Smith