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March 21, 2012If Frank Sinatra were to make his version of New York, New York about the Washington Huskies, it would sound like this:
Start spreading the news, the Huskies will be leaving soon. They're going to be part of the NIT Semifinals, New York! New York!
The Huskies eliminated the Oregon Ducks from the NIT Tuesday night during the rubber match between the two heated Pac-12 Conference rivals.
Only a three-plus hour drive away, the Interstate-5 rivalry heated up with bragging rights, and a semifinal spot to New York on the line as the Dawgs and Ducks went on an offensive shootout during the NIT quarterfinal game.
Despite the Huskies' 90-86 victory, the team with the better defense won the game. According to UW coach Lorenzo Romar, neither team played sound defense, but rather saw it as two up-tempo teams with exceptional players.
"I think there were just too many playmakers out there on the floor," Romar said. "You see all the big shots that Oregon hit. They hit some big shots, their guys came to play. Our guys came to play and they hit some big shots on big plays. I think you look at the game and say both teams were playing poor defense. I just think it's two up-tempo teams battling it out with playmakers on the floor on both sides."
The last time Washington (24-10) faced Oregon on Feb. 9, the Huskies endured a gruesome 82-57 loss at Eugene. Although the UW-Oregon season series was previously tied at one victory a piece, one team had to steal the season series and a ticket to New York City. Romar credited his team for playing hard throughout this intense game, but someone had to go home.
"I would have to say that was an outstanding basketball game," Romar said. "A total of 15 turnovers between the two teams, I think both teams were just playing pretty efficient basketball. There were a lot of plays, big plays that were made. It was one of those 'somebody had to lose type' games. I'm proud of our team, proud that we were the ones that were on top, and we're heading to New York."
It was a neck-and-neck game as both teams were able to keep their lead margins by no more than 10 points. The largest lead that Oregon had in the game was seven points in the first half, while Washington's biggest lead was 10 points in the second half. The Huskies also improved on their turnovers by outrebounding Oregon 40 to 36.
This game was nothing but intense, especially in the second half as things started to heat up and the Huskies took control. Leading scorer Terrence Ross called the game an intense battle.
"It was a battle, so that's always fun," Ross said. "We brought intensity, the other team brought intensity. It was a real intense game from the beginning to end."
What lies ahead for the Huskies is only going to be more of a fun challenge for everyone. If the team stays relaxed, motivated and healthy, big things could happen in New York.
"It's good because none of us want our season to end," Ross said. "We want to win that trophy. Last time we went (to New York) we didn't win anything. That's my motivation for us and to win the national championship for the NIT. That's our motivation we're so close to doing it. We have a lot on the line, we just got to stay focused."
Tony Wroten, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, was really excited that the Huskies got to play Oregon one more time this season. He even had fun doing it.
"Last time we played Oregon, it kind of embarassed us getting beat by a lot," said Wroten. "For us to get a win like this is big."
The Dawg Pack and the sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion played a big factor in Tuesday night's win.
"It was extremely fun, he (Romar) was saying that the more you win the more people come, the more they get into the game," Wroten said. "This game to play a rival team, like Oregon and to have a sold out crowd getting into it, it was a crazy, exciting and fun game."
Wroten is now the new all-time leader in points scored by a UW freshman, passing Isaiah Thomas. Wroten entered the night with 528 total points as a UW freshman. He finished the night with 22 points, adding his freshman point total to 550.
UW will play the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders of the Sun Belt Conference or Minnesota of the Big Ten next Tuesday, March 27, at Madison Square Garden.