Terrence Ross (US PRESSWIRE)
The Washington Huskies imposed their will early and often against the lowly Trojans of USC 80-58 to claim at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title for the first time since the 2008-09 season Thursday in Los Angeles at the Galen Center. It's the fourth conference title in as many years for UW, as they won the league tournament in 2010 and 2011.
The Dawgs came out in the first half extremely focused and simply outworked USC, especially on the glass where they took a 30-10 advantage into the half, and ultimately 49-23 for the game.
The win moves Washington to 21-8 overall and 14-3 in the Pac 12, just one win away from a second outright conference regular-season title. USC, heading in the opposite direction after a number of early season injuries decimated their ranks, looked like they just wanted to get the season over with. The Trojans fell to 6-24 and 1-16 in the Pac-12. The 80 points scored by UW was the most given up by USC all season.
Perhaps earlier in the season Washington would have fallen into a typical “trap game”, but at least a share of the conference crown at stake, UW came out of the gates ready. They were able to rebound 15 of their 21 misses in the first half as all a bewildered Kevin O’Neill could do was call timeouts to stop the bleeding. With 10 minutes left in the game, the USC Head Coach had used all his stoppages.
In the second half the Huskies lost some focus early, allowing USC to creep back into the game. After a made free throw by the Trojans' James Blasczyk cut the lead to inside double-digits, UW went on a quick 7-0 run, sparked by a Terrence Ross three-pointer, so take a commanding 16-point lead that they would not relinquish.
Ross and Darnell Gant were the catalysts early and often, as the duo combined for 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 4-6 on three pointers. Abdul Gaddy added 12 for the Huskies, while five UW players had at least seven rebounds - led by the nine of Gant and the eight of freshman guard Tony Wroten, who also had seven points and six assists.
For USC, freshman guard Byron Wesley tallied a career-high 23 points, while sophomore forward Garrett Jackson contributed 14 points and Blasczyk 10 for the Trojans. Their leading scorer, diminutive guard Maurice Jones, was held to six points on 2-9 shooting from the field.
On Saturday Washington will play for the chance to win the outright conference championship as they take on UCLA in the final regular season game of the year. The game will be on CBS at 11 a.m. Should the Huskies win, a 15-3 mark in conference and a 22-8 record overall should all but lock up a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament bid.
Points: Ross 18, Gant 14, Gaddy 12, N’Diaye 8, Wilcox 8, Wroten 7, Simmons 5, Breunig 5, Stewart 2, Kemp 1
Rebounds: Gant 9, Wroten 8, Ross 7, Simmons 7, N’Diaye 7, Kemp 3, Breunig 2, Wilcox 1, Seferian-Jenkins 1
Assists: Wroten 6, Gaddy 5, Gant 1, Wilcox 1
Steals: Wroten 2, Simmons 2, Ross 1
Blocks: N’Diaye 1, Wroten 1, Wilcox 1