LAS VEGAS – Washington last won the Pac-12 regular-season title seven years ago. The Huskies are hoping to avoid a repeat in history.
Not the title. What happened after.
Appearing to be in good shape for an NCAA Tournament berth after winning the Pac-12, Washington was left out of the bracket in 2012 after losing to Oregon State in its opening game of the conference tournament.
With that kind of history, the Huskies want to leave no doubt at this year’s Pac-12 Tournament.
“We’re at our best when we have a little chip on our shoulder and it’s going to be fun to go down there and play good basketball,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said.
Washington all but clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title by the midpoint of the conference season. The Huskies (24-7) matched a school record with 15 conference wins and will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament at T-Mobile Arena.
But Washington isn’t exactly going into the tournament on a roll.
The Huskies lost to last-place California, which hadn’t won a Pac-12 game prior to the Feb. 28 game, and closed out the season by scoring just 47 points in a loss to Oregon.
“I don’t think we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the year,” Hopkins said. “We played it in a stretch in the middle when we were elite. That’s the ebbs and flows. You’re not going to play great every game, but you find ways to win and this team has. The last four games reminded me of what we were in the nonconference where we put together halves. We didn’t put together wholes, but we’ve shown we have the whole.”
The Huskies can make it a whole lot easier on themselves by making a deep run in the conference tournament, starting with Thursday’s game against Southern California.
Results from Wednesday’s first-round games at the T-Mobile Arena:
USC 78, Arizona 65: Bennie Boatwright had 22 points and 11 rebounds, helping the eighth-seeded Trojans (16-16) roll over the ninth-seeded Wildcats (17-15).
USC started slowly, but went on 18-2 runs in each half to earn a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against top-seeded Washington.
Derryck Thornton scored 12 points and USC shot 48 percent to bounce the Wildcats from the Pac-12 Tournament after losing to them in the title game a year ago.
Arizona’s difficult season may have come to an end with its first opening-round Pac-12 exit since 2010.
The two-time defending champion Wildcats continued to be embroiled in a recruiting scandal and struggled on the court, punctuated by their lopsided loss to the Trojans.
Colorado 56, California 51: McKinley Wright IV scored 18 points and the fifth-seeded Buffaloes (20-11) held off the No. 12-seeded Golden Bears (8-23).
Colorado had a hard time holding onto the ball, committing a season-high 23 turnovers, but made up for it by shutting down the Bears with defense.
Colorado used an eight-point burst midway through the second half to go up 10 and held off a late Cal charge to remain undefeated (8-0) in Pac-12 Tournament first-round games
The Buffaloes move on to face No. 4 seed Oregon State in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
The Bears shot nearly 50 percent while winning their final three regular-season games, but reverted to their shooting struggles in the Pac-12 Tournament.
UCLA 79, Stanford 72: Jaylen Hands had 22 points and 11 rebounds, helping the seventh-seeded Bruins (17-15) hold off the 10th-seeded Cardinal (15-16).
UCLA built a 26-point lead before Stanford started hitting shots in the closing minutes to pull within 69-62.
UCLA hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final 1:05 to earn a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Arizona State.
Stanford struggled against UCLA’s defensive pressure early, finishing at 35 percent from the floor and 7 of 25 from the 3-point arc.
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