LAS VEGAS – Washington played well at both ends, yet couldn’t shake Southern California.
No matter what the Huskies did, even while building a double-digit lead, the Trojans kept coming back.
Jaylen Nowell scored 24 points, David Crisp added 18 and Washington held off a late charge to beat Southern California 78-75 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
“USC just kept coming back. You have to give them a lot of credit. They kept fighting back, fighting back,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “Our guys showed a lot of resiliency.”
The top-seeded Huskies (25-7) led by 10 before the Trojans made a run, pulling with 72-71 on Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:10 left.
Dominic Green answered with a 3-pointer and Matisse Thybulle turned his fifth steal into a breakaway dunk that put Washington up six.
The eighth-seeded Trojans (16-17) still kept fighting, pulling within 77-75 on Nick Rakocevic’s putback. Nowell hit 1 of 2 free throws to give USC hope, but Rakocevic threw the ball away as the Trojans tried to set up a tying shot.
“We realized that our defense was the thing that was keeping us in the game,” Nowell said. “They hit a couple of big shots, but we just made sure that we kept everything going as far as the defensive end and let the offense flow.”
Washington hit 13 of 28 from the 3-point arc and moves on to face the winner between Colorado and Oregon State in Friday’s semifinals
Rakocevic, Mathews and Kevin Porter Jr. each had 17 points.
“We obviously made a few mistakes in the last 2 1/2, 3 minutes, like we have many times this season,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
USC earned a spot in the quarterfinals by pulling away from Arizona for a 78-65 victory.
Washington earned a first-round bye by winning the regular-season title, but stumbled down the stretch. The Huskies lost to California, which was previously winless in Pac-12 play, and scored 47 points in a loss to Oregon in the finale.
Washington won the lone meeting with USC this season by 13 after getting 14 steals – seven by Thybulle.
The Huskies were sharp in the rematch, using their defense get baskets in transition and hitting 9 of 18 from the 3-point line to lead 43-38 at halftime.
The Trojans played well, too, hitting 15 of 28 shots from the floor to keep Washington within reach.
Both team downshifted into chaos to start the second half, trading turnovers and clanked shots.
Washington started to settle down a bit and stretched its lead to 64-54 midway through the second half.
USC answered behind its defense, holding the Huskies scoreless for more than 3 minutes to pull within three with 2 minutes left.
But in a season of near misses, the Trojans again couldn’t make the big plays when they needed to.
“The last couple of minutes was kind of a microcosm of our season,” Enfield said. “We’re good enough and talented enough to compete. Our players play hard. But our margin of error is so small that those crucial moments, whether it’s a turnover, defensive stop, made shot, free throw or last second shot haven’t gone our way this year.”
Other Pac-12 quarterfinal games:
Colorado 73, Oregon State 58: McKinley Wright IV scored 17 points and the fifth-seeded Buffaloes (21-11) blew most of a 21-point lead before knocking the fourth-seeded Beavers (18-13).
Colorado dominated early, racing out to a 21-point lead in the first half. Colorado bogged down when Oregon State turned up the defensive pressure, watching its lead dwindle down to six.
The Buffaloes gathered themselves and started stretching the lead back, overcoming 7-for-23 shooting in the second half to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals against top-seeded Washington.
The Beavers came out tight after getting a bye into the quarterfinals and didn’t crack double digits in points until 5:55 of the first half.
Oregon State used a pair 10-0 runs midway through the second half to get back in it, but couldn’t dig all the way out of the big early hole.
Tres Tinkle led the Beavers with 23 points.
Arizona State 83, UCLA 72: Romello White scored 19 points, Rob Edwards added 15 and the second-seeded Sun Devils (22-9) withstood the seventh-seeded Bruins’ (17-16) second-half push.
Arizona State dominated the first half and stretched its lead to 23 early in the second, but it let UCLA back in it by going nearly 9 minutes without a field goal.
Arizona State settled itself after the long drought and held off the Bruins to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals against Oregon.
Zylan Cheatham had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and the Sun Devils shot 49 percent.
UCLA looked sluggish early after playing the night before, but used a big run to trim into Arizona State’s lead to nine.
Oregon 66, Utah 54: Louis King and Payton Pritchard scored 20 points each, and the sixth-seeded Ducks grinded out the upset victory over the third-seeded Utes.
Oregon (20-12) had a second straight strong defensive game in the Pac-12 tournament to get halfway to their goal of four wins in four days.
Oregon caused the Utes problems with its press even without forcing many turnovers, often making them run their offense deep into the shot clock. The Ducks had Utah’s leading scorer Sedrick Barefield in foul trouble in the first half and held him to two points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
Francis Okoro tied the Pac-12 tournament record with six blocked shots to help Oregon move on to face Arizona State in Friday’s semifinals.
Utah (17-14) struggled to find an offensive rhythm, shooting 34 percent and 2 of 23 of from the 3-point line.
Donnie Tillman led the Utes with 18 points.
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