Freshman guard Tony Wroten reacts after the Huskies 86-84 loss in the Pac-12 tournament. Wroten missed four straight free throws in the final 18 seconds. Photo by Ted Copeland
If you make a mistake in sports, it’s not often you get a second chance. With the UW men’s basketball team’s season hanging in the balance Thursday afternoon, though, Tony Wroten was granted just that.
After missing a pair of free throws with the Huskies down one and just 18 seconds left in a second-round game of the Pac-12 tournament, Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham amazingly missed two attempts as well. And with nine seconds left, still down by one, Wroten got his second chance.
Wroten missed both free throws, again.
The four-straight Wroten misses sealed the Huskies’ fate, and they dropped their first game of the Pac-12 tournament to the Beavers, 86-84, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It may have also cemented the UW’s (21-10) postseason in the NIT, as it will now have to sweat it out for three days until it finds out if it will be awarded an NCAA tournament at-large bid on Selection Sunday.
“That was the difference in the game: We didn’t execute the little things,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “If we have an opportunity to play again we’re going to make sure it’s something we focus on.”
And as pained as Wroten was after the game, he was one of the reasons the Huskies were even in position to win. His game-high 29 points were a career high, and he scored 19 of those in the second half. He did go just 9-of-15 from the free throw line — he was 9-of-11 before the final 18 seconds — but the rest of the team was a mere 3-of-11 from the charity stripe, combined.
The inability to hit free throws hurt the Huskies as they attempted to stretch their lead late in the contest — a margin that was stretched to eight points in favor of the UW with just over 8:30 left in the game. The Beavers took advantage of the poor free throw shooting and kept the game close until they were finally able to take an 84-83 lead with 31 seconds remaining on a Cunningham layup. It was a lead that would hold as Wroten struggled to hit his free throws.
That the Huskies were even in a close battle was amazing, considering they entered halftime down 46-43, a deficit they saw increase to 15 early in the second half. But then the UW roared back on a 26-6 run that spanned almost eight minutes. By the time the Huskies’ scoring spree was over, they held a 59-54 lead with 10:52 left in the game.
The run was keyed by junior Abdul Gaddy, who had eight points and four assists during the spurt. Gaddy finished with 13 points and six assists, turning the ball over twice. C.J. Wilcox added 16 points and Terrence Ross had 15 points and five rebounds for the Huskies.
But it turned out to be not quite enough for the UW on Thursday to overcome Devon Collier’s 19 points and Cunningham’s 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. And so now the waiting game begins.
“I know we haven’t won as many games as we should have in the nonconference, as a league, [but] I would think that the Pac-12 champion would be able to find a place in the NCAA tournament,” Romar said. “We certainly didn’t help ourselves today, but I would think we’d be able to find ourselves in there. But I am not on the committee … and we’re just kind of at the mercy of their decision.”
Reach Sports Editor Josh Liebeskind at email@example.com or on Twitter @jlieb24.
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