SEATTLE — There’s been some crazy endings to Washington-Arizona games the past two years, and the contest Thursday was no different.
For some reason, center Aziz N’Diaye took the final shot — his first three-pointer in his UW career — which exemplifies the Huskies’ offensive breakdowns in the final minute.
Truth be told, Washington’s 57-53 defeat against No. 8 Arizona was decided seconds earlier.
Trailing by two points with less than 30 seconds left, Abdul Gaddy floated an alley-oop pass that sailed high and out of reach of C.J. Wilcox, who cut sharply along the baseline and momentarily flashed open.
He managed to get a hand on the ball, but could only deflect it to Arizona’s Nick Johnson, who was fouled and made a pair of free throws at the other end to stave off UW’s comeback.
The misconnection was the 34th turnover between the teams. However, Arizona turned 17 UW turnovers into 20 points while the Huskies managed just 10 points on 17 Wildcats TOs.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar also lamented his team’s shoddy free-throw shooting (10 of 17), which ultimately led to the Huskies’ fourth consecutive defeat, this one in front of 8,535 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“It was a great opportunity for us that we weren’t able to capitalize on,” Romar said. “The crowd was great tonight, the best of the year. We didn’t capitalize on it.”
Led by Scott Suggs and Wilcox, who each had 11 points, UW (12-9, 4-4 Pac-12) had its chances.
The Huskies received early dividends from a lineup change.
Romar replaced 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Desmond Simmons with Shawn Kemp Jr., and the 6-10 sophomore scored six early points that helped Washington to a 16-5 lead with 12:52 remaining in the first half. The Huskies led 28-23 at the break before Arizona (18-2, 6-2) stormed back in the second half.
“When you play against a really good team, a lot of times when you have those starts, teams are going to come back,” Romar said. “Teams aren’t going to roll over and die.”
After Wilcox picked up his fourth foul and left the game, Arizona took the lead by as many as five points at 46-41. Still, UW recovered and Kemp sank a free throw that put the Huskies ahead 51-50 with 2:31 left.
Then, the Wildcats targeted UW’s weak spot.
“Wanted to go at Wilcox because we knew he had four fouls,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “And Nick was the guy.”
Johnson, who scored a game-high 15 points, dribbled hard to the right into the lane and banked in a short jumper.
N’Diaye missed a pair of free throws before both teams traded field goals and Johnson converted a foul shot to set up the deciding play for the Huskies. N’Diaye set a screen to free Wilcox, but Gaddy misfired on the pass.
“It was just meant to isolate C.J.,” Gaddy said. “I didn’t see anybody helping at the rim. I should have just made a better pass. We just had to execute.”
After Johnson converted a pair of free throws, the Huskies drew up another play for Wilcox.
However, Arizona snuffed out the inbounds play and N’Diaye was left taking a desperate shot from the corner.
“That’s not what we called,” Romar said.