Locking eyes with his coach, Isaiah Thomas used a simple, serene hand motion indicating he had things under control.
Arizona guard Kevin Parrom had just hit a 3-pointer to tie the 2011 Pacific-10 Conference tournament title game with 21 seconds left in overtime. Thomas calmly walked the ball toward midcourt. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar looked at him, then at the rest of the team – and decided not to call a timeout. Washington flattened out, sending two players to each corner, providing Thomas with maximum operating space.
His step-back jumper to win the game, the tournament and a guaranteed spot in the NCAA tournament would have been enough on its own. But the bellowing call of “Cold-blooded!” from CBS announcer Gus Johnson cemented the play in Seattle sports lore.
It’s also one of three recent steel-fist-tight games between Arizona and Washington, topping off the teams’ run of big moments against each other since Romar took over the Huskies 11 years ago. The teams renew their rivalry Thursday night in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Arizona coach Sean Miller, who had many generous things to say about Thomas when he was with the Huskies and since, is still left with one answer when looking back.
“He made a great shot,” Miller said. “He’s a great player, and (it) doesn’t surprise me to see the success he’s had in the NBA.”
Earlier that year, Derrick Williams swatted Washington’s chance at a win into the stands.
With 2.2 seconds remaining in Tucson, Ariz., Justin Holiday inbounded to Darnell Gant, who swept across the lane for what appeared to be a clean jump hook from about 3 feet away. That’s when Williams left Matthew Bryan-Amaning to come from the weak side, spring and launch Gant’s shot into the seats, securing Arizona’s 87-86 win.
“That was Darnell’s shot,” Romar said. “He had, what, a 3-footer? It was wide open. I think people say Darnell didn’t make the shot as opposed to how big-time a defensive play that was. I don’t know if many people in the league could have made that play.”
Tony Wroten countered with his own game-saving block in the series last season. Two free throws from C.J. Wilcox with 5.3 seconds left put the Huskies in front 69-67 again at Tucson. Arizona inbounded to point guard Josiah Turner, who has since left the program, and he sped up the floor with Wilcox chasing him.
Solomon Hill clobbered Wilcox with a pick, providing Turner with an open lane to tie the game. Wroten tracked down Turner from behind and blocked his layup attempt off the glass as time expired. Nick Johnson’s dunk follow was too late.
“We executed bad on the defensive end and he got an open layup,” Wilcox said. “Tony saved us big-time.”
Wroten’s block helped produce Washington’s first win in Tucson since 2006.
“This is a brand new year, it’s a new season and it’s a new team,” Miller said. “But I think we fully expect to go up to Washington and play in front of a great crowd against a team that has played really hard, and the respect we have for them is immense.”
Thursday night will bring the next chance for last-second history in the series.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas