University of Washington

Pondexter rewards Huskies' faith

SAN JOSE, CALIF. - It was Quincy Pondexter's game to win or lose.

Isaiah Thomas knew that. Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes knew that. And most importantly, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar knew that.

Pondexter had struggled through long stretches of Washington’s 80-78 first-round NCAA tournament victory against Marquette on Thursday. At halftime, he had four points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field and 2-for-6 shooting from the free throw line.

But Pondexter was the Husky with the most to gain or lose, because as the team’s lone senior, he was the only one who might be playing his final game in purple. And his teammates looked to him to help them prevent that.

“I told Quincy, ‘You don’t want this to be your last game, so act like it,’ ” Thomas said. “He stepped up big and like the captain he is. He hit a big shot. He just put us on his back.”

A couple of former teammates – current Sacramento Kings Brockman and Hawes – wordlessly sent the same message.

“They gave go-ahead-and-take-over winks,” Pondexter said. “And at the end of the game, they were both happy.”

By the end, Pondexter had contributed a game-high 11 rebounds along with 18 points – including the last-second bucket that won it.

The sequence began with the score tied and UW in possession.

Thomas launched a 3-pointer that missed, but Pondexter got the offensive rebound. He passed to Elston Turner, who returned it to Pondexter at the top of the arc. Romar rejected a time out, assuming that his team knew to clear out for their captain.

We’ll let Pondexter tell it:

“We read the situation. We had a second chance. Time was running out. … There was a little bit of bumps there, and they hadn’t been calling things like that all game. I knew they weren’t going to call it. I’ve been in situations like that before, and I just had to make the quickest move possible to try and get the ball up on the rim. … As a senior, you don’t want that to be your last game. You don’t want to end on a sour note, and I had to step up for our team to win.”

Except there was still another tick on the clock, just enough time for the Golden Eagles to inbound the ball to Lazar Hayward – their leading scorer, a former USA University Games teammate of Pondexter’s and a senior trying to extend his own career.

Hayward launched the ball from more than half court. And for almost every inch of its long flight, it seemed to have a chance.

How it looked to Hayward: “It felt good coming out of my hand. It was just a little long, and I felt like, you know, we could have had some of the March Madness luck, but we didn’t.”

How it looked to Pondexter: “Man, it seemed like it was an eternity, because he had a chance to put it on the ground and get a good look at it. It wasn’t rushed at all, and I thought it was going to be another reverse senior moment and he hits the big shot. I’m glad it didn’t go in. It looked like it was in. He’s a terrific player, and I’m sorry it had to end like that.”

Fast breaks

Washington improved to 25-9 on the season. Marquette ended its season at 22-12. … UW moved to 16-15 in its all-time NCAA tournament appearances. ... Washington hit nine of 14 3-pointers for a season-high 64.3 percent. The nine made 3-pointers also was a season high. … Thomas’ team-high 19 points moved him to 1,106 for his career – the most ever by a Husky in his first two seasons. … This was Pondexter’s 134th career game, the most ever by a Huskies player. He also moved into sole possession of fourth place on the UW scoring list with 1,761 points. … The crowd for the second two-game session in San Jose was announced at 15,427.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808