Huskies, Cougars save Pac-10 tourney from itself

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Klay Thompson did the impossible Thursday. He made the Pac-10 tournament watchable.

OK, the Washington State junior didn’t do it all by himself. The Cougars lost a thriller to in-state rival Washington, 89-87, in the tournament quarterfinals as Thompson scored a tournament record 43 points.

It was a welcome performance after three forgettable games, too. USC’s win vs. Cal was sloppy and slow, Arizona logged a workmanlike victory vs. Oregon State, and the less said about UCLA’s 76-59 loss to Oregon, the better. The Huskies and Cougars had the potential to be good, but I wasn’t optimistic.

That changed as soon as the second half began.

Down 40-32, Washington began with a press, which was brave considering they only had eight players because of injuries and a suspension to guard Venoy Overton. In about two minutes, the Huskies had a 42-40 lead and the race was on.

“We had something to prove,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

“That first 2, 21/2 minutes was really impressive,” Bone added. “They did a good job defensively and then they were just scoring.”

They combined for 104 second-half points in what became a wide-open game that was occasionally sloppy, somewhat maddening for the players’ decision – but always entertaining. Thompson did his part – he often was the Cougars’ only offensive option – hoisting shot after shot. He would hit eight 3-pointers, but never got a chance to hit a ninth in the final seconds as the Huskies fouled Reggie Moore before he could pass.

“We needed something like this to make us feel good as a team,” Romar told the Seattle Times. “I think our team feels a lot better mentally than it did going into this game.”

Now Washington (21-10) seems poised to reach the Pac-10 title game and return to the NCAA tournament. It’ll face Oregon on Friday. Meanwhile, Thompson sounds like his college career is over.

“The NIT would be fun, but my dream was the NCAA tournament,” he told the Spokesman-Review.

If that was it, it was an impressive way to go out.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.