In the end, senior Pondexter delivers for 11-seed Washington
SAN JOSE, Calif. --
And at halftime Thursday night, with his 11th-seeded Huskies in a tight game with No. 6 Marquette, Pondexter knew that if he didn't play better he was only going to have 20 minutes left in his long college career.
"I played horrible in the first half," said Pondexter, who had four points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. "I had the fear of it being my last collegiate game. Ever. That's what propelled me to play well in the second half.
"I didn't want to go home."
Pondexter came to Washington as part of heralded recruiting class in 2006. But the other players in his class left for the NBA or transferred to other schools. Even though the Huskies didn't have success in his first two years and didn't make the tournament -- nor was Pondexter playing very well -- he stuck it out.
Part of his motivation was not to become like his father
The Huskies -- who made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2009 -- earned their berth this season by winning the Pac-10 tournament. They were rewarded with a game on the West Coast. HP Pavilion was as close to feeling like a home game as an 11th seed can hope to get.
Pondexter was unhappy with his play at halftime. And he was unhappier when, with 13:58 to play in the game, Washington found itself trailing by 15. But the Huskies increased their defensive intensity, forcing turnovers and bad shots by Marquette, and whittled away at the deficit. Seven minutes later, they were down by just one. Within another minute, they had taken the lead.
"It was very intense out there," said Pondexter, who was called for a technical along with Marquette's
Pondexter poured in 14 points in the second half. His teammates,
With seconds remaining, Pondexter found himself with the ball in his hands at the top of the key and the score tied at 78.
So who better to extend his season, than the player who had said earlier this season "I really want to go out the right way"?
"With 18 seconds left I thought about calling a time out, and then again at 12 seconds," Romar said. "But he had the basketball in his hands. And we were very familiar with how to play at the top, how to rotate, how to space. I decided not to call a timeout.
"Let your senior have a chance to win it."
And the senior drove, was bumped, leaned in and banked in the shot to give Washington the 80-78 lead.
Though there was a heart-stopping moment when Marquette's
And extended Pondexter's season for at least one more game.
"It's something you dream of as a kid," he said. "It was one of those storybook shots."