2011 NCAA Tournament: Washington's Run Ends With 86-83 Loss To North Carolina

The Washington Huskies NCAA Tournament run came to an end on Sunday with an 86-83 loss to North Carolina.

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2011 NCAA Tournament Score: Questionable Late-Game Decisions, Officiating Surround Washington's 86-83 Loss To North Carolina

As CBS highlighted during their post game analysis, the Washington Huskies had about 1.2 seconds left on the clock after North Carolina forward John Henson bobbled a desperation halfcourt shot from senior guard Venoy Overton out of bounds.

Down three points, they were given 0.5 seconds instead and Isaiah Thomas wasn't able to get his feet set behind the 3-point line on another buzzer-beater try and UW's season ended on a disappointing 86-83 loss to UNC in Charlotte.

Certainly that extra second might have helped UW find a better last second shot. Then again, there were questionable decisions even before that led up to the situation in which a desperation shot was needed.

The very fact that there was 1.2 seconds left when Overton's shot went through Henson's hands and out of bounds will draw lingering questions about why he took the shot, although he might have had reason to believe that he could draw a foul. On the possession prior to that, senior forward Justin Holiday was unable to throw an inbounds pass around Henson with the Huskies only down one. Prior to that, Overton took a contested layup in traffic that also fell short against UNC's posts. Two possessions prior to that, Terrence Ross tried to make another acrobatic layup in traffic that fell short.

So perhaps what's most disappointing about this loss from a fan perspective is that UW had chances to win the game and their decision making down the stretch hurt their chances, officiating mistakes aside. And despite characteristically solid defensive performances by seniors Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton, their careers will unfortunately end with questions about decisions they made.

However, a lack of senior poise under pressure is hardly what determined this outcome. Untimely turnovers hurt UW throughout the second half and they continued to struggle keeping North Carolina off the free throw line - UNC got to the line 23 times with Tyler Zeller leading the way with 7-for-7 free throw shooting as part of his game-high 23 points. while forward Harrison Barnes finished with 22 points and big plays on both ends that hurt the Huskies. Freshman point guard Kendall Marshall set a UNC record for assists in a tournament game with 14 in addition to seven free throw attempts of his own.

To Washington's credit, they did an admirable job on the boards against UNC's size with Aziz N'Diaye leading the way with a game-high 11 while Ross led the team in scoring with 19 points. Yet the fact that UW only got to the line seven times in the game while UNC had 10 attempts in the second half just demonstrates UW's difficulty with defending this bigger team today.

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NCAA Tournament Scores: Washington Advances After Surviving Georgia, 68-65

For the second consecutive game, the Washington Huskies were involved in a game with a dramatic finish.

And UW guard Isaiah Thomas was again a participant in a big play.

After Georgia made a late run that came down to free throws and missed free throws to cut the lead to three, an outlet pass with under three seconds left was deflected by Thomas and forced the Bulldogs into a tough three at the buzzer that fell short and secured a 68-65 win for the Huskies in opening round play.

Although it was late-game drama that might have made the game representative of the annual madness in March, it was the Huskies' ability to establish their transition game in the second half that won this game after a first half in which neither Georgia nor Washington was able to consistently impose their will on the game. After struggling to make shots in the first half, the Huskies found their rhythm in transition, which created the type of shooter's confidence that they talked about over the past few weeks and helped them shoot 53.8 percent in the second half.

But that was all made possible by doing a much better job of pressuring Georgia guards into poor decisions and turnovers while the Huskies finished the game with five total turnovers. After a slow start, Isaiah Thomas turned it on in the second half to finish with 19 points and seven assists, complemented by Scott Suggs' 10 points. Trey Thompkins led the way for Georgia with a game-high 26 points to go with 11 rebounds, which marks a better job of UW in the paint in the second half: Thompkins was held to only three rebounds.

Perhaps we can't say that the Huskies have regained the confidence that had people expecting them to win the Pac-10 regular season title early in 2011, but we can say that performances like they had in the second half tonight are encouraging for the team as they move forward - not only did they bounce back and find their shooting stroke as they did early in the year, but their defensive intensity overwhelmed the opposing guards and helped them establish their style of play.

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