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Washington Basketball: Huskies Finally Rose To The Occasion In Important 89-87 Win Over WSU

There were obviously a number of reasons why the Washington Huskies' 89-87 win over Washington State last night was important.

First, they avoided a three-game sweep to their cross-state rival, which would only have intensified the bitter taste of a disappointing season to go along with the anxiety of sitting around wondering about their fate come Selection Sunday.

Second, the win no doubt strengthens their chances for a tournament bid and possibly even a half-reasonable seed on Selection Sunday. A loss would have definitely cast a shadow of doubt over that and since it didn't happen we won't bother to examine the magnitude of that shadow.

But third, with all of that on the line making this arguably the most important game of their season, this team just needed to know they could rise to the occasion. And they did.

UW overcomes Thompson's 43 points for WSU | Northwest News - The News Tribune
The 5-foot-9 All-Pac-10 performer shredded the WSU zone with the dribble, getting under the guards, drawing bigs and serving Matthew Bryan-Amaning bucket after bucket. The 6-9 Amaning, who had 20 points combined in the first two games, put in 16, complementing the outside shooting of freshmen Terrence Ross (17) and C.J. Wilcox (16).

That they did so without the services of guard Venoy Overton, who's serving a suspension, makes this easily the strongest win of the season, all RPI resume-blather aside, especially given Klay Thompson's outburst described by Brian Floyd.

Pac-10 Tournament 2011 Bracket Update: Klay Thompson Sets Pac-10 Record, Washington Moves On - SB Nation Seattle
Klay Thompson gave it all he could for the Washington State Cougars on Thursday night, but the Washington Huskies had just enough in the tank to squeak by in an 89-87 win at Staples Center. Thompson set a new Pac-10 Tournament scoring record, finishing with 43 of the Cougars 89 points.

They talked about how they needed to come together earlier in the week and they managed to do so with the odds against them from the start, standing more strongly against them after Matthew Bryan-Amaning got in early foul trouble, and seemingly continued to swing out of their favor with Thompson on fire.

And although people will continue to inexplicably question point guard Isaiah Thomas, his skill as a lead ball handler, his leadership abilities, and his general worthiness of a D1 scholarship, he stepped up as big as anyone on a night when the team needed their best from a shortened rotation.

Husky Men's Basketball Blog | Romar: "We needed this to feel good about ourselves" | Seattle Times Newspaper
And finally, Isaiah Thomas was simply amazing. He never left the floor, playing 40 minutes for the first time in his career. Thomas led UW with 21 points and 11 assists, which was one shy of the tournament record.

Although a loss to seven seed Oregon would unquestionably be something of a letdown, last night's game has to restore some measure of confidence to a team that was sorely lacking it in words, body language, and action on the court as of late.