February 21, 2011 | 8:15am
When the Washington State Cougars rushed down the court down by two points with seconds to go on Saturday afternoon, just about everyone in the Wells Fargo Arena probably shared a similar thought:
The Arizona State Sun Devils had lost eleven Pac-10 Conference games in a row, many of them tight until the very end, and this one seemed to be heading into that awful territory.
Klay Thompson, perhaps the league's best offensive player (along with Arizona's Derrick Williams), seemed like the obvious choice to take the last shot.
But Abe Lodwick, a bulky lefty-shooting forward who already had hit three-pointers, was open on the right side and he got the ball with about a second left and let it fly.
Good form, soft touch--but it rolled around the rim before harmlessly dropping to the side as the final buzzer sounded. 71-69 Sun Devils.
The Tempe team celebrated as if they'd won the NCAA championship, and no wonder. It's been weeks since they tasted victory, and they did it without injured senior starters Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott.
Freshman guard Chanse Creekmur scored 18 points in a great effort.
Down in Tucson later on Saturday afternoon, a classic unfolded.
The match-up tself was huge, with Pac-10 preseason favorite Washington taking on league-leading Arizona. Both teams are quite strong, but the Huskies needed a win to get within one game of the Wildcats in the race for the conference crown.
Washington came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half and seemed to have all the momentum as the clock wound down. But Derrick Williams hit a huge three with a little more than two minutes to go to give Arizona a two-point lead.
The last 120 seconds or so seemed to take an eternity, with the Wildcats again regaining the lead, 87-86, with 17 seconds left on a put-back by Solomon Hill after a cleanly blocked shot by Jesse Perry.
The Huskies had several chances to score in the remaining seconds, none more high percentage than a close range attempt by Darnell Gant with 1.8 seconds to go. From out of nowhere, All-American candidate Williams flew across the lane, jumped as high as he could and swatted the thing out of bounds, barely avoiding a goaltending call that would have effectively ended the game in Washington's favor.
It was one of Arizona's very best plays of the year, maybe of several years.
The Huskies had one last chance for a possible buzzer-beating tip-in, but no dice.
Another Arizona victory, and another wild celebration.
Coupled with UCLA's loss to Cal last night, the Cats lead the Pac-10 by two games going into this weekend's games out in Los Angeles.