SEATTLE – When the magic moment came, Dominic Green didn’t have time to think about it. The clock was a tick away from triple zeroes, so all Green could do was let it fly.
As the ball dropped through the net, you probably could hear the crowd erupt from Lake Washington to Elliott Bay. Al Michaels is at the Super Bowl, but “Do You Believe in Miracles?”
Green’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Washington Huskies a stunning 78-75 victory over ninth-ranked Arizona, one of the most memorable wins ever on Montlake. Many of the fans in the sellout crowd of 10,000 at Alaska Airlines Arena stormed the court and the celebration began.
“It's emotional,” said UW coach Mike Hopkins. “In life, you fight for these moments. To be a part of it, I’m just so proud of these guys. It means the world to me.”
The victory marked the first time the Huskies have won back-to-back games against ranked opponents in 11 years. UW was 9-22 a year ago and 2-16 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies now are 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the Pac-12. They have beaten two top-10 teams - Arizona at home and Kansas on the road.
And the man who recruited most of these Huskies was there to see it. Lorenzo Romar, who was fired after the 2016-17 season, now is the assistant head coach at Arizona. Romar received a standing ovation when he walked on the floor before the game and a second one when he was introduced to the crowd.
Romar guided the Huskies to six NCAA Tournament bids in his 15 seasons as head coach. The UW fans showed him the respect he deserved. Romar stayed on the court and hugged his former players after the game.
These Huskies could be headed to the NCAA Tournament, one of the most remarkable single-season turnarounds ever in college basketball. Only three times in the last 40 years has a Pac-12 team gone from just two conference wins to the place where the Huskies are now, and the last time was 24 years ago by Stanford.
Saturday’s victory came on an improbable last-second shot that wasn’t how they drew it up. With the game tied at 75-75, UW had the ball with 22 seconds remaining.
Almost everyone in the arena, including the Wildcats, assumed freshman Jaylen Nowell (the Huskies best offensive player) would take the shot. They were right.
Nowell drove down the lane and put up a short jumper, but 7-1 center Deandre Ayton was waiting and easily slapped the shot away. It landed near the UW bench, where Green grabbed it on one bounce and quickly launched it toward the basket.
The buzzer sounded in mid-flight and the shot was nothing but net. Green was tackled by his teammates on the bench, the frenzied crowd headed to the court and the Wildcats were in shock as they walked away.
“I was watching Ayton and the ball came right to me,’’ said Green, who finished with 14 points off the bench. “I knew I had to shoot it quickly. I looked at it and said, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ ’’
UW fans will remember that shot forever, but they probably won’t remember the 3-pointer Green made with 1:23 to go that tied it at 73-73 after Arizona had taken the lead.
The Huskies led 35-28 at the half, but the Wildcats came roaring back and the teams exchanged the lead eight times in the second half, including five times in the final five minutes.
Green’s three will play on the TV highlight reels all week, but the real star of the night for the Huskies was forward Noah Dickerson. At 6-8, Dickerson had to battle all night against two talented 7-footers for Arizona in Ayton and Dusan Ristic.
Dickerson more than held his own, consistently outmuscling the giants in the lane and finishing with 25 points and seven rebounds.
Ayton and Ristic combine for 40 points and 22 boards, but Dickerson’s tenacity down low and his ability to score over them in the paint was the key factor in UW’s victory.
“I would pump fake and put my body on them so they couldn’t jump up and get (his shot),’’ Dickerson said. “And we just kept fighting and showing our resilience.’’
They fought long enough for Green to get his moment to remember on a night no UW fan will ever forget.
“It’s just incredible,’’ Hopkins said. “It was pure mayhem at the end. That’s what makes sports great. These kids believe in themselves. It’s a huge win, but I always tell them, we have to stay humble, hungry and wise.”
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