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Saturday, March 13, 2010
Washington states its case, title game next

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t against the opponent everyone had pegged it to play against, but Washington still provided a statement win during its 79-64 rout of Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament. Will it be enough to earn the Huskies an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament?

Coming into the Pac-10 tourney, a possible semifinal matchup between Washington and Arizona State basically amounted to a play-in game for an at-large spot. After Stanford beat Arizona State, however, the onus was on UW to leave no doubt its 23-9 record deserved to be included in the field of 65. Despite the win and their record, however, the Huskies understand nothing short of a conference tournament title will guarantee them a bid in the tournament.

“We don’t know if we’re in the NCAA tournament or not,” said Quincy Pondexter, who scored 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. “We haven’t been given an invitation or anything by them. We just have to come out and play as hard as we can and let Selection Sunday take care of itself.”

Against the Cardinal, Washington led by as many as 23 points with six minutes left in the game and put a few exclamation points at the end of their win when Matt Bryan-Armaning threw down a monster dunk over Andrew Zimmermann, and Darnell Gant threw down a pair of above the rim slams that were better than anything seen at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest this year.

The Huskies, who have won six straight games and 11 of their past 13, will now play Cal in Saturday's championship game. The teams split the season series, winning on each other’s court by double digits and both were perceived as the class of the conference in the preseason, when they were both ranked in the top 14 the first week of the season.

“This is an opportunity for us to win a championship and make sure we take the [selection process] out of the committee’s hands for the NCAA tournament,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. “You just never know. There are teams that have had great cases in the past only to be disappointed on Selection Sunday, so we have to wait and see and do everything in our power to make sure it happens.”