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Texas A&M loses Roland; Pondexter lifts Washington

SEATTLE -- Texas A&M players cried on the court. Leading scorer Donald Sloan was weeping as he buried his head inside his jersey and had to be helped to the bench. Derrick Roland, his childhood friend from Dallas, his fellow senior leader, was on his back with a grotesquely broken leg.

The Aggies were still in tears after this surreal game.

Quincy Pondexter kept sluggish Washington afloat, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the first half, and the 22nd-ranked Huskies beat No. 19 Texas A&M 73-64 on Tuesday night in a game marred -- and largely decided -- by Roland's gruesome injury and its aftermath.

Pondexter was next to Roland when he landed hard under the rim. The crack of his leg breaking echoed over the crowd's din and across the stunned arena.

Pondexter called Roland's protruding fracture that had most on that side of the stands turning their backs in horror "one of the nastiest things I've ever seen."

The leader of the Aggies (8-3) known as "D-Roll," one of the leading defenders in the Big 12 Conference and the team's second-leading scorer, crashed hard to the court early in the second half after jumping under the basket with Pondexter.

Coach Mark Turgeon said Roland broke the tibia and fibula in his lower right leg.

"He's in surgery now," Turgeon said immediately after the game.

Turgeon then rushed out of the arena to the hospital across town and referred all other questions to top assistant Scott Spinelli.

"We expect him to make a full recovery," Spinelli said, though he conceded Roland's college career may be over.

Turgeon considered leaving the game before it ended to join his player at the hospital. The scene recalled the similar injury former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann sustained live on national television during a Monday night NFL game in 1985.

The Aggies gathered at their bench for a tearful prayer for Roland during a 10-minute delay as he was put on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance. Immediately after the game resumed, Washington (8-2) went on a decisive 15-4 run.

"We tried to get our focus back," Spinelli said. "I thought our guys did a good job trying to finish the game the best as they possibly can."

B.J. Holmes led the Aggies with 17 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting, keeping his team in the game after Roland's injury. After the game, Holmes cried into a towel in the locker room. When forward Nathan Walkup emerged from the locker room, he broke into tears and fell into the arms of a man standing next to him.

Turgeon ran on the court while play continued at the other end. Spinelli said the Aggies feared the fracture might send Roland into shock or even heart or breathing problems. The senior stayed motionless and emotionless, other than placing his arms over his eyes, as four University of Washington doctors rushed to his side.

"It was a very, very gruesome sight," Spinelli said. "I don't know how the Joe Theismann injury was any different, but that has to be as close as you can get to it."

Roland was wearing an air cast on his leg when he was taken to the ambulance that took him across town to Harborview Medical Center. Roland, who scored a career-high 21 points earlier this season at Southern Methodist, was alert inside the ambulance. He sitting up as an IV was started in his arm.

The Aggies trailed 34-33 at the time of his injury. They never seemed to get over the shock of seeing their teammate's collegiate career likely end so graphically.

Pondexter and Thomas each scored twice during the game-changing spurt, and Scott Suggs' 3-pointer with 11:08 remaining put the Huskies up 49-37.

When Suggs hit another 3 to keep Washington up by a dozen with 2:50 left, it seemed the Aggies were finished. Yet they scored eight of the next nine points. Playing more because Roland was gone, Holmes made his third 3-pointer in 2 1/2 minutes to pull Texas A&M within 66-61 with 1:54 left.

But Venoy Overton made five straight free throws to put Washington up 71-61 with a minute left, and the Huskies had their eighth win in as many home games this season.

Spinelli acknowledged the effect of Roland's injury.

"D-Roll is our leader, on and off the floor," the assistant said. "It was tough for our kids to see that. It think it affected, obviously, our team."

Sloan added 16 points for the Aggies, but missed 15 of 20 field goals on a night his best friend on the team likely had his college career come to a gruesome end.

"It's really sad. I went out there and looked at his eyes, and they said a lot," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Like something really, really bad just happened in his life.

"It was beyond scared."