SEATTLE -- Washington coach Lorenzo Romar knows that Venoy Overton would rather be introduced with the starters instead of sitting on the bench for the first few minutes.
It's hard not to use Overton as his sixth man with the type of impact he brings to the game.
Overton sparked a lethargic Washington squad in the first half with 11 points, then watched Quincy Pondexter score 13 of his 20 points in the second half, and the Huskies (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) held on in the final minutes for a 76-70 win over Oregon State on Thursday night.
"I don't know how much he likes it but I think he takes pride in it," Romar said of Overton. "When he is in that role I think he takes the high road on it to tell you the truth, 'It's not ideal, but I'm going to make the best of it.' And he has made the best of it."
But it nearly got away from the defending Pac-10 champions in their league opener. Washington (10-2, 1-0 Pac-10) is the only Pac-10 team ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 and began the conference schedule with a dull first 7 minutes. But Overton provided a lift and Washington closed the first half on a 33-14 run that gave the Huskies a 10-point halftime lead.
They needed all of that lead as Oregon State trimmed an 11-point deficit with 4:28 left down to three in the final minute, but couldn't capitalize on opportunities to draw closer.
Pondexter made four free throws in the final 30 seconds and Darnell Gant added one more for the final margin as Washington won its fourth straight.
Isaiah Thomas added 19 points for the Huskies, including a trio of 3s in the first half.
"It doesn't always have to be pretty, just as long as you get it done," Pondexter said. "Some teams play like this and lose to a team that they're supposed to beat. Some of us aren't happy with the way we played but ... we'll take it any way we can get it."
Roeland Schaftenaar led Oregon State with 16 points as the Beavers saw their brief two-game win streak snapped following an up-and-down non-conference season. Considered a potential preseason surprise in the Pac-10, Oregon State struggled with losses to the likes of Sacramento State and Illinois-Chicago.
"We knew we could control the game, but the thing was could we control them from getting offensive rebounds, getting fast-break points, getting their crowd involved," Haynes said. "We had them the first 10 minutes of the game."
It appeared the Huskies were about to pull away for an easy start to conference play when Overton sprinted down the lane for a layup with 4:28 left and a 69-58 lead -- the Huskies biggest lead of the night.
Oregon State then started to chip away, in a hurry, and Washington was happy to help with some mistakes of its own.
The Beavers used a rare four-point play -- Johnson's 3 while Schaftenaar was fouled under the basket -- and two more free throws from Schaftenaar to pull to 69-64 with 3:22 left. Oregon State forced a Thomas miss in the lane, but then Oregon State's missed opportunities began.
Oregon State forced a Thomas miss in the lane, but Haynes missed a breakaway layup and Washington's Elston Turner was fouled. He made both to push the advantage back to seven.
Haynes made up for his mistake with a 3, getting the Beavers as close as they had been since it was 33-29 late in the first half. After Thomas' pass was stolen by Johnson, Haynes was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws getting OSU within 71-68.
The Beavers forced another turnover as Overton tried dribbling through a triple team, but Haynes traveled with 1:08 left. Another Washington turnover -- this time Pondexter losing his dribble -- gave Oregon State another chance to draw closer, but Seth Tarver missed a contested look from the low block and Pondexter was fouled on the rebound.
"You have to make plays and finish games like this," Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. "I thought that we played good basketball for stretches, but a game like this is about making plays when you have to make plays."
After a sloppy start, Washington got its lift from Overton. The 5-foot-11 defensive irritator and instigator started Washington's rally from down 19-10. Washington outscored the Beavers 33-14 over the final 13 minutes of the first half, including a stretch of 5:22 where Oregon State went scoreless. Joe Burton finally broke the scoreless string with 6:23 left in the half. But Washington wasn't done, with 16 of the final 22 points after Oregon State pulled even at 27-all.