After a disappointing first half that found them trailing by 10 points heading into the locker room, the Washington Huskies gave it all they had to come back in the second half.
But the Huskies' late rally came up short, and they ended up falling to the Trojans, 62-60, on Senior Night at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion Saturday night.
"It's a disappointment to lose in this building," said senior guard Venoy Overton. "Just the fact that we lost two of the last three games. We don't usually lose here so that's disappointing."
The loss does not affect the seeding in the Pacific-10 Conference as the Huskies had sealed the third seed in the conference with an 11-7 record, 20-10 overall.
The Huskies will face the sixth-seeded Washington State Cougars in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament after going 0-2 against their in-state rival during the regular season.
The Huskies and Cougars will tangle Thursday at 8:40 p.m. Pacific time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Winning the Pac-10 Tournament title might be the only route available to the NCAA Tournament now for the Huskies because of their late-season troubles.
Washington could not overcome another slow start at home, something that has become a trend late in the season. The Huskies managed only 26 first-half points and were outrebounded by USC 19-10 by halftime.
"I feel like we've been letting them (opposing teams) take the first punch the last couple of games, and it's hurt us," said junior guard Isaiah Thomas. "We get ourselves in a deep hole even though we know we always come back. But, it's the end of the season now, you do that, you lose the game (and) you're done."
In their final home appearances, the seniors on the Huskies mostly struggled with the exception of Overton, who played one of his best games. Overton finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists and also played well on defense.
Senior Justin Holiday, who came into the game averaging 11.7 points per game, was held scoreless, going 0-for-6 from the field. Senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning struggled at times Saturday night and ended up with 11 points and six rebounds.
One of the most surprising aspects of Saturday's final home game was the absence of Terrence Ross on the floor. The freshman scored 18 points in the last meeting against USC, and helped UW get an overtime win over the Trojans on the road. On Saturday night, however, Ross never got the chance to take his warm-ups off and didn't play.
"C.J. Wilcox came off an unbelievable game, and we were hoping he could get going," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Scott Suggs came in and did a really nice job in the first half. He came in and played and sometimes there just aren't enough minutes. So it was just difficult to find minutes."
The Huskies will now prepare themselves for the Pac-10 tournament, knowing that anything short of a tournament sweep will most likely prevent them from making the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Huskies were able to win the conference tournament, take the automatic NCAA Tournament entry and ride that momentum all the way to the Sweet 16.
If the Huskies are to repeat that performance of year ago, they will have to get by Washington State, which seems to have the Huskies' number this season.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in any sport so we're focusing on getting ready for them and hopefully we will have a good game," Thomas said. "It's the Pac-10 tournament. We've got to make some noise, and like I said, it's do-or-die. If you don't bring it, you're out."