USC rally falls short against Washington 78-75 in Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals

Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LAS VEGAS -- Nick Rakocevic scratched his head and stared at the carpet in the locker room, the devastation evident in his voice.

Only a few minutes earlier the USC forward had held the ball, and maybe the game, in his hands after grabbing a rebound with seven seconds left. The Trojans didn't have any timeouts left and needed to go the length of the court for a tying three-pointer and a chance to complete a furious comeback against top-seeded Washington.

Rakocevic dribbled toward halfcourt and didn't see any teammates open. He continued into the frontcourt, finally spotting Shaqquan Aaron making a move to get open on the wing.

Here was an opportunity to get one of the team's long-range shooters the ball on an afternoon the Trojans had matched the Huskies steal for steal, block for block, shot for shot.

But USC could not conjure one final answer. Rakocevic put too much oomph on his pass and it sailed out of bounds with three seconds left, securing Washington's 78-75 victory Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in a Pac-12 Conference quarterfinal.

"I just threw a bad pass," Rakocevic said, "and it cost my team the game."


Rakocevic placed his hands on his head in disbelief as the Huskies and their fans celebrated their good fortune. The Trojans could only foul David Crisp with four-tenths of a second left. He missed both free throws, but Rakocevic's full-court heave at the buzzer fell short, just like his team's comeback from 10 points down in the final eight minutes.

"I honestly believe in our heart and in Washington's heart, they know we should have won that game," USC guard Jonah Mathews said after the top-seeded Huskies (25-7) advanced to face Colorado in a semifinal Friday. "Both teams fought, but I feel like we should have come out with the victory but we didn't so we have to regroup and get ready for next year."

The Trojans (16-17) will have to move on without senior forward Bennie Boatwright, who tallied 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his final college game. It was also a farewell for Aaron, the senior guard who scored six points, and possibly Kevin Porter Jr., the freshman guard who scored 17 points and said afterward that he was uncertain about his future.

"I have to talk to my family and see what's best for me," said Porter, who is contemplating declaring for the NBA draft, where he's widely projected as a first-round pick.


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