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Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament: Arizona leads Washington, 36-33, at halftime of championship

March 12, 2011 |  4:18 pm

Maybe the Pacific 10 Conference isn't so terrible after all.

In a riveting display worthy of a national stage, Arizona and Washington were locked in a back-and-forth affair in the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament championship Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, with the Wildcats taking a 36-33 halftime lead.

Huskies guard Isaiah Thomas singlehandedly kept his team in the game, scoring 19 first-half points on an array of dazzling drives and spot-up three-pointers. Thomas made six of nine shots, including three of four three-pointers. No other Washington player had more than five points.

Sophomore forward Derrick Williams had seven points for the Wildcats, who used a more balanced attack. Arizona appeared on the verge of breaking away when former Westchester High star Jordin Mayes made a three-pointer from the top of the key, giving the Wildcats a 32-24 lead.

But Terrence Ross buried a turnaround jumper and Thomas made his third three-pointer to spark a 9-4 surge by the Huskies to end the half.

Arizona is dominating in the paint, outscoring the Huskies, 16-8, but Washington is winning the rebounding battle, 17-13. Arizona is shooting 48.1% to Washington's 42.9%.

Arizona wasn't called for its first foul until there were 9 minutes, 23 seconds left in the half, drawing mock applause from Washington fans. The Huskies already had seven fouls by that time. Officials were booed as they walked into a tunnel below Washington fans at halftime.

With Washington backup point guard Venoy Overton suspended in the wake of allegedly supplying alcohol to a minor, Thomas has played 98 of a possible 100 minutes so far in the tournament. It will be interesting to see if he wears down in the second half, because the Huskies don't seem to stand a chance if he is gassed.

--Ben Bolch