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Purdue holds off Washington 76-74

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GREGG BELL | March 21, 2009 08:31 PM EST | AP

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PORTLAND, Ore. — JaJuan Johnson and Purdue just rejected Washington's desperate attempt to stay in the NCAA tournament. Now comes top-seeded Connecticut.

Johnson scored 22 points and had two huge blocks in the final minute as fifth-seeded Purdue held off a frantic charge to beat the fourth-seeded Huskies 76-74 Saturday to advance to its first regional semifinals since 2000.

E'Twaun Moore scored 14 points and made the clinching free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining. The Boilermakers (27-9), the Big Ten tournament champions, led the entire game, but nearly blew a 14-point lead to the desperate, determined Huskies.

Isaiah Thomas scored 24 points, Quincy Pondexter had 20 with 10 rebounds and Jon Brockman added 20 points with 18 rebounds _ the 60th and final double-double of his career _ for Washington (26-9), the regular-season champion of the Pac-10.

Brockman made a thudding free throw and then a third-chance putback with 3:07 remaining to cut Purdue's game-long lead to 69-67.

Brockman's seventh consecutive point came on a reverse layin underneath, keeping Washington within 73-71 with 1:36 remaining.

Johnson then made consecutive blocks, first of Thomas' drive, then of Pondexter's jumper in the lane with 57.8 seconds left. After Moore missed a layup, so did the 5-foot-8 Thomas on yet another daring drive through the lane, with 18.8 seconds to go.

Moore, a 76 percent foul shooter, made two free throws to make it 75-71.

Brockman hit one of two free throws with 6.8 seconds left. After a quick foul by Washington in the backcourt, Moore missed the first free throw with 5.5 seconds remaining, but made the second to send the Boilermakers to Glendale, Ariz., for a date Thursday with Connecticut, the top seed in the West Region.

Pondexter made an inconsequential shot at the buzzer. Brockman doubled over on the court as the Boilermakers jumped around before a stunned sea of purple-clad and broken-heartened fans from up the freeway in Seattle.

Purdue's larger guards were all over the Huskies defensively outside for most of the game, while the 6-foot-10 Johnson continually pushed Brockman further away from the basket than he's used to playing.

And Purdue's motion offense from outside the foul line, something Washington hadn't seen this season, continually produced open shots for Johnson and everyone else.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar uncharacteristically poked freshman forward Darnell Gant in the chest for not providing backside help on defense, then he barked in Thomas' face. That was at a timeout after Lewis Jackson, who finished with 11 points, blew past the fellow diminutive freshman guard for an easy score 79 seconds into the second half to equal Purdue's largest lead, 44-30.

Washington kept squandering chances until Justin Dentmon, who had been 1-for-6 and tentative to take a shot, made his first basket since midway through the first half. Elston Turner pump-faked Robbie Hummel onto his fractured back and then made a 3-pointer to make it 58-54 with 9:32 remaining and set up the finish.

When Thomas, who finished three points shy of his career high, drove through the lane for a basket and 3-point play and made another free throw with 4:19 left, the Huskies were down 67-64 _ as close as they had been since 7-4.

Washington missed 10 of its first 13 shots and fell behind 20-8 after 10 minutes when Grant made a 3-pointer. Purdue still led 32-21 five minutes later when Hummel followed Chris Kramer's long jumper with a 3-pointer from the corner _ the Boilermakers' 12th make in 24 shots and fourth in eight tries from deep.

Hummel yelled "Oh, yeah!" and ran off the floor as Washington called timeout. It didn't help. Keaton Grant stepped back and made a 25-footer to give Purdue its largest lead, 35-21.

As Washington's coaches stomped the floor at the bench in frustration, the half ended on an emphatic dunk by Johnson, after one of numerous tap-out second chances by Purdue.

It was the second-largest halftime deficit for the Huskies this season _ they were down 17 then lost to Arizona State in the Pac-10 semifinals last week.