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Sunday, March 10, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Huskies Tip Trojans, Hope For Nit -- Sanford Scores 25; UW Is 16-11

Special To The Seattle Times

LOS ANGELES - All Washington's men's basketball team can do now is wait and see if it will earn its first postseason bid since 1987.

The Huskies ended their best regular season in nine years by holding on for a 71-68 victory against USC last night.

Washington completed its first winning season since 1987 with a 16-11 overall record and 9-9 in the Pac-10 Conference. Gaining an NCAA Tournament bid might be a long shot for the Huskies, but an NIT berth is a possibility.

"We needed that one. . . . I can't say enough about our kids," Washington Coach Bob Bender said. "We will be pleased to go anywhere. It's nice to walk into the locker room and know that we've just completed the best season here in nine years. Hopefully, we will be rewarded for it."

After losing a heartbreaker to UCLA on Thursday night, Washington responded by racing to a 17-point lead midway through the second half.

Then the Huskies nearly fell victim to a furious rally by USC, which had not won a game since Feb. 1. The Trojans trailed 54-37 before rallying to trail 67-66 with one minute remaining.

The Huskies needed two key free throws by Jason Hartman and a two-handed dunk by Mark Sanford to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Sanford scored a game-high 25 points and finished with 60 points in two games against USC this season.

Senior guard Bryant Boston scored his 1,000th career point on a three-pointer on his first shot attempt of the game.

Sanford started fast to open the second half as he scored the Huskies' first six points and eight of their first 12 they stretched their lead to 54-37 with 13 minutes remaining.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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