by: John Chase
Oregon sealed their 4 point defeat with a last second tip-in following a series of made free throws by C.J. Wilcox. The Dawgs and Ducks battled back and forth all night with 10 points being the greatest differential achieved during the match but the Huskies pulled out the win.
The night started out rough for the Huskies who saw Oregon take another early lead. Slowly, but surely, the Dawgs started connecting on their shots and played a little tougher defense, allowing the Huskies to go into half down only 4 points.
The second half brought more energy and the crowd, who was already the loudest I have heard all season outside of the WSU and Cal games, got louder and more excited. The players fed off this and highlight plays started accruing.
Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten were aggressive all night leading to a combined 46 points from the duo, while C. J. Wilcox came off the bench to provide 17 critical points including a stellar 6 of 6 performance from the free throw line, all of which came in the final 30 seconds of the game.
The two teams provided one of the most even match-ups of the season with neither team dominating any one particular category. The Dawgs out rebounded the Ducks 37-34 with a 14-12 advantage on the offensive glass. Both teams made 7 3-pointers, though it took the Ducks an additional 6 attempts to achieve the same results. The Ducks made 3 more field goals than the Dawgs, but the Huskies attempted 13 more free throws than the Ducks and made 10 more overall. Both teams dished out 17 assists and had their steals and blocks combine for 6 each. The Ducks had 7 turnovers and the Dawgs had 8. As I said, an even game.
What makes games like these so exciting and fun to be at is not only the rivalry, but the pace at which the game is played. Teams like Utah, USC, and ASU drive me nuts due to their slow down, mind numbingly boring type of basketball. The Ducks play at a high rate, they love the transition, and can really push this Husky squad to be their best.
This Husky squad played one of their best games of the season and no surprise, a large part of this had to do with the aggressiveness of our guards. Abdul Gaddy had one of his best nights as a Dawg, tallying a double-double with 11 points, 10 assists, and an impressive 7 rebounds.Gaddy helped the Dawgs execute their half-court offense with supreme efficiency.
The team as a whole used the shot clock well, but Gaddy excelled in finding the open man after driving into the lane late in the clock. Gaddy also converted 4 shots at the line during 6 attempts. What changed in Gaddy’s mind during the last 2 weeks is beyond me, but this aggressiveness and desire to not only play, but to win, has been missing most of the year and, in my mind, is a big reason this team is now winning games they would have struggled through early this season.
Aziz N’Diaye had a quiet night due to foul trouble. He attempted only 2 shots and made 1. N’Diaye was a solid 3 of 4 from the line and collected 7 rebounds during his limited 20 minutes. Tony Woods was next to impossible for N’Diaye to shut down, especially once the fouls started racking up. Thankfully, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins was able to play 15 minutes of relief during which ASJ picked up 4 hard fouls of his own. The man loves to foul and I’m OK with this. ASJ is a back-up player whose fate ultimately lies on the gridiron. Any foul he picks up is one less for N’Diaye. Desmond Simmons played only 5 minutes in the first half and that was all the game time he saw.
Darnell Gant was excellent on the offensive glass tonight picking up 7 total boards and 5 on the offensive side. Gant shot reasonably well hitting 3 of his 5 attempts and finishing with 6 points on the night. After picking up 15 points in the first half, E.J. Singler was held to just 4 points in the second and fouled out, due in large part to the handcuffs put on him by Gant and the Huskies.
C.J. Wilcox saved the game with his clutch free throw shooting, but he should also be recognized for his aggressiveness in the paint and his sharp shooting performance. Wilcox was only 4 of 10 from the field, but was 3 of 6 from deep. Wilcox’s shooting allowed his teammates to get open looks by spreading the floor and threatening to shoot. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten saw many great looks inside the paint due to Wilcox sitting on the perimeter, forcing the Duck defense to stay honest and defend the outside shot.
Terrence Ross had another career night finishing with 24 points on 9 of 18 shooting. Ross’ outside shot was a tad below average with only 3 makes on 8 attempts, but his inside drive was as dangerous as ever. It seemed as though any set where the clock was running out, Ross or Wroten had the ball in their hand, looking to drive inside for the basket. Ross finished 3 of 3 from the foul line and also picked up 3 rebounds.With 4 other Huskies grabbing 7 boards, Ross did not need to be as aggressive on the glass.
Thus far in the tournament, Ross had averaged just under 27 points per game, 11 points above his season average. This shows just how talented Ross can be when he plays hard during both halves. If Ross stays another season, he may very well be one of the nation’s leading scorers.
Tony Wroten now hold the freshman scoring record for UW, surpassing Isaiah Thomas. Wroten now holds a 9 point advantage and will certainly add more as the NIT continues. After a 5 shot game against Northwestern, it was almost a certainty that Wroten would be aggressive once more. Sure enough, Wroten attacked the Ducks early and often leading to 22 points on 6 of 15 shooting.
The best part of Wroten’s night? 10 of 14 at the foul line, an impressive stat for a player who has struggled throughout the season. If Wroten can come back next season and be a 75% free throw shooter, he will battle Ross for the leading scorer title. Wroten’s speed and agility causes supreme difficulty for his opponents and often leads to foul calls. Being able to convert his foul shots is just one more step in becoming a true superstar.
What Needed Improvement:
- First Half Defense – It is really hard for my to criticize much from the game. I thought the Dawgs performed pretty well throughout the night. My only complaint going into half time was about a few lapses in defensive rotation that led to wide open shots by the Ducks. Overall I felt the execution by the Dawgs went well through the nights. The Ducks were often forced to take contested shots and ultimately that is the best you can ask of a team. Good shooters will make shots over their defenders.
What was Good:
- Offensive Execution – The Dawgs were unusually patient in the half-court and found success. The team moved the ball well and Gaddy led the way by finding the open shooter time and time again. The Huskies limited their turnovers, they made smart plays, and took smart shots. There were very few times I found myself asking why a particular shot was attempted. This patience is something the team has lacked all most of the year and again, a big reason why the Dawgs are now winning games that would have been chalked up as losses earlier this year.
- Attitude and Aggressiveness – This team wanted to win. They wanted to play. The first game of the NIT was tough for both fans and players, but after the win I think everybody decided to let bygones be bygones and celebrate the fact that we get to see our team play a few more games, at home none the less. The players came out with smiles on their faces, they pumped their fists, and raised the roof. Just about everyone aggressively attacked the rim and found ways to make their mark on the game. The Huskies need to carry this momentum and attitude to New York.
I know this may be looking a bit too far ahead, but I can’t help but get excited for a potentially exhilarating match-up between UW and the University of Massachusetts in the NIT finals. For those who don’t know, UW and UMass play one another in the NCAA championship during the movie “The Sixth Man.” This movie is about the Husky basketball team winning a national title. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s awesome and a Husky fan must.
The Dawgs have been playing the type of basketball fans have been expecting to see all season and now look to win a championship, though not of the caliber they initially set eyes upon. Regardless, this team now gets another week to play and practice together, a huge asset for a team so filled with youth and inexperience. I am excited to see how this team does in New York and am hopeful that they will bring home the banner.