Considering that the game was tied up 69-69 with 6:44 left in the 2nd half, not only was this an ugly win, it was a hotly contested one. However, even if the score was much too close for the Huskies to be happy, the fact that the team pulled things together in the final minutes to pull out the win at least averted the disaster of losing a game to a local Division II program like Western Washington University.
The biggest problem for Washington was the turnovers. I mentioned sloppiness as one of the five things I expected to see in this game, but I also predicted a blowout, so I don’t get too many points for foreseeing the carelessness with the ball. It was to be expected, but it was worse than I would have anticipated. While most of the turnovers came on sloppy passes, especially near half court, a few were straight up steals in which tenacious WWU defenders were able to pretty much just strip Husky players.
The defense was obviously not superb either, but it wasn’t as much a case of blatant breakdowns or laziness like you might expect in such a close game against an athletically inferior opponent. Rather, the Western players just hit shots. Threes that were reasonably contested fell, and hard-earned shots out of the post were accurate. I don’t mean to say that Washington played terrific defense, individually or as a team, but there wasn’t a blatant lack of effort or understanding. In fact, the guards, especially Abdul Gaddy, harassed the ball-handler throughout the game. Western just played fundamentally sound, tough basketball, and the Huskies had to really had to earn and grind this one out as they struggled to put things together offensively.
It is worth mentioning that there were also a few bright spots. For one, the Huskies hit their free throws, especially in the second half. Last year, this was a massive issue, especially with the now departed Tony Wroten, and while one game is an incredibly small sample size, it is plain to see that if the team had only shot 50% or so from the line, they may not have been in position to win this one in the final minutes. Also, C.J. Wilcox was terrific, scoring a game-high 21 points. We also saw Gaddy drive aggressively to the basket, take contact, and then hit his free throws. He needs to be a leader on this team and more of a scoring threat, and he seemed to succeed on both accounts this evening.
More on this game in the morning!