Last time around the Huskies squeaked out a narrow win at home in the only offensively proud game for the Dawgs this season. The Huskies executed their offense well, but gave up far too many turnovers and committed many defensive mistakes as Jahii Carson and the Sun Devils battled back and forth. The Sun Devils have continued to trend up sitting just one game back from first place in the Pac-12, while the Dawgs continue their miserable dance to the basement of the Pac.
Saturday’s game will be another fast one with the winner likely being decided by who can execute and make their shots. The Dawgs have been absolutely atrocious since the last meeting and I see no reason why this would change against the Sun Devils. What won the game for the Huskies was simple: free throws. The Dawgs were nearly perfect with a 21 of 22 night, Abdul Gaddy missing his only free throw of the night. The Huskies also DOMINATED the interior with a 33 to 17 rebounding advantage, 12 to 1 on the offensive boards. Shawn Kemp had a career night with 18 points and 6 rebounds with Aziz N’Diaye supplying his own 16 points and 10 boards. In fact, every single Husky who scored hit double digits (minus Abdul Gaddy who was two shy with 8 on the night). Andrew Andrews also performed extremely well and gave Husky fans a reason to look forward to next season as the redshirt freshman guard went ballistic with aggressive play. Andrews stormed his way to 20 points and a perfect 6 of 6 from the foul line.
What was not so good was how easily Carson was able to slice up the Dawg defense. To be fair, Carson did his fair share of work getting the game high 32 points, but the Huskies were certainly slack at points leaving the potential Player of the Year with far too many open opportunities. Along with Carson, Jonathan Gillings had an exceptional outing with a 6 of 8 3-point performance that led to 22 points and several huge baskets to keep the game in reach for the Sun Devils. As a team the Sun Devils hit over 60% from deep, but their 50% foul shooting doomed them as poor shooting all too often does.
If the Huskies want to stay above 500 on the season and attempt to break 500 in conference play they will have to improve on their weak defensive efforts and make the open shots when presented. Guys like N’Diaye and Kemp need to demand the ball early and often to set the tempo for the game. Their shots are often high percentage and open the court for guys like Wilcox to, hopefully, drill the long ball for additional offensive damage. Turnovers will be critical in Saturday’s match and limiting mistakes has been an issue for the Dawgs this season and does not bode well for the hostile environment they will surely face in Tempe.
It is my opinion that Andrew Andrews should start over Abdul Gaddy and begin garnering some highly valuable playing experience to prepare Andrews for next season as this year is essentially over. With Gaddy gone, Andrews is the prime choice for starting point guard and has made a strong case with aggressive play that is very similar to the shoulder down approach Isaiah Thomas executed so well for his three seasons in the purple and gold. Gaddy has been underwhelming much of the year and has become more of a liability than an asset in many games as he tried too hard to score, rather than creating scoring opportunities for his shooting guards and post players. Andrews, on the other hand, knows how to use his attacking play to draw in the defense to open the perimeter for jumpers and 3-pointers. The Dawgs will need a miracle run in the Pac-12 tournament to gain entry to the big dance and giving the youth of our team a chance to make a positive change seems as good an option as any. What the Dawgs have done thus far has clearly not worked so why not try something new at this critical junction?
In all reality the starting 5 will like remain nearly the same with Jernard Jerreau perhaps reentering over Kemp at tip off. The chances of Romar actually removing Gaddy from the starting point guard slot is slim to none.
The excitement that surrounded this squad following their improbably 4-0 start in Pac-12 play is far removed and all that is left is a sense of disappointment. The Huskies have little left in the way of redemption opportunities and at this point are playing for pride as well as becoming not only the first Husky team in four years not to win a Pac-10/12 title, but also the first losing record since the 2007-2008 squad finished 16-17 following a loss in the first round of the NIT.
Go Dawgs! (Football 2013, here we come)