Something about Arizona State brings out the best in the Huskies, kind of like something about the Huskies makes Jonathan Gilling get dunked on. Shawn Kemp Jr. threw down a massive slam over Gilling that gave everyone flashbacks to his dad, similar to Tony Wroten’s last season.
The dunk set the tone for the game, one in which it was either tied or the Huskies led for 38 of the final 40 minutes. Like their last meeting, UW took a double digit lead around the mid-point of the second half, but ASU fought almost all the way back, getting to within one with 3:49 left. They made the Huskies shoot free throws to seal the game and for once, they did.
“We try to come out every game with the same intensity, but it helps…that we had lost a lot of games in a row,” Scott Suggs said. “We were really looking to come into this game and try to get a win more than ever.”
Overall, they shot 12-16 from the line, but sank all four in the final 30 seconds. Of course, the Sun Devils sent the wrong guys to the line in Andrews and Wilcox, both of whom shoot better than 75 percent from the charity stripe.
While Wilcox was able to close out the game, his recent struggles persisted throughout. The star shooting guard shot just 2-12 from the field, good for only eight points, almost 10 below his season average.
Of course, Wilcox’s struggles don’t bear good signs for the Huskies future (but what has this season?), but luckily the Dawgs found someone to step up. In their first win since Wilcox’s foot injury, Suggs played his best game of the season. He scored 16 points to combat the absences of Wilcox and N’Diaye (4 points).
It was evident Suggs had the stroke tonight from early on. When he knocked down his first three to give UW a 5-4 lead, everyone watching knew he had it. That shot was the first 3-pointer he had drained in three games and it really got him on a roll. Of his 16 points, 10 came in the first half.
The point guard combo of Abdul Gaddy and Andrew Andrews ruled the second half. The two combined for 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Gaddy played one of his best games in his four years at UW, while Andrews continued to impress in his first.
“Andrews, Gaddy, Suggs, Wilcox did a nice job of making shots up over us and really hurt us with their penetration,” Sun Devil head coach, Herb Sendek said.
Both matched up against Player Of The Year candidate, Jahii Carson at one point. Andrews was able to use his speed and ball skills to drive past Carson (something no one else has been able to do this season), while Gaddy was able to use his superior size to shoot over the star freshman.
“I just use my [height] advantage where I can shoot over him and use my body where I can pick up cheap fouls if I can,” Gaddy said.
UW wasn’t just able to dominate Carson while on offense, but also on defense. Carson scored just 10 points on 3-14 shooting. Despite tying for the team lead in scoring, it was one of Carson’s worst games of the season, mostly due to Gaddy’s stellar defense on him.
“I use my size to my advantage against [Carson]. He’s a very quick player so I had to gap him a little bit, keep my body between his and don’t let him lower than me, because that’s when he can get past me,” Gaddy said. “If I can keep my body between him, I can keep him in front and make him take tough shots over me. That’s my advantage to being tall.”
The Huskies may have found their solution to Wilcox’s recent struggles and if they continue, it is possible for UW to power through them with the help of teammates. Both Suggs and Gaddy haven’t lived up to their senior season expectations, but did so tonight. If this game is a sign of change for both of them, it will make the last three games of the season, all at home, much easier.