In a rivalry game between two struggling teams, the stakes of which seemed to be raised a bit by the presence of N’Diaye’s mother, 2013 Washington signee Nigel Williams-Goss, and 2014 Bellevue defensive back Budda Baker in the audience, it was the pair of veteran sharpshooters, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs, that extended WSU’s losing streak to nine.
The first half started off with five straight points for the Cougs leading scorer, Brock Motum, enough to force Romar to quickly pull out Shawn Kemp Jr. in favor of the more defensively talented Desmond Simmons. A quick score from Gaddy and a pair of twos from Wilcox put UW back in the lead 6-5, and from then on, the two teams traded baskets en route to a 34-32 halftime score, in favor of the Huskies. Throughout that time, WSU favored a balanced offensive attack, including a healthy diet of threes from Woolridge and Shelton to go along with penetrating look sat the rim and a handful of free throws. Washington, on the other hand, managed to hold onto the lead largely based on jumpers, threes and twos, from Suggs and Wilcox, which made up 7 of the 14 field goals in that half.
The Cougars started off the final half with two quick threes, giving them a four-point edge, and following a split pair of free throws from N’Diaye, extended that lead to 43-35. But then Suggs and Wilcox kept the Huskies afloat once again, scoring the next six points. This back and forth action continued until a jumper from Gaddy returned the lead to the Huskies, 55-54, with 6:34 left in the game.
At this point in the contest, I was mentally preparing myself for a nerve-wracking, action-packed finish, but instead the Cougars couldn’t prevent themselves from fouling and sending Suggs and Wilcox to the foul line again and again. Given the fact that UW attempted only two free throws in the first half, this was an especially surprising turn of events. The Huskies went to the line 18 times after the 6:00 mark, and converted 14 of them, all but guaranteeing the win despite WSU’s fairly steady offensive performance.
Wilcox and Suggs each finished with 23 points, and shot a combined 12-15 from the line. Gaddy had 9 points and 6 assists to 2 turnovers, another fairly steady performance for the much-maligned point guard, who has been playing at a significantly higher level in the past several contests. N’Diaye played only 13 minutes, during which he scored 2 points and failed to collect a single rebound. The lack of minutes probably had to do with Aziz’s inability to guard Shelton out to the three-point line, which gave Romar little choice but to pull him given Simmons’ success guarding Motum at the four. Speaking of Simmons: he may struggle offensively, but the guy does a great job defending skilled threes and fours, and he racks up at least one or two great, difference-making hustle plays each game. Motum may have scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting, but some of that scoring came against other Huskies, and without Simmons, it simply would have been much worse.
Not sure if a road win against ASU and a home win against WSU count as a late-season revival, but at least the Huskies are playing better now than they were a few weeks ago. Even if chances of them winning the Pac-12 tourney are fairly low, I’m just happy to see that they didn’t fold; the season would be unbearably depressing by now if they had. And hey, if Suggs and Wilcox are both snapping out of their shooting slumps at the same time, anything is possible.