Gant’s Moustache: Thoughts on the Arizona State 68-51 Win Over the Huskies


Huskies Lay an Egg in Tempe

The Arizona State Sun Devils (11-5) crushed the Washington Huskies (11-4) 68-51 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona on Friday night. The Huskies were not competitive from start to finish against a hot-shooting, fundamentally sound group of smart basketball players from the desert.

The Huskies scored 19 points in the first half against a tough ASU defense.  Let me say that again, the Huskies scored 19 points in the entire first half. Don’t look for this one on ESPN Classic any time soon, because this was the worst half of basketball you will ever see (outside of your local junior high school gym). At one point, the two teams were a combined 3-23 from the field. The first half ended with the Huskies trailing 28-19.

I have to give them credit, ASU obviously did a great job defensively, but it was more than that—the Huskies looked completely unprepared for this game. Weird, because I sent this note to Romar before the game:  “Hey LoRo—I have a feeling that ASU will be playing a zone defense on Friday night. Maybe work on offensive sets against a zone this week in practice.“

I guess my note never got to him.

The first few minutes of the second half felt like déjà vu from the Oregon game. “The other guys” came out of the locker room on fire and we came out like we were exiting an all-you-can-eat buffet, filled up on macaroni and cheese and blackberry pie and ready for bed.  The Sun Devils went on an 8-2 run and we never got close again. IT played a decent game and Elston Turner hit a few shots, but those were the only rays of sunshine in an otherwise dark and dismal performance.

ASU was tougher than us. They shot better, passed better, played better defense, and even looked better doing it. Our heads were hanging after the first 10 minutes of this game. To add insult to injury, the worst rebounding team in the Pac-10 outhustled us, winning the rebounding battle 38-27, despite being smaller and less athletic. Ugh.

Congrats to all the Latvians who read this blog. Your fellow countrymen Rihards Kuksiks is the greatest basketball player on earth. He scored 27 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and dominated the game from inside and out. I am not excited to see the Rihards “European Larry Bird” Kuksiks come to HecEd this February. Ugh.

What does this loss mean to the season?

It is officially time to hit the panic button. Sorry optimistic fans—but this team may not be ready to be as good as we want them to be.  Yes, losing a game to a mediocre Pac-10 team on the road is acceptable. But playing two non-competitive games in a row (one at home) in a conference where we are the ONLY ranked team is a signal that we may be overestimating how good we are.

I still think we have the chance to get better throughout the season. I think our ceiling is certainly higher than any other Pac-10 team, but right now, we just don’t seem to have a winning style. With the exception of the A & M game, we have lost to virtually every quality opponent we have played. The good news is that we are very talented. With a bit of a makeover (offensively and defensively) I think we can still compete for the Pac-10 title, but we have a lot of work to do.

Coming into this season, I think every Husky fan was concerned about how we would do without Justin Dentmon and John Brockman. We worried about scoring, shooting, rebounding, and having an inside presence. While all of those things have been affected, the real problem has been leadership and playing smart basketball.

I think what we underestimated was how high JD and Brockman’s basketball IQ was, and the impact that their collective intelligence had on their teammates.  Without them, the Huskies are a team searching for an identity—and frankly, a group of great athletes who don’t always have a feel for the game.

The up-and-down athletic style they planned on playing again this season has been executed poorly thus far. They turn the ball over too often, and they absolutely can’t execute in any type of half court set (particularly when facing a zone). Any smart coach game-planning against the Huskies is going to zone up for 40 minutes and watch them flounder uncomfortably.

Arizona State is miles away from being a tournament team and we got smoked on Friday night. I apologize for being so negative, but this was an awful game. The effort was weak. The preparation was weak. The execution was weak. The coaching was weak. They missed free throws. They didn’t hustle until the game was lost. Even their body language was non-competitive.

A few years back, I had a root canal and it was everything that was advertised—painful, bloody, and it seemed to take forever. I didn’t bleed at all tonight, but this game was even worse. This is one Husky fan who wants to see some major changes against Arizona on Sunday.