by Craig Yamada
A sneeze, a stomach ache, an awkward facial expression or hurt feelings could have merited you a whistle if your last name was Vucevic on Wednesday night. Yes, the new age Ivan Drago played a great game tonight as a result of one of the most ticky tack called games I have seen in lasting memory. Needless to say, he is a great player and he showed us that tonight, but the whistles definitely helped him a lot. Despite all that, UW was able to outlast the USC Trojans 73-67 to kick start their Pac-10 season.
It was not an easy thing for fans to watch. Oh wait, most of us didn’t watch. Thanks FSN. But even listening to USC’s digital broadcast on their site was painful enough. Going down 16-4 in the early going, UW had to grind out the first half to get on level ground with the Trojans. A defensive adjustment, a soaring freshman, and veteran leadership were the three keys to victory on Wednesday night. After watching the replay, you have to tip your hat to UW tonight as they exuded confidence and patience as the night went on.
Jay-Z’s “Everyday a star is born” jam was just running through my head all night as I listened to Terrence Ross’ name being called after each made bucket. In a night where UW was plagued with foul trouble, the freshman single handedly provided the necessary spark to keep UW in the game. Ross attacked from beyond the arc with back to back threes in the early going and connected with another just before half time. He showed zero hesitation and his stroke was going tonight. In the second half, he made the best B-Roy impression I have seen in a while. He was able to showcase his complete game in the second half by curling off screens for jumpers in the paint. He pump faked defenders from beyond the arc and dribbled in for a better look. And the most impressive moves came in the post as he spun base line against a smaller defender for a contested lay in off the glass.
Overton and Holiday took the overtime period over with their free throw shooting and clutch jumpers. As I watched the replay, I think it is starting to become clear that Romar wants Overton with the ball in his hands when they need to create a shot. And I am definitely coming around to the idea as VO gives UW that instant offense as he can take any man in the country off the dribble with his quickness and draw fouls to get to the stripe. He showed no ill effects of his hamstring or knee today and played like a senior should.
- Rebounding: UW finally won the battle of the boards against the Trojans40-26. UW garnered 12 offensive rebounds, none bigger than VO’s huge rebound off his missed free throw to help seal the game. They were able to limit USC’s second chance opportunites and kept the garbage man (Stepheson) in check for most of the night.
- Zone Defense: For the first time in a while, Romar switching to a zone defense got his team back into a game. UW was able to clog the paint and prevent penetration after they made the switch to the 2-3 zone D. They practically dared USC’s shooters to beat them on the perimeter. USC went 5 for 21 from deep. USC went cold from the field and UW was able to garner some big stops as a result.
- Playing the half-court game: Hats off to Coach Romar tonight as he was able to win a half-court game tonight. The transition game was just not there tonight and UW was forced to execute in a half court set. Terrence Ross and MBA’s production certainly helped.
- Terrence Ross: 18 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Need I say more? He should have won himself a promotion in the pecking order after his performance tonight. You can’t keep talent like his on the bench for too long. Sorry Scotty and CJ, but it was inevitable.
- Venoy Overton: If not for T-Ross’ explosion tonight, I would have handed VO the game ball out right. But I say he deserves to at least honorable mention here as he was the man in OT
- Justin Holiday: All things considered, Holiday was able to make a huge impact on Wednesday night, despite early foul trouble. He was able to knock down two huge threes and grabbed 6 big rebounds to help lead his team to victory.
- UW’s Fans: I couldn’t very well give the fans some props here. When a shot was made on the radio, I couldn’t tell the difference between the home team and our fans. Way to be the 6th man Dawg fans.
- MBA: Although his 18 pts and 9 boards were impressive against a tough USC frontline, I was holding my breath every time he touched the ball. 60% of his shots were acrobatic shots where he was off balance. He did miss a lot of chippies and his free throw shooting nearly costed us a few times tonight. However, you have to give him his due as he performed masterfully on the boards tonight with Aziz in foul trouble all night long. Way to grind it out young chap.
- IT: Not an ideal game for Thomas tonight as he had to earn every single basket he got. He couldn’t seem to get his jumper going, but was able to make some nice drives to the basket and convert contested layups. He did let USC’s size get the better of him at times tonight as he generated 6 TO’s. Romar won’t be happy with that. Expect IT to bounce back in a major fashion on Friday against UCLA
- Turnovers: 17 UW turnovers will not cut it most nights. Luckily USC had a bad shooting night which helped balance out this area a bit.
- Aziz N’Diaye/Darnell Gant: Tough to have a good game when they were sidelined with foul trouble all game. Things got so bad that Brenden Sherrer was at the scorer’s table with 40 seconds left going into half time. And again, half of those fouls were not a result of bad play, more so on bad officiating.