Huskies tame the Bruins 70-63

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by: Griffin Bennett

We can all agree that we owe this win to the man wearing number 23, C.J. Wilcox. Romar even said in his post-game interview that Wilcox’s second half was “one of the greatest performances in the history of the program.” From the first tip, the Huskies defense looked inspired and it was a complete turn around from their flat performance on Sunday against WSU. On the Bruin’s first possession the Huskies showed their “soft” 3/4 zone pressure which gave UCLA fits. Romar mixed it up with man, 2-3 zone, full court press, and possibly even more strategies. It was one of his best coaching efforts in recent memory as it earned him a 70-63 victory.

While holding UCLA to 25 points and 37% field goal shooting in the first half, the Husky offense looked even worse. It looked like the WSU hangover had not ended as they finished the half with only 24 points while shooting 7 of 33 (21%). When the Huskies get in their offensive funk, lay ups seem like half court shots. The Bruins defense was playing step-for-step with the Dawgs as Nelson and Smith really made it hard to score in the paint.

The second half was another story, and that story belonged to C.J. Wilcox. He scored 24 of the Huskies 46 second half points. Taking out all free throws, Wilcox scored 18 of the Huskies 26 second half points. If it wasn’t for Wilcox, I think we would all be looking at how this team’s once prolific offense has escaped them. Not to rain on tonight’s parade, but there are still some concerns on the offensive end to deal with between now and mid-March. Now to the grades.

Positives:

  • C.J. Wilcox – He’s the obvious game MVP and posted one of the greatest single half performances ever. He finished with  24 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 2 blocks. I think it’s time for a group brain storming session. We need to figure out what the C. and the J. stand for: Clean Jumper? Christ, Jesus? Post your ideas in the comments.
  • Venoy Overton – He really brought the defensive intensity and it spread from him to the rest of the team. If it wasn’t for some TERRIBLE calls on his defensive pressure, he could have had one of his signature games as a Husky. It’s too bad that some refs are incompetent at recognizing defensive genius. He finished with only 10 points no steals or blocks, but if you watched that game you know what I’m talking about. He also only played 15 minutes.
  • Rebounds – Battling against the big line up of the Bruins was a tough task. The Huskies managed a 40-40 tie in the rebounding margin on the night, but they did grab an impressive 18 offensive boards. I’ll take a rebounding wash against UCLA every time.
  • MBA – He finished with only 7 points but did gather 13 rebounds. Hear me out on this one. Neither Aziz nor the referees gave him any help all night. Aziz’ lack of offensive game and inability be any sort of a factor allowed UCLA to double team him with Nelson and Smith which is one huge wall of man. The refs were their standard terrible Pac-10 self and called 2 terrible fouls on him early. Keeping both of those in mind, his stat line in still impressive while only playing 26 minutes.
  • Team Defense – The Huskies must have found Charlie Sheen’s supply of tiger blood between Sunday and Thursday night. #Winning.

Ehhhh:

  • Justin Holiday – Starting with the bad, he shot 1 of 8 from the field and had 3 turnovers. On the positive side, he had 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a block. He also played outstanding defense on Honeycutt by holding him to 6 points and 0 for 6 from the field.
  • Scott Suggs – It was his first game back from his MCL injury and he only played 18 minutes and only took 3 shots but he was a stat stuffer. He finished with 4 points, 3 assists, 1 block, and 2 steals. Taking into account the injury, I’ll take that as a mediocre performance… and it wasn’t like anyone else other than Wilcox was going to be shooting anyways.
  • Assists and Turnovers – An even 13 to 13 ratio is only decent. You’d like to see a few more assists and a few less turnovers, but neither number is terrible.
  • Shot Selection – The Huskies stopped settling for contested three-point jumpers and tried to find the best option. While they weren’t always falling, it was still a positive thing to see.

Negatives:

  • Isaiah Thomas – A bad night for the team’s junior captain and leader. IT was 0 for 6 in the first half and seemed to miss everything off of the front of the rim. He finished shooting 3 for 12 and his free throw shooting and rebounding at the end of the game helped pad his stat line. He seemed really bothered by the Bruin’s size and forced up some terrible shots. He will have better nights, but this won’t be one to remember.
  • Aziz N’diaye – He could have posted the worst 6 point and 8 rebound night of all time. Countless missed gimme shots and terrible fouls made me lose at least 3 years off of my life. I haven’t seen any improvement from the guy lately, but trying to play against Joshua Smith is a tough task. At this point, anything he gives this team offensively is a bonus.
  • Terrence Ross – He didn’t even come off of the bench in the second half and only played 4 minutes. With Wilcox having the hot hand and Venoy playing well, the bench guard spots were taken. I’m not saying that this is the case, but Romar might not fully trust Ross in crunch-time at the moment.
  • Darnell Gant – He played 23 minutes and finished with 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block. I was really wanting more from Gant tonight, especially with Aziz’s struggles. He was wearing a brace on his knee which leads me to believe that the meniscus injury rumors from Wednesday night were not completely untrue.

Overall:

It’s just good to get a win. This could have all but assured the Huskies of a trip to the NCAA tournament and watching the Bruin’s title hopes go down in flames is always enjoyable. The attitude and intensity needed to win was there tonight and I think fixing the other mistakes will follow suit. You could tell that the Husky coaching staff had worked hard to find the answers on offense and defense as the shot selection and defensive strategies were both exceptionally better. I have been one of those “Romar isn’t an X’s and O’s guy” in the past, and tonight he really showed that he can be a top tier strategist. Consider my hat eaten.

Next up is USC and a chance to ride a hot streak into the Pac-10 tournament and beyond. March is officially here and let’s hope it’s a magical one. Bow Down.