by John Chase
Final Score: UW-68 UGA-65
A near upset tonight. Isaiah Thomas, once again, put the team on his back and carried the Dawgs to victory. After getting down 7 early in the first half due to poor shooting and rebounding, the Dawgs fought back and I.T. tied the game at 28 a piece going into half with a slice and dice drive to the hoop. Thomas was a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line. Venoy Overton missed the front end of a 1 and 1 with 30 seconds to go and C.J. Wilcox missed his second free throw with 5 on the clock. Not what a team needs to win the game. Free throws win close ball games and I.T. sealed his off.
Darnell Gant started in place of Wilcox tonight, but picked up two quick fouls before a full two minutes had passed. Despite that, Gant played a solid game and scored 7 points along with 3 rebounds. He had a big 3 pointer to give the Huskies some momentum. He has a smooth shot motion that doesn’t get used to often, but its deadly when unleashed.
Aziz N’Diaye had a pretty nice game as well. 3 of 3 shooting for 6 points and 5 boards, 2 offensive. He picked up 3 fouls and gave the Huskies one more option in the post as both Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Gant had 4 fouls in the game. He had much better hands today and looked pretty good in the post. He caught a nice dish from Holiday and layed it in over the defense.
Terrence Ross was way off tonight, 0 for 5 shooting. He was the only Husky not to score and had 2 rebounds along with a steal. I assume we will keep Ross in the starting 5 to preserve chemistry, but he needs to bring back that Pac-10 Tournament swag that got him there.
Rebounding was ugly today. UGA out rebounded UW 32 to 26. MBA led the Dawgs with 6 and Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 11. He as a beast in the paint for Georgia and UW couldn’t do much to stop him. Thompkins also nailed a HUGE 3 pointer with only a few seconds to go to put them within 2. He made a few good shots with hands in his face.
Free throws were great until the final 30 seconds when they matter the most. Overton missed the front end of his 1 and 1, very uncharacteristic, essentially missing two shots and allowing Georgia to cut into our lead even more. Wilcox missed the back end of his 1 and 1 that would have put us up 4 and effectively sealed the win. Normally an 80% shooter from the charity stripe this was also surprising. Got to sack up under pressure and get the job done.
UW was ugly from behind the arc, going 2-12 in the first half and 2-6 in the second. Scott Suggs was very respectable hitting 2 of 5, but he was the only one finding his shot. We need to hit the open 3’s with more consistency. That has been one of our biggest weaknesses in the latter half of the season. We aren’t hitting the open ones that got us to the number 1 spot in 3 point percentage.
The assist rate tonight was a little sub par for my taste. Only 10 assists on 26 makes. I would like to see 13 or 14 for that number of makes. I.T. had 7 of the 10 and only 2 turnovers. Speaking of turnovers, UW only had 5 on the night, but the 5th was almost extremely costly. Suggs turned the ball over under pressure with 50 seconds or so to go, allowing Georgia to cut the lead to 4 instead of 6 and free throws to shoot. Cannot makes those mistake against a team like UNC. It will kill you.
As I said in the pregame, our bench would be the difference maker. The Bulldogs had 0 bench points, while UW racked up something like 28 tonight. With Ross unable to make his mark, Suggs and Wilcox supplemented as they could and Aziz gave our bigs the support they needed.
I.T. led the Dawgs with 19 and Suggs was the only other Husky to hit double digits with 10. MBA continued to frustrate with his missed bunnies, shooting 3-8 and scoring 8 on the night. I like his 2-2 free throw shooting, but he had a wide open shot that he missed and UGA recovered. DUNK IT, MBA! You are 6-9. Flush that basket. No excuse to miss an open one like that.
What Needed Improvement
Did not do a good job cleaning the glass tonight. Georgia had too many second chance opportunities because they picked up the offensive boards. UW was fairly decent cleaning their own missed (1 of 26 were offensive), but none of our bigs were able to snag more than 6. We need MBA to get at least 8. Aziz and Gant are both near the numbers they should be.
3 Point Shooting
Boy was our shot UGLY tonight. We stunk the place up in the first half and only stayed in the game due to our defensive efforts, forcing the Bulldogs to turn the ball over. We need more than just Suggs to be feeling his shot. I am not asking for 12 or 14 3’s a game, but 7 or 8 is well within our skill set.
Clutch Free Throw Shooting
With the exception of I.T., UW struggled to seal the game off late. Overton and Wilcox are both normally strong free throw shooters regardless of time or point differential. I do not expect to see them make such mistakes again. UNC is going to be a tough challenge and we can ill afford to miss the gimmes. #sackup #makeyourfreethrows
What was Good
UW had some strong defensive showings tonight. The Huskies forced 14 turnovers and held Georgia to only 9 assists. Though Thompkins was able to have his way with our team, the Dawgs were able to shut down Jeremy Price, Gerald Robinson, and Travis Leslie to a combined 11-32 shooting. That is pretty solid in my mind.
UW fought back from an early deficit and was able to hold off the late Georgia run. That takes some guts to do and the Huskies worked it out. It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done.
Player by Player Reviews
8 points and 6 boards to go along with an assist, steal, and block. Not bad, but much lower production than we needed from him. MBA did a good job defensively against the heavier Price, but he couldn’t get his offensive game in swing. We will need him to step up big against UNC who features a lengthy front court.
6 points, 3 boards, 1 assist, and a pair of steals. Holiday matched up against the smaller Georgia front court and was critical in shutting Leslie down. He was 3-7 from the field, 0-2 from range. Two of his boards were offensive, which is very nice. Holiday’s offensive numbers have been lower than the start of the year, but his defense is still strong and in the end that is what we really need from him.
Overton put up 21 minutes tonight, allowing I.T. to rest. He had 6 points and 4 boards, including some very athletic drives to the hoop. His speed allowed him to push past his defenders and make his way to the rim. Only 1 assist, but 0 turnovers. Not a whole lot else to comment on from his performance tonight. A good way to come back after sitting out the Pac-10 tournament.
Did not play.
Gant only played 16 minutes today, despite starting due to early foul trouble. He played tough when he came in and hit some big shots and applied solid pressure on his man. I imagine we will see him remain in the starting 5 against UNC as he offers a hybrid between Ross/Wilcox and Aziz. Some size, some speed, good shot, good D. Keep on keeping on Darnell.
19 minutes off the bench and the only solid shot once more. Suggs is proving time and time again just how undervalued he is to this team. On nights when no one can seemingly hit, Suggs quietly steps up and drops an ace here and there. His late turnover nearly made me put my hand through a wall. Hold on to the ball when they are swarming like that. Call a time out. Just don’t pass through traffic in the backcourt, way too dangerous.
MVP, no doubt. He played big tonight despite some shooting problems. He got to the line and drilled every shot, minus one that rattled around before settling in the bottom of the net. He had a big steal in the final minutes off an inbound play by UGA that led to 2 free throws. 0-2 from range, but some nice step back 2 pointers near the top of the key. He looked a little like Quincy out on the court tonight with that fade away. 6-14 shooting isn’t great, but I’ll take it. His 7 assists were critical in taking down Georgia’s defense.
I liked what Aziz did for the Dawgs tonight. He was big in the middle and took up a lot of space per usual, but tonight he held the ball well. Both he and MBA made one dumb move apiece there they got an offensive board then brought the ball down to dribble, only to have it stripped. You are 7 feet tall Aziz. Keep it high and get the quick put back. For 20 minutes he had some solid numbers.
Did not play.
Bad night for the freshman. He couldn’t get his swag to turn on and played a team low 10 minutes. C.J. Wilcox may take over in the starting 5 if Romar feels Ross can’t step up, but I believe he will stay the starter for now. He has too much explosive power not to at least give him a chance to do his thing.
Not a great night, but he has had worse. 6 points on 2-6 shooting, 1-4 outside, and a late missed free throw highlight his stats. We need him or Ross to support Suggs on the offensive end to take some pressure of I.T. and MBA. He had a lazy pass that got picked off for 2 easy points. Got to pass smarter and with some speed, especially at the top of the key.
It wasn’t what I thought we would see, but a win is a win. UNC is up next and it will be a tough, tough game. UNC is essentially at home in Charlotte, so the Dawgs will have to contend with a sea of baby blue in the arena. Get it done Huskies, let’s make this tournament memorable for all the right reasons. Go Dawgs!