Huskies show up late in 64-77 loss

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by: John Chase

This game went the complete opposite way I saw it playing out. Saint Louis played out of their minds and were unstoppable on offense. To start the game they hit 8 of 12 from range and would not be denied. Washington, on the other hand, could not buy a basket, were impatient, and often took poor forced shots.

Saint Louis deserves a lot of credit for the effort they put out, but this is a team we should have been able to beat. You can say that the early start kept us from getting into our normal rhythm, but the Billkens had the early start as well and they were firing on all cylinders so the argument is hardly valid.

I think the most glaring statistic of the night is 0-9. Under Lorenzo Romar, the Huskies have not won a road opener at the opposing teams home court. I love Romar and will be sad when he finally retires, but the fact that not a single one of his teams has won their first road game of the season is terrible. He is not mentally preparing the players correctly and it shows on the court. I could handle 0-9 if we played a top 25 team for our openers the majority of those years, but its losing to teams like Portland or getting completely blown out of the water by SLU today that is unacceptable. It’s not as if our teams are untalented, we have gone to three straight NCAAs and made the Sweet Sixteen three times in Romar’s tenure.

My other bone to pick with Romar is his absolute refusal to run a press in anything but garbage time. I have seen at least 10 games where UW was down double digits with 10 minutes or so to go and Romar will not press the ball. If I could ask him one question, it would be “why don’t you press more often?” Down 25 points with 12 minutes to go is when you start pressing, not with 2:30 to go and down 17. Each and every year Romar talks about how athletic his guys are, yet he seems uncomfortable with running a full court attack that will push his players endurance and talents. I don’t get it at all. This game showed why the Huskies might miss Venoy Overton a bit more than we thought. Off-court issues aside, Overton was fantastic at forcing the opposing guards into dumb mistakes and was great at getting in their heads.

Its tough to think about what went well for the Dawgs this game. No player stood out as having a great night. C.J. Wilcox was silent the whole game, picking up only 4 points and getting his first turnover after sloppily passing away a nice steal, and Terrence Ross picked it up towards the end and managed a double-double with 17 points and 1 rebounds.

Tony Wroten actually surprised me a bit with some nice shooting in the second half, racking up all of his 14 points in said half. He started off with two straight 3 threes only to then go on and make his same freshman mistakes and miss free throws.

Even Abdul Gaddy was essentially useless, getting completely shut down and did not look at all like the floor general we are used to seeing. He managed 5 points and 2 assists without a turnover. I do like his 3 steals.

I think the worst part of this game was seeing our defense in the faces of the Saint Louis shooters, hands in the sky, only to watch the ball swish through the net like it was practice. While our defense was far from perfect, they certainly gave a solid effort through most of the game, but the Billkens would not be denied their buckets.

I suppose the positive is that the Huskies managed to have a 12 point advantage in the second half, which cut SLU’s 25 point halftime lead. They also held the explosive SLU offense to only 27 points in the second half. UW also dominated the glass with 40-26 rebounding advantage, though admittedly this had more to do with our poor shooting than anything. I’d like to go back and watch the second half again without the score at the bottom and see how the Dawgs looked because their numbers are actually quite solid for the last 20 minutes. When you let yourself get down 25 points in a half it is near impossible to battle back.

Aziz N’Diaye had a better offensive night than defensive for once. 11 points on 5-8 shooting along with 6 rebounds. N’Diaye was always half a step behind his man and 6-6 Brian Conklin put the move on him all night to set a career high 25 points. Conklin reminds me a lot of Jon Brockman, though without some of the intangibles. He is undersized, but strong and mobile, making him dangerous against the less agile big men as seen today.

The UW post in general was pretty weak today, largely due to poor defensive switching leading to a bunch of fouls early on. This broke up the defensive rhythm even more as Romar was forced to constantly rotate our 4 and 5 to prevent foul outs. Darnell Gant had 4 fouls. N’Diaye had 3, Martin Breunig had 2, and Shawn Kemp Jr picked up a foul in his 5 minute burst. Tony Wroten actually fouled out, but I give the man credit for showing some hustle in the second half (not that he shouldn’t have been doing that in the first as well).

The Huskies only managed 10 assists today, while committing 16 turnovers, highlighting the struggles UW had in developing their offense. The Dawgs did not move the ball well and this led to players forcing shots as the shot clock dwindled. The Huskies need to really develop a half court offense when the tempo just isn’t playing out in their traditional, fast manner.

My number one hope is that the team can learn from this early loss and develop a bit more of an identity on both ends of the court. The Dawgs seemed to struggle with defensive switches and offensive rotations and it showed in the first half. The sense of panic and urgency really didn’t set in until 10 minutes left and the Dawgs were still fighting a 20 point lead.

This was an ugly game that the Billkens capitalized on in every facet of the game and I commend them for that. They proved themselves to be a much better team than I had thought and played much better than their statistics and previous season indicate. The Dawgs will need to bounce back with a home game this Friday against Houston Baptist. A little home cooking might help the team recover a bit and bring back the mojo carried them through the 3 game tournament last weekend.

I’m trying to chalk this one up to history, but the let down still hurts. Our team has a long ways to go, something I ignored while watching us carve up the mid-majors at home. I still think we can take the league, but its going to require a lot more consistency on our teams’ part and better preparation by the coaches, especially on the road. Not sure how they can go about doing that, but they are getting pad the big bucks to answer just those types of questions.

I believe Romar can get these guys going in the right direction, but I don’t want another 2009-2010 scenario where we have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA. I want a decent seed and another Sweet Sixteen. The pieces are there, it’s just a matter of Romar putting the puzzle together.

Go Dawgs