Huskies lose to #5 Duke at MSG 80-86


by: John Chase

Well, at least it was close at the end. UW came back from another terrible first half to make the game somewhat competitive. After going down by up to 19 points several times, UW rallied at the end with a C.J. Wilcox 3-pointer at the end of regulation to make it a 6 point game. Unfortunately, the Huskies simply couldn’t put together enough stops to truly get back in the game as time dwindled.

Abdul Gaddy made it a 6 point game with a minute left and poor Duke free throw shooting kept the Huskies in the game. The night was off to an ominous start when Wilcox air-balled a his first 3-point attempt of the night (he went 2-7 from outside).

The end of the game was pretty strange. UW was without a post player due to Aziz N’Diaye leaving with some sort of knee injury (not sure if it’s a sprain or something worse, I’ll update when I hear more) and Darnell Gant fouling out. UW was also without its two star point guards and ended with Hikeem Stewart on the court for the final 30 seconds. Both Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy fouled out of the game.

Speaking of Tony Wroten, he has gone from a pass first guard to an attack 2 guard. He was one of the few players to really attack the lanes and get to the line. He went 6-8 from the free throw line on the night, another marked improvements from the first games of the year. He finished with a game high 23 points, 0 assists (bleh….), and 5 turnovers (this is normal for him, I am not surprised). He went 8-12 from the field, but could have gone 10-12 if he could make the easy lay-ins by using his opposite hand like a true college player.

Abdul Gaddy played a very quiet game opposite Wroten. Only 7 points on 2-4 shooting (0-2 from range) and went 3-5 from the line, a stat he and the rest of the team need to drastically improve on. What he did well is what he always does, 7 assists to 1 turnover. He is the calm to Wroten’s chaos. I’d like him to attack the hoop more. Not necessarily take the shot, just drive to collapse the lanes and free up our shooters. He still looked slow on the court and hesitant at times. He did a much better job getting in towards the rim at the end of the game, but his efforts came too late.

C.J. Wilcox was excellent minus his outside shooting. He drove the lane hard throughout the final 20 minutes and consistently scored with a strange, yet beautiful leaping Superman-esque move to float the shot over the defenders. I don’t know how he does it. He did it a few times last season as well and it is becoming his signature move in a way. His 22 points and aggressive attack of the hoop were great to see and were definitely needed, but yet again did not attempt a single free throw. I’m only OK with that because he scored in bunches and made his shots inside.

Terrence Ross was off tonight. He still managed 16 points but it took 17 attempts. He missed his AND1 opportunity and that was the only action he saw at the charity stripe. He is still very tentative about getting inside the paint at times and it really holds him back from his true potential. If he starts attacking with authority more often he’ll average over 20 points a game just by getting to the free throw line. Ross did try to throw down a monster jam over Plumlee, but it rattled loose from the hoop.

Aziz N’Diaye looked solid tonight on the defensive end. He only had 4 points and 5 rebounds before injuring his knee. Hopefully nothing is torn and it is just a minor sprain allowing him to return quickly. We will miss his size in the paint and I imagine that UW might go with a 4 guard line up to start most games. This could put Tony Wroten in the starting 5. We may also see Martin Breunig or Desmond Simmons in the starting 5 if N’Diaye must sit out. He managed to contain Plumlee pretty effectively and moved well on the court. The defense as a whole rotated much better tonight.

As I write this, Kentucky just got beat by Indiana on a last second three. At least Karma is still punishing the wicked.

I also need to give Romar some credit. I’m going to pretend that he reads my articles and implemented the high post and full court pressure because I told him to. He finally used full court pressure with over 10 minutes on the clock and low and behold the game went from a 19 point deficit to 6 at the end of the game. The pressure forced Duke to take poor shots, turn the ball over, and it gave UW that many more opportunities. It worked just as I said it would. UW has terrific athletes who can run and gun all day. Full court pressure allows us many more chances at fast breaks and open lanes. The high post ran through Ross and Gant and led to the only good 3-point shots. UW was struggling to get their shooters open and when they were open, they missed. UW (and Duke) went 5-17 from deep. Well below the Huskies talent and potential.

What Needed Improvement:

  • Rebounding – The Huskies should have dominated this aspect of the game, but Duke came out on top 37-33. Many of the Duke rebounds came off long misses that the Blue Devils tipped out to their guards who were not blocked out and contained by the Huskies. Those long offensive boards also led to at least 2 of the Blue Devils 3-pointers, which is exactly what I said would happen in my pregame analysis. Ross led the Huskies with 7 boards and Simmons collected 6. N’Diaye only had 5 on the night in his 17 minutes of play.
  • Shooting – UW was not hitting the open baskets and missed several critical easy lay-ins that shut down whatever momentum the Dawgs had going. Our players need to knock down the open shots because they have been few and far between lately, it would seem. I know our guys can shoot and I know players have cold nights, but tonight it seemed like everyone was cold at once and that is absolutely killer.
  • Free Throw Shooting – 13-23…That is unacceptable. Thank the stars that Tony Wroten has been getting better and made 6-8 on the night. I’ll take 75% shooting from the Dawgs just about any night. No other player had more than 3 makes for the Dawgs. Wilcox and Ross, our two best free throw shooters, combined for only 1 free throw. That is unacceptable. These guys need to get the ball and take their man to the rack for some good old fashioned basketball.

What was Good:

  • Gut and Drive – After getting down early once more, the Huskies fought back and worked their asses off to get back in the game. After scoring only 26 in the first half, UW doubled their scoring with 54 in the second. If UW could have managed 35 or 40 in the first half, UW would have won with ease. Statistically the Huskies and Blue Devils were essentially identical outside of the poor shooting in the first 10 minutes. The tenacity displayed by Wilcox and Wroten was fantastic. These players are starting to feel the heat and are dying to get back to their winning ways.

Final Thoughts: 

Tough week in the Big Apple for the Dawgs. They needed a big win, but came up short in both match-ups. All said, they Huskies looked much better than the maligned efforts they displayed in St. Louis and Nevada. No one in the Pac-12 plays like Duke or Marquette, which gives me hope that the Huskies can pretty much run the slate come conference and finished with 14, maybe 15 wins.

If the Dawgs can win at least 13 and make the final game of the conference tournament, they should go into March with 22 wins or so and 9 or 10 losses. That should be enough for an NCAA bid, though it will be a low seed. The pieces are here, the will to win is coming into its own, and the Huskies are just a few mistakes away from being 6-2 or 7-1 even. Our team is young, but talented and can do a lot of damage when they get their heads in the right place. Let’s get it done, boys.

Go Dawgs!