Heartbreak city was also seat-break city. The Dawgs, yet again, came out slow in the first half and managed a mere 25 points for the second straight game. This time, no amount of raucous and support from the fans could rally the Huskies for more late-game heroics. Trust me, the crowd was in the game, myself very much included as evidence by the seats my friend and I shattered from jumping around so much. Darnell Gant had an opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime in the final seconds, but like the other 8 shots he took that night, it rimmed out and the Huskies were sent to the locker room with their tails between their legs.
I completely agree with the play call Romar drew up. Ross was going to be over defended and as a senior, Gant should be given the chance for the big play. Abdul Gaddy bobbled the ball before delivering a poor pass to Gant, which appeared to rush his shot and cause the miss. After such a great game against WSU, it was surprising to see Gant go right back to the atrocious shooting he has had on display for over half the season now.
I think the most disappointing part of the game was the Huskies unwillingness to feed Aziz N’Diaye the ball in the second half. After going into half with a team high 8 points, N’Diaye looked poised for a 20 point-15 rebound game. His shot was on, he was rebounding left and right. His defender was a pencil thin “post” who could do nothing to stop him, yet the Huskies refused to feed him in the paint. N’Diaye finished the night 7-11 from the field with 12 rebounds (6 offensive). N’Diaye was easily the most influential and successful player, in my opinion, on the court. I understood earlier in the season why the Dawgs did not get him the ball. N’Diaye was still developing his hands and offensive game, but as of late N’Diaye has looked very solid down low and has legitimate post moves and a nice hook shot. At 7-0 he is tough to stop, so why don’t we abuse that until the other team is forced to defend against it?
Terrence Ross. Can we get a full game out of you? For the second straight game, Ross went into half without a lot of points next to his name. Ross only managed one made shot in the first half, but finished with 15 after playing a much more aggressive second half. What is it going to take to get it in his head that he needs to be the leader of this team, demand the ball, and do something with it? It is amazing how easy he makes lay-ins look when driving the lanes. It is simply stunning that he doesn’t hunger for the type of production he has shown in the second half of games for the entire game. I blame this on both Ross and Romar. Romar is not instilling the type of drive Ross needs to have and Ross is not developing that sort of attitude himself. Ross finished 6-15 from the field and grabbed 5 boards.
Tony Wroten played another sub-par game highlighted by 5 turnovers and only 2 assists. Unlike in previous games, the majority of the 5 turnovers were entirely his fault. This was highlighted by two terrible alley-oop pass to Ross that banged off the rim rather than into Ross’ hands. It was rather uncharacteristic. He played a sloppy, disjointed game. Wroten did manage 14 points on just 4 of 11 shooting thanks to his beautiful 5 of 5 performance at the free throw line. Maybe Wroten is starting to develop the work ethic necessary to be a super star in college. If he can develop his ball control the way his free throw shot has been developing, he may very well make a late run for not just the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, but Player of the Year as well. Until that time, Wroten will continue to frustrate and amazing in equal amounts.
Desmond Simmons played a fairly solid game and I thought he deserved more play time, especially with the poor offensive night Gant was having. Simmons finished with 8 points on 3 of 5 shooting and nabbed 3 rebounds. It’s hard to criticize his rebounding as Ross and N’Diaye were the only ones to tally 5 or more boards for the Dawgs. I thought Simmons looked good on the defensive end, which contributed to his low rebounding total as he often had to leave the post to cover his man.
Abdul Gaddy looked better offensively tonight, but did not show the play-making ability he is known for. Gaddy tallied only 2 assists in the game, while committing 3 turnovers. The Huskies went into half time with only 1 assist. It is easy to understand why we can’t score more than 30 points in a half. Instead of playing with a 5 person team, we try to play as 5 individuals making plays. “Miraculously,” in the second half when we scored 41 points, we had 6 assists. Funny how that works…Gaddy went 5 of 9 from the field, 1 of 2 from deep, and actually attacked the rim. Much like Ross, Gaddy can make the short shots look easy as pie. I do have one big bone to pick with Gaddy from this game. Down 5 with something like 5 minutes left, Gaddy had an easy, open lane to the basket wide open. He drove to the hoop without resistance and then…he lazily put the ball up and missed the shot. DUNK THE BALL!!!!! I know you can dunk Gaddy, I’ve seen it happen. If you aren’t going to dunk, at least put the ball in the rim. It is the easiest shot in the game. Just lay it in. It was a huge momentum killer as the crowd’s enthusiasm significantly dropped off after the miss. The loss cannot be placed on any one player, but this was certainly a big time miss.
Hikeem Stewart came in after Wroten picked up a pair of early fouls. Unlike in previous games, Stewart jacked up a few shots and boy were they ugly. I appreciate that he wants to get involved offensively, but considering even Stewart himself admitted before the game that his shot if off, I would really prefer is his shots came inside of 10 feet. Stewart will develop into a solid role player in the coming years, but for the time being he is not developed enough to be a solid contributor. Stewart did grab 2 rebounds, something I’m not sure he has done yet this season.
We really missed C.J. Wilcox and unfortunately will continue to miss him this week as his stress fracture remains an issue.
What Needed Improvement:
- Rebounding – Outside of N’Diaye, the Huskies did not do a good job on the glass. The team managed only 31 rebounds and were out rebounded 36-31 by Cal. When the shots aren’t falling, the importance of rebounding shoots up significantly. It’s all about attitude. Jon Brockman was never the biggest guy on the court, but he was strong and fought for every last board. He fought so hard, he fell and broke his hip in the NCAA tournament, BUT HE KEPT PLAYING! What a beast. Our teams needs that type of killer instinct.
- Ball Control – 7 assist, 12 turnovers. Not going to cut it, guys. How many games last season did we have less than 10 assists? Not many, I guarantee that. We were one of the top teams in the nation in terms of assists per game and not surprisingly, we scored a butt-ton of points each and every game. Correspondingly again, we won a lot of games. We have a set of great guards who are very good at finding the open players, the problems arise when those play makers sit at the top of the key and wait for the rest of the team to move. Easiest way to get an assist is to drive to the hoop, and kick it out. Watch the end of the Pac-10 championship game one more time. Both 3-pointers from Ross and Wilcox in the final seconds came because I.T. drove the lane and kicked it out.
What Was Good:
- Aziz N’Diaye – Fantastic game. Absolutely brilliant. As a coach, Romar needs to be able to see the advantage N’Diaye had down low and force the team to get him the ball. Even if he doesn’t take the shot, the defense will be forced to collapse on him, which opens the court up for our shooters. Feed the man. Feed him often.
The title run is now in Cal’s hands with Stanford losing to WSU over the weekend. The Huskies are at a big disadvantage because we only get to play Cal and Stanford once. Can we still pull it off? Sure. Will we? I’m highly doubtful. I’m still frustrated about this game so I don’t have much to say that will be constructive or useful. Hopefully the team learned something and can beat Stanford.