by: John Chase
The game came down to a game saving block yet again, but this time it went to the Huskies and it was without a doubt a solid block. Nick Johnson flew in after the block and flushed a dunk and it appeared that Arizona may have tied it up, but the replay clearly showed time had expired and UW won it after Tony Wroten swatted away the potential game tying shot.
The Huskies could have put this game out of reach sooner, but several big missed free throws allowed UA to tie the game at 67 with just a few seconds left on the clock. At one point, the Huskies held an 11 point lead, but let it bleed away with critical turnovers and a silly 5 second call on an inbounds play. Despite their struggles, the crowd, and the foul differential (22 to 13 with four UW players sitting at 4 fouls, while no UA player had more than 3), the Huskies were able to get the win in front of a national audience. This is quickly becoming one of the most exciting rivalries in the league, and nation if you ask me, as the past 4 games have all been thrilling in their own ways.
This win was huge as the Huskies jumped into first place in the conference with a 7-2 record. Both Cal and Oregon play their instate rivals tomorrow and can retie for first place with wins. Out of those two, Oregon has a better chance of winning due to the sub-stellar play of OSU as of late. Stanford has been solid thus far and could give Cal problems on Sunday. The sweep over the Arizona schools, on the road, is going to have big implications for conference standings as UA is a strong home team that will be tough to beat.
Solomon Hill single-handedly kept Arizona in the game with a massive 28 point 11 rebound night, shooting 9 free throws and sinking 8 as well as draining both of his 3-point jumpers. Hill only missed one shot all night and finished 9 of 10 from the field. Jesse Perry did his part as well making 13 points and grabbing a game high 12 rebounds. Hill and Perry were the only Wildcats in double digit scoring.
Four Huskies hit double digit points and all made strong arguments for MVP of the game. Wroten scored a team high 17 points, right around his average, Aziz N’Diaye played a huge game scoring 12 points and grabbing a team high 8 rebounds, 5 offensive, C.J. Wilcox came off the bench and drained 15 points with some nice drives in the lane, and Terrence Ross put up 16 points and 7 boards.
The other four Huskies combined for a less than acceptable 9 points. All four went 1-3 from the field. They did manage to combine for an important 11 rebounds.
Aziz N’Diaye used his size advantage to take it to the hole early on and found immediate success against the much smaller Wildcat frontcourt. N’Diaye was able to extend over the defenders for some nice looking post moves and hook shots. The Dawgs recognized the advantage and fed him the ball more often than in the past. While N’Diaye’s offensive talents are still improving, the difference between this year and last is very noticeable and much needed. Aziz finished 6-11 from the field, but missed all 3 free throw attempts.
C.J. Wilcox looked solid on the court, finished inside the paint when his outside shot wasn’t falling. Wilcox hit 6 of 10 from the field and was only 1 of 3 from outside the arc. Wilcox nearly cost the Dawgs the game with a missed front end of a 1-and-1 with the Dawgs only up 3 points. The Wildcats came down and sank a game tying 3-pointer. Wilcox took care of business in the last 15 seconds, hitting a pair of free throws following the expected foul. Wilcox had 5 boards and a pair of assists as well as turnovers. Not his greatest night, but following over two weeks of missed practices and games, Wilcox knocked some of his rust off and played big when we needed him.
Terrence Ross had another amazing second half, hitting some big 3-pointers down the stretch to extend the Husky lead. Like Wilcox, Ross missed the front end of a critical 1-and-1 situation that nearly cost the Dawgs the win. Still, Ross had an impressive stat stuffing night with 7 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Ross put together a much better game and did some work in both halves rather than just in the second. That being said, Ross was still much better in the last 20 than the first 20 minutes. Ross let his impact be felt defensively more than offensively as his blocks were humongous and provided the Dawgs with some nice transition opportunities.
Tony Wroten gets my MVP vote tonight. Not only did he swat the game winning block, but Wroten drilled an insane 3-pointer after Ross bobbled the ball. With only 3 seconds on the clock, Wroten grabbed up the loose ball, turned and dribble around his man and pulled up for a 30 footer that crashed through the net. Unbelievable. The shot was almost a bad thing for Wroten and the Dawgs as Wroten got a little too cocky and started to play overexcited, shooting a poor 3-pointer and turning the ball over in the paint. Wroten quickly gained his composure back after the turnover and returned to playing more mature basketball. Wroten went 5-7 from the foul line, but finished a rather poor 5-18 from the field. Many of his shots were inside where he tried to muscle through a lot of contact that wasn’t being called (see the foul differential). My bet is Wroten gets Player of the Week once more and gives one more reason why he should get Freshman of the Year and possibly Player of the Year. Wroten averaged just under 20 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game this week and helped seal a much needed road sweep.
The rest of the Dawgs played somewhat underwhelming. Abdul Gaddy had the biggest impact, picking up 3 assists early in the first half and finishing with 5 on the night with only 1 turnover. Gaddy managed only 2 points and was not aggressive offensively. His 4 fouls certainly limited how hard he could go to the hoop and defend, but I thought Gaddy had a favorable match-up that could have been exploited more often. Darnell Gant and Desmond Simmons provided some defensive sparks and grabbed 4 boards a piece. Simmons drilled a wide open 3-pointer in the starting minutes to help the Huskies jump out to a 7 point lead. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins played only 6 minutes, but gave N’Diaye a breather and gave out some heavy fouls. Kevin Parrom tried to shove ASJ after a foul, but the big man didn’t move an inch and Parrom seemed to realize his mistake shortly after.
What Needed Improvement:
- Free Throws – When the fouls aren’t going your way, you have to hit the few you are given. The Huskies were miserable form the line, hitting only 7 of their 16 attempts. In tight games, especially on the road, foul shots are critical. As I said in the pregame, we were not going to get many calls and I was proven right. The Dawgs did not capitalize on their opportunities and it nearly cost them the game. The Huskies MUST improve their foul shooting or risk another close game slipping away.
- Ball Control – Down the stretch, the Huskies got sloppy with the ball and play calls leading to unnecessary and unforced turnovers that allowed UA to fight their way back into the game. 13 turnovers were committed, 5 by Wroten (though I believe the officials should have called a foul instead of traveling on at least one of those plays). The Dawgs need to take better care of the ball and limit themselves to 10 or less per game. The 13 turnovers led to 17 points by the Wildcats.
What Was Good:
- Inside Presence – The Huskies posted a 34 to 28 point advantage inside, led by N’Diaye and Wroten who crashed the glass and the lane. Wilcox provided the spark inside during the second half and Ross showed himself to be an extreme athlete once more with some impressive moves on the block.
- Rebounding – One of the biggest keys to UW’s win was offensive rebounding. The Huskies posted 16 offensive boards (36 total) that led to 17 second chance points, crushing UA’s 8 second chance points. When our shots weren’t dropping, we got up high and gathered the ball for the easy put back. UA did manage 35 boards behind the strong efforts of Hill and Perry, but it just wasn’t enough. Six Huskies posted 4 or more rebounds, while Hill and Perry were the only Wildcats with more than 3 rebounds.
Finally we played in a big road game and came out the victors. Solid defense forced 15 turnovers and held the ‘Cats to 42% shooting from the field (not great, but solid enough) and 30% from deep (again, not great, but good enough). The Huskies put together some big stops early in both halves to put the Wildcats in some deep holes that proved too difficult to climb out of. The Wildcats went into half with a 3 point lead following a controversial dunk that appeared to be offensive goaltending.
The Huskies overcame sloppy play and put together a strong enough effort to pull out the win. I would say the Dawgs played about 30 minutes of tough basketball, the other 10 minutes led to the Wildcats coming back from 7 and 11 point deficits.
Big, big win and while I understand the Pac-12 is “weak” this year, anyone watching the game has to admit it was exciting. These two teams have provided some of the best basketball in the nation these past two seasons and I suspect this will continue for several more years as the programs have really begun to make this game into a huge event with everyone giving all they have to offer. This will be huge when it comes to building our players’ mental attitude about big games and road games and should really give these guys a taste of how sweet a big time win is.
Hopefully this is the turning point that allows us to start crushing teams with our superior athleticism and talent. Romar, now is your time to get us rolling. The momentum is here, the talent is here, now it comes down to execution and chemistry. Get it done, boys.