As many of you know, it was 70’s night on Thursday and we have some great, classic Lorenzo Romar pictures. Enjoy.
by: John Chase
Just like that, the Huskies control first place in the Pac-12 and their destiny lies in their hands and not the success (or failures) of others. This game represented some impressive milestones. UW has now won 4 straight against UCLA, something that hasn’t ever happened in Husky History, and the Dawgs have now won 8 straight at home against UCLA. Two hours after UW escaped with an emotional win, Arizona knocked off Cal with an early 33-10 run that put Arizona ahead for good.
The Huskies played a a sloppy game that didn’t polish up until the final 10 minutes. This was highlighted early with UW up 6-4. UCLA picked up two offensive boards and finally got the put-back to fall in, despite several Huskies near the hoop. Often times, the Dawgs were getting beat on easy boards and gave up far too many turnovers (16 total, 10 in the first half). The first half turnovers were just plain ugly. It wasn’t so much that the Bruins were playing tough defense, the Husky guards were just throwing the ball away to players who weren’t looking for passes. Regardless, the Dawgs somehow went into halftime with a 1-point game.
Things got worse after half when the Dawg defense shut down and allowed three straight 3-pointers, all by Lazeric Jones who had been silent all game. Suddenly, the Huskies found themselves down 10 with time running off the clock. Something awakened in the team and the crowd, which translated into Terrence Ross taking things to the next level.
The Huskies struggled to contain Josh Smith who scored a career high 24 points. Smith did damage the whole game with 14 points during the first half. While Aziz N’Diaye tried his best to contain Smith, the two early fouls limited his minutes resulting in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Shawn Kemp Jr. rotating through to try and prevent Smith from scoring. The Huskies experienced their best success by playing a zone defense to prevent entry passes to the post and allowed the Dawgs to double team Smith, forcing turnovers. Smith did not score in the final minute of the game (well, technically he scored with 56 seconds on the clock, but I’ll excuse it), which was integral in deciding the outcome of the game. N’Diaye was also able to secure the final rebound over Smith as the clock ran out.
The two biggest possessions of the game came in the final minutes when the Bruins committed offensive fouls and allowed UW to extend their small lead to a two possession difference. The Bruins kept fighting back and the missed free throws by UW allowed the Bruins to get back within 2 points during the final 20 seconds. UW played solid defense and forced a young, in experienced Bruin to take a contested shot, which ended up rattling out and tipped around until N’Diaye could finally corral the ball.
The crowd played a big part of UW’s success in the final 10 minutes of the game. Once the Dawg Pack started going and Ross starting being a superstar, the rest of the stadium really perked up, stood up, and got into UCLA’s collective head. The offense wasn’t able to execute properly as no one could hear what was going on. After the game, Coach Chillious raised the roof at the Dawg Pack, Darnell Gant beat his chest, pointed, and yelled, and Romar came over, pointed at the score board, pointed at us, and said that was your win, you helped us do that. I invest a lot of my time, energy, and emotion into this team and into leading the Dawg Pack and it felt really good to see everyone finally getting involved in the game and having the type of effect on the game that we had between ’04 and ’09. It felt even better to see our efforts get recognized and appreciated by the coach and team.
N’Diaye played a pretty good game, despite the defensive struggles against Smith. No one could defend Smith, who pushed people around with his gut, so it is hard to discredit N’Diaye for failing the same as everyone else who tried to match-up with Smith. N’Diaye was a solid 3-4 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. N’Diaye could have had a double-double, but finished with 7 after hitting only 1 of his 4 free throw attempts. N’Diaye needs to get some better coaching about his foul shot because he is shooting under 40% on the year, which is not only miserable, it hurts our team. N’Diaye gets to the line 2 to 4 times a night and generally misses at least half those shots. That is a lot of points and opportunities being squandered away. “Hack the Shaq” is a very viable option for teams in close games and that scares me more than anything. N’Diaye delivered a nice pass and assist to Tony Wroten who was cutting across the baseline. It was almost a perfect reverse of the usual Wroten to N’Diaye plays. The only big negative for me, outside of the usual free throw issues, was the accidental tip-in by N’Diaye on our own hoop. Rather than getting up and putting two hands on the ball, N’Diaye tried to tip the ball out to a teammate, but it went rogue and N’Diaye scored against us.
Speaking of Wroten, Tony had himself a wild game. Wroten took a knee to the thigh that caused him pain throughout the game and may cause Wroten to play limited, if any, minutes during the USC game tomorrow. Wroten was only 4 of 11 from the field. Wroten grabbed up 5 rebounds, 2 offensive, and dished out 2 assists. His 5 turnovers were very reminiscent of his earlier games, but the 5-5 free throw shooting shows the type of improvement Wroten has made to his game. The other “improvement” I saw from Wroten was an attempt at a right-handed lay-in, something I don’t think he had done yet. Sadly, the ball rolled out of the rim, but it was good to see Wroten finally use that second hand of his to take a shot.
Darnell Gant became a true senior tonight. He scored 10 points in the first half, including a very much needed 3-pointer early in the game, deep into the shot clock. Gant finished with only 14 points, but his defense on the Wear twins and other perimeter players was just as valuable as his emotional play and the leadership he displayed. Tonight I saw Gant beating his chest, coaching his teammates, yelling at the crowd to get up and get loud. The passion was evident and Gant was quoted after the game saying he nearly cried following the win. He wanted this game badly and it showed. Let’s hope he can continue to be the type of leader this team has been sorely missing.
Abdul Gaddy played another silent game, but did a much better job of attacking the hoop than in previous weeks. Gaddy was 2-5 from the field, 3-4 from the line, and delivered 5 assists. His 4 turnovers marred an otherwise solid outing. I don’t know what it is going to take to get Gaddy to go back to the level of play he displayed in the first half of conference lasts season. Maybe he’ll never quite get back to that after his ACL tear. Either way, he needs to adjust his game by either getting back in the lane or starting to develop a reliable outside shot that will force defenders to step out, opening the lanes for his teammates.
Desmond Simmons seems to have hit the freshman wall as of late. He played only 11 minutes despite starting, grabbed only 2 rebounds, and missed both shot attempts including an ugly airball. Not much to say about his game due to his limited play time.
C.J. Wilcox looked rusty tonight. Maybe the lack of practices are finally catching up a bit. Wilcox was only 1 of 4 from the field, but drilled all 4 of his free throws, which were immensely important to the Husky win. While I understand and appreciate the need for Wilcox to rest during the week for the games, the fact Wilcox is limited to only 50 jump shots per practice seems a bit absurd to me. Let him take 75 or 100, I highly doubt that will have a huge effect on his injury. Hopefully the Huskies can get things done in a big way against USC (who lost to WSU by only 3, mildly concerning) and both him and Wroten can get their rest and let others gain some valuable play time.
Shawn Kemp Jr. played some very strong minutes and had one of his better games. All 4 points came off of dunks, including a very impressive trail play leading to a powerful jam, a small reminder of his father who is one of the best dunkers in the history of the game. ASJ played only 5 minutes and picked up 2 fouls.
Terrence Ross. My man. Please play all 40 minutes like you do the final 10. If you do, you will score 30 points a game, each and every night. Heck, I’ll settle for Ross playing two solid halves of basketball versus one half of pure athleticism and skill. Ross played another amazing second half to rally the Dawgs. He caught alley-oops for sweet jams, he drained shots from 25 feet, checking his heat and finding himself on fire, he even pulled off a Top 10 worthy (though he was snubbed somehow) lay-in that shouldn’t even be physically possible. After spinning off his defender, Ross was fouled and knocked to the ground, but still managed to get a shot off and it banked home for the AND-1, which put the Dawgs on top. Speaking of banks, Ross drained a ridiculous bank shot at the end of the first half to give the Huskies the 1 point lead. Ross also pulled off a crazy double cross over move that was worthy of some recognition. Ross had 4 rebounds on top of 22 points, 1 steal, two nice blocks, and 3 turnovers. If Ross can put together another impressive game against USC, he will likely win Player of the Week.
What Needed Improvement:
- Terrence Ross-First Half –I would like to see a game where Ross scores 8-10 in the first half. I’m not sure how many games this season Ross has had 4 or less points going into the break, but it is far too many. It needs to change. Not sure what the difference is for Ross, but I guarantee the heart of it is mental.
- Ball Control – The Huskies committed 10 turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 16. Not good by any stretch of the imagination. Too many times the Dawgs would throw the ball out of bounds. UCLA was credited with 10 steals, but I don’t recall that many occurring. The Husky guards have been really sloppy as of late and that won’t win us any games. The Dawgs also managed only 10 assists, far below the goals and abilities of this team. Got to get this righted for the final half of the year.
What was Good:
- Terrence Ross-Second Half – He is a true closer and is everything in the second half that LeBron James isn’t. The kid has a will to win and once the shots start dropping, he can’t be stopped. Ross went 9-12 from the field and a perfect 2-2 from deep and dominated the second half. Ross didn’t miss in the second half until there were only 25 seconds on the clock.
- Gant’s Leadership – His words helped organize the team, his fire pumped up the crowd, and his first half helped the Dawgs take an early lead despite their short comings. Loved the game Gant played today. If Wroten is hurt on Saturday and does not start, I would like to see the Dawgs bust out a 3 forward line-up with Gant back in the starting 5 along side N’Diaye and Simmons.
- The Crowd – The crowd is finally getting into this team again and it is showing up on the home court. The turning point was the WSU come back game. It got loud and people had fun. Now that they have tasted what a truly great college atmosphere is like, they want more and are getting it by creating it themselves. This team is young, and young players thrive on the emotion of the crowd.
This game could have been a blow out if the Dawgs didn’t try to throw it away in the first half. The Huskies pulled off another impressive come back and fought off an improving UCLA team. Terrence Ross was a catalyst once more and Gant continued to improve his game and attitude. Thank you, Arizona, for knocking off Cal on their home court and giving us sole possession of first place. With an injured USC team on the horizon, the Huskies can maintain their lead and should ASU pull off a surprising come back, the Dawgs can increase their lead. The Dawgs have one last home-stand after this weekend against the Arizona schools as well as road trips to Oregon, WSU, and the LA schools. The toughest games will likely come against UCLA, WSU, and Oregon as all 3 tend to be superb on their home courts. The Huskies can ill afford more than 2 losses the remainder of the regular season, but with the way this team has been performing, I am confident they can pull out some more grinding, dirty wins away from Hec-Ed. Let’s get it done boys and bring home that banner.