by: John Chase
Free throws. Free. Throws. Free throws. If Mel Gibson was here, he would shout FREEEEE THROWS!!!! The Huskies went a combined 12 of 26 from the line and not one player outside of Tony Wroten made more than 1. Unfortunately, Wroten will be remembered not for the 6 straight shots he made to help extend a hard fought Huskies lead, nor will he be remembered for his 29 points, rather he will be remembered for missing 4 straight free throws with the Dawgs down 1 with less than 20 seconds on the clock following 3 straight misses by Jared Cunningham.
All of this drama could have been avoided had the Dawgs played two full halves of basketball. As has happened all too often this year, the Dawgs started the night with a slow and sloppy performance. 10 first half turnovers led to a 13 point deficit at halftime.
With 10 minutes to go in the second half, the Dawgs still had only 10 turnovers and a +19 scoring differential. Amazing how that works…Not too long after that stat flashed on the screen and the Dawgs up 4, Abdul Gaddy slipped on the center court logo and turned the ball over to Ahmad Starks who took it home for the easy 2. More turnovers followed, more free throws were missed and suddenly the Dawgs were back in the red.
The Husky defense in the first half was atrocious, allowing the Beavers to shoot 49% from the field and Starks to hit 3 of 6 from deep. The second half was much better and Starks didn’t make a shot the rest of the game, until a late 3-pointer put the Beavers within 1. Cunningham was hot in the first half and picked it up again when the Huskies started to commit the silly turnovers that inevitably cost them the game.
Foul trouble kept Aziz N’Diaye from having any type of production in the post. He finished a perfect 2 of 2 from the field with 7 rebounds, but fouled out with 4 minutes on the clock. This absence allowed OSU to penetrate the lanes with much greater ease. N’Diaye was sorely missed during those waning minutes.
Darnell Gant played an effective offensive game garnering 10 rebounds, 6 points on 3 of 4 shooting, 4 assists, a steal, and a block. He also picked up four fouls, limiting his aggression on the offensive end and forcing timid play defensively. With both big men in foul trouble, the Dawgs were forced into a zone defense to compensate lost size. This unfortunately led to way too many open 3 pointers.
Wroten was put in the worst situation a freshman could be in. Late game, tight scenario, and free throws (not his specialty). He made 6 straight and fell apart. Missing the first two shut down his confidence. The third crushed it. The fourth stood no chance. That kid worked so hard getting inside for shots. He tried so hard, yet his efforts fell short. This game does not fall on him. It is a team game and our team lost. I counted at least 4 possessions where the Beavers missed a shot and proceeded to get at least 2 offensive boards before scoring on a put back. The Huskies failed to box out their opponents all too often and it hurt.
I don’t have much else to say about the game. I am too disappointed with the team effort and too nervous for this coming Sunday. The ball is no longer in our hands. We gave up that opportunity two games in a row. We now have to hope all the remaining top seeds in all conferences win their respective tournaments. Any upset will burst our bubble.
We may have the distinction of being the first Power 6 Conference regular season title winner to be left out of the NCAA since the field expanded to 64 teams. What an honor.