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College Hoops

Washington Husky Huddle for Sunday March 18th 2012 (Part Two)

Numbers cruncher Alex Pattani of ESPN used the excuse that UW won the league by winning the games they should against weak opponents on Sunday. Even if you have severe short term memory loss and know anything about the Dawgs, you should be able to remember that the 2010-11 Dawgs lost the league by losing to teams that it should have beaten when it lost to WSU, OSU and Oregon on the road in consecutive games.

“The Huskies won the regular-season title by consistently beating up on the dregs of the conference.”

The Dawgs did the one thing right that cost them the most last year and won the league out right, but losing in the conference tourney was used by the NCAA no less as the reason they were excluded? It was stupid for the Huskies to take the Pac-12 tourney for granted, like they did, but they were clearly the best team in the conference, when you look at their body of work. They were better than everyone else in the standings and that should have told the story. UW’s boneheaded performance against OSU and subsequent snub pointed that out more clearly than any team in history, even more than the 2010 ASU team that finished 2nd in the Pac-10 bit were left to the NIT. Unlike that Sun Devil team, the
snub was not so devastating emotionally, that they folded to a decent low major at home in the first game. Coincidentally that ASU team also lost in their first conference tourney game.

Gant talked about overcoming that same type of disappointment, arguably an even greater one, when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

“You just try to hold your emotions as best you can and try not to let them all out. You got a lot of things going on. You’re upset. You’re mad. You’re sad. There’s a lot of emotions, but you got to hold it together.”

Wroten put his own spin on it, to find motivation on Tuesday.

“Yeah. We’re going to treat this like it’s the national championship. Obviously it’s not what we wanted, but since we’re here, we’re going to deal with it and play like we are in the national championship.”

Flawed as the system is, UW showed enough heart to overcome that letdown by beating an impressive Texas-Arlington team on Tuesday at Hec Ed 82-72. Senior Maverick wing LaMarcus Reed III was as advertised with 20 points on 10-12 from the stripe, but Ross was able to score 23 on 9-15 in the games key match-up, (Reed shot 4-14 from the field). Ross, who was named to the NABC District 20 First Team on Wednesday (Wroten was named to the second team) was consistent throughout the game and played just as well in holding down Reed on defense as he was in leading the Dawgs in scoring.

UTA beat the Dawgs badly on the glass 37-27 and 17-4 on the offensive glass, but it was Gant staying tough for 10 boards, to add to his 13 points that kept the Dawgs in a position to win. Wilcox also lent key offensive production, including
8-10 himself from the FT line, while Gaddy went for 10 points on 4-5 from the field, plus six assists. Wroten, after his career 29 point game against OSU in the tragic loss, was a huge part of the comeback win with eight assists to go with his nine points. Tony did have four turnovers, but negated those with two steals and a block. Wroten’s presence has been very important in UW’s success this season.

In the first half however the Huskies came out very lackadaisical. Their pregame ritual wasn’t the same as it has been all year. The body language of the players seemed as if they didn’t really want to play. UT-Arlington and the Mavericks scored 22 of their 37 first half points in the paint, out rebounding the Huskies 25-12 in the half. This was a half that the Huskies played down to their opponent and though they came back strong in the 2nd for a while, they didn’t play to their potential for pretty much the whole game. The crowd was very slim and the mood wasn’t the same as a normal Husky game. With that being said, UT-Arlington played a first half that disrupted the Dawgs. What stood out the in the half was the rebounding, but there were positives in Gaddy and Wroten combining for nine assists and Ross scoring 11 points to keep the score at the end of the half at 37-37.

Romar talked about his team playing poorly in the first half, after the game.

“I thought it was unacceptable in the first half, our overall lack of physicality all the way down to that buzzer.”

Gant talked more on Tuesday after the game about what actually happened in the locker room at half-time.

“I feel like his point got across. He was animated like he usually is. I wish you guys could have seen it.”

The second half came around and the body language was the same minus a couple minutes where the team showed some urgency to win. UT-Arlington has a player in Reed who put on a show along with senior guard Bo Ingram who scored 17 in the game. Both players showed they can hang with the big boys. Wroten came alive showing his court vision and showed his pride in his ability to do other things than score, displaying a smile every time he threw a nice pass. Gant showed a strong will to win in the second half. You could tell he didn’t want it to be his last game.

There was one point in the second half where Gant’s mind drifted a bit. Romar grabbed the senior aside and said something to get his mind back into the game. After that, Darnell responded and other than that lapse had a very important role in keeping the Mavericks at arms length down the stretch. Gaddy was connecting from the field in the 2nd half and especially when Gaddy’s and/or Darnell’s jump shot is dropping, it makes things a lot easier on the court for the Dawgs. Although the Huskies had some urgency late in the game, UTA hung around until very late.

With seven minutes to play UW was up three and though the Dawgs pumped it up to a game where they were up 8-10 for the rest of the way, the kind of runs that UTA had put on through the game made it feel close. Reed and Ingram ran out of gas though in the last five minutes of the game and the Mavericks were never able to summon another of those runs. On a comic note, there was one point in the game where even the refs weren’t paying attention. Aziz picked up his 5th foul and still was playing until the Huskies called a timeout. Mr. Magoo was seen in purple and gold yelling “Let’s get a touchdown”.

The game on Tuesday was one where UW played poorly enough to lose, if they had to play on the road. Romar was part of the 1980 Dawgs that traveled to Las Vegas NV to meet the UNLV Rebels in the NIT’s first round. The Romar led Dawgs lost 93-73 there to a UNLV team that made it to Madison Square Garden where they lost to eventual NIT champs Virginia that year. Those Jerry Tarkanian coached Rebs featured, among other elite level talent, post and future NBA journeyman Sidney Green. I think Lorenzo knows what hosting an NIT game means and how history has a way of showing how important these games can look down the road.

On Friday the Dawgs took on an impressive looking Northwestern team and put out a much better effort front to back in a 76-55 win. Ross was listed as probable for much of the time between games, after a hip injury against UTA, but Terrence came out with a career best and a team season high 32 points. It was the highest score since Ryan Appleby scored 32 on Feb. 16th 2008 and since Brandon Roy scored 35 in consecutive games on December 29th and December 31st 2005. The Dawgs are now 6-2 lifetime against their purple Big-10 counterparts.

Romar compared the Wildcats stylistically to the South Dakota State team who beat them by 19 in December at Hec Ed on Thursday stating of Wildcat senior post John Shurna, “There’s not many guys that match up well with him”. Gant had the
assignment for much of the night and though Shurna scored 24, Darnell did a great job of keeping him from going off. Gant talked about it to the media after the game.

“He had 24 points, but he had to work for them. In the second half he hit two threes, but I felt like every time we made a mistake he scored. I felt like if we didn’t do a good job on him, he was liable for 40.”

I felt the same way. The kind of shots he was hitting, it seemed like he could put on one of those performances very easily in Hec Ed. Additionally the Dawgs teamed up to hold the Big-10’s 4th leading scorer, junior guard Drew Crawford, to only five points. Shurna “got his”, but UW made him take very tough shots to do it, while keeping his team mates from getting good looks. This was an impressive win, not only because Northwestern beat Michigan State this season, but because UW played well. It’s the old eye test again. UW shared the ball, executed well against the Wildcats solid 1-3-1 zone an defended well as a team. NU scored 20 3-pointers against Mississippi Valley State this year and if the Dawgs had been a tick slow like they were against OSU, or for much of the UTA game, the game could have been a lot closer.

Wilcox also contributed to the win with 20 big points, including three straight 3’s which kept UW up 20 when NU tried to climb back into in in the middle of the 2nd half. Aziz had a good night, after his foul plagued effort against UTA, with 11 points, 7 rebounds and two steals. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times broke down N’Diaye’s effort well after the game.

“N’Diaye did a really nice job on the defensive end against smaller players like 6-4 guard Reggie Hearn, who had six points on 3-for-11 shooting. N’Diaye got low in a defensive stance on the perimeter at times and was shadowed NU players as they drove into the lane. At the point of attack, N’Diaye extended and created a 7-foot barrier that was difficult to shoot ever. He also didn’t pick up a foul for the first time this season.”

Tony had only two points, but his 7 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks were very impressive. He set up Ross and others with some beautiful feeds and came off as a player that wanted to use his awesome talent to win more than he wanted to
selfishly put the team on his shoulders. Gaddy had a nice game with some impressive defensive plays that seemed to be on a different level for him, to go with his usual fabulous performance handling the ball with seven assists. Abdul scored five and grabbed four boards, but he and Tony had five TO’s each. Gaddy talked about how he and the team found motivation, despite being snubbed by the tournament committee.

“I’m just happy to be playing. Not a lot of teams are playing right now, and we’re still playing. We’re playing with a chip on our shoulders. We’re still trying to prove we should have been in the NCAA tournament.”

Had freshman guard Hikeem Stewart not added four TO’s in five minutes during garbage time though, UW would have won the TO battle 13-15. Stewart to his credit played a mistake free minute to end the half when Ross and Wilcox both had two fouls. It was a tough game from two teams that played well on both ends and UW was especially impressive, considering their youth. Speaking of youth, Wroten and Ross are both very young, but awesomely talented players that will be a big part of NBA draft conversation when the season finally ends. Wroten is already a star, appearing on Wednesday in what looks more like a legit documentary than a home made YouTube vanity promo clip.

Whether Ross and/or Wroten return to UW next season, the Dawgs will still be pretty good in my opinion. I think that for all I have nit picked Romar about free throws, he is an excellent strategic coach, even better talent evaluator/manager and a skilled and honest recruiter. He’ll find some solid talent to replace either or both of those guys, but the Dawgs could be pretty special if even one of them decided to stick around and improve before taking on the NBA. All of the mock drafts have Terrence and Tony in the mid-to-late first round, including nbadraft.net, draftexpress.com, mynbadraft.com, hoopsworld.com and draftsite.com. I will talk more about what is going on with Tony and Terrence at greater length when the season is over at huskydigest.com.

Also next year, with or without Ross and Wroten, the Pac-12 will start it’s huge TV contract with ESPN/ABC/Fox and the conference tourney will be officially moving to Las Vegas NV, according to a report on Tuesday in cbssports.com. Scott explained the move on YouTube also on Wednesday.

Former Dawgs in the News

Husky Haul on Monday did a roundup of former Huskies in the NBA, including Roy (who they mentioned despite the fact that he just retired), Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter. Thomas has particularly had a good year. On Tuesday Isaiah and Nate had a showdown again and both started and performed well in a Warriors win over Thomas’ Kings. On Wednesday Thomas moved up the NBA rookie ladder to the 2nd rung, with the injury to Ricky Rubio. Thomas was even mentioned by ‘Zona star Solomon Hill, as a player to aspire to.

“A guy like Isaiah Thomas, they were right there, they won the Pac-10 (tournament). He was a winner. He led the team, he beat us when it mattered. And they played in the tournament, they played (North) Carolina, so that helped his chances out. He made the tournament and he was at 60. So a guy like me has to just come back, re-evaluate the team and really get those freshmen guys coming in because I don’t have a résumé.”

Husky fans can only hope that Ross and Wroten see the logic of that thinking. Frankly, I think that Thomas should have seen that same logic when he chose to leave a year early. Can you imagine a Husky back-court with Thomas, Wroten, Ross, Gaddy and Wilcox? I think that Isaiah wouldn’t have been the 60th pick, as he probably would have answered a lot of the questions that NBA people had about him this season at UW. Things have worked out well for Isaiah anyway, so all’s well
in his world, but he sure took a chance in doing it the way he did.

Pondexter also is starting to make a name for himself as a capable all-around player. On Friday Pondexter took on the legendary Kobe Bryant in the late stages of a double overtime loss to the Lakers. His denial of Kobe prevented a game winning shot at the end of the first OT.

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