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Washington Husky Huddle for Saturday March 3rd 2012 (Part Two)

Against USC the Dawgs asserted themselves often and early. During the week, UW appeared focused on the task at hand. Gant said, “This is our moment, right now” and against ‘SC the Huskies didn’t play like they were looking ahead. After the win
Darnell foreshadowed as to who would be the new leader next season, as he talked about how they were able to stay business-like against ‘SC.

“Me and (Abdul) Gaddy kept stressing this was a business trip. We wanted to make sure the guys were in line. There were no cool jackets. Nothing was going to be handed to us, we needed to take it.”

Ross led UW with 18, followed by Gant’s 14, then a smart 12 from Gaddy. Wroten had an off game with only eight points, but stood tall to grab eight boards, along with his six assists. Gaddy also dished five. It was just a methodical and well executed drubbing by a much better team. The Dawgs didn’t play down, stayed healthy and gave the reserves some PT.

Everyone on the Husky bench logged minutes, except for walk-on Alex Wegner. Only senior walk-on post Brendan Sherrer did not log a point or a rebound in a team low two minutes. For a game that determined at least the co-championship it was
remarkably under the radar. The podcast of the game is archived at usctrojans.com, for fans that want to preserve this historic Husky Basketball moment that wasn’t even televised live.

It says something about the type of success that Romar has had at UW that so little was made of this championship. Perhaps the Dawgs wanted to save the celebration for later, but it is hard to believe that even the fans at this point
weren’t more celebratory.

The ‘SC game was also somewhat overshadowed by the huge feature in sportsillustrated.cnn.com on Wednesday, which exposed drug use, abusive behavior and more by coach Ben Howland and former star post Reeves Nelson, as well as irresponsible behavior by a number of current and former UCLA players.

It also served as an analysis as to how the Bruins have gone from three straight Final Fours to mediocrity, at least in comparison to what is expected from the storied UCLA of John Wooden fame and the great legacy he left that has been
perpetuated by many high level talents since his retirement.

UCLA has had top level recruiting under Howland, but that has been the norm for the 35+ years after Wooden, not to mention John’s huge list of talents, including the best player in the history of the game, according to some in Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar).

Howland came in a did a very good job early in his tenure in getting guys that fit his system. As the success came to him he strayed from the kind of puzzle pieces to an obvious attempt in my opinion to take all of the top players, regardless to his style.

That has not worked so well, as the well put together piece by the Pulitzer prize winning George Dohrmann fleshes out in cold detail. Dohrmann was careful to substantiate his findings in the article and clearly established that Howland was
guilty of favoring his stars, when it came to handing out discipline, as well as other instances of poor behavior that I believe the article actually understated.

I have been ridiculed by UCLA fans and I believe some in the business for doing less formal reports on the activities surrounding the Bruin program over the past few years. I doubt that many of them that did so will recognize that, but let me also say that the Bruins should not feel safe that this article is all that they will have to defend.

I feel that there is more to this story involving much greater misdeeds involving NCAA violations and corruption involving among others adidas and current and former Bruin players. Follow me at huskydigest.com for more in-dept coverage of this side to the Ben Howland/UCLA story, as it unfolds.

The media frenzy didn’t hurt the teams ability to play well, as the Bruins beat the first place Dawgs after steamrolling on Thursday the plummeting Cougs. After a story like that hit the news stands and the internet, there was obviously going to be a firestorm.

On Wednesday AP covered the story in a summary feature after Howland deflected questions but looked perturbed at his usual Tuesday press meeting. Dohrmann appeared on the Dan Patrick show on Wednesday where he fleshed the story out a bit more and ESPN covered it as well on Wednesday, as did businessinsider.com.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero told the LA Times on Wednesday that he would not be taking action to fire, penalize or suspend Howland, but that he would have to look into a bit more to feel that the matter is behind him.

“Before I comment on the long-term future, those (due diligence issues) have to be looked at.”

It all happens at once I guess as CBS reported on Wednesday that the top player in the 2012 class, who many feel was a Bruin lean in Shabazz Muhammad may face eligibility issues, according to the NCAA, for questionable benefits that involve
(surprise) adidas.

The media analysts came in swinging on Thursday as Pat Forde of Yahoo said that Howland “appears to have lost his way”, Bruin alums went on the defensive. Marques Johnson of Fox Sports gave his two cents in an article that also attempted to soften the blow of the article by saying that it is not fair to Howland to hold him to the standards set by Wooden. My thought is then, why did Howland do everything that he could to align his program to Wooden? Thursday in the LA Times, Johnson cited LSD use by Jabbar to point out that the misbehavior is not completely on Howland. I agree with that, but as I mentioned, I believe there is also more to the story that does involve Howland.

On Wednesday Yahoo already had a blog post up on former UCLA players sticking up for Ben. Reeves Nelson was one of the primary focuses of the article and his hometown paper in Modesto ran a feature on the piece on it, including shocked reactions from Nelson, on Wednesday. Later that day, the deadspin.com reported that Nelson ha already “Lawered up” and the LA Times ran an analysis piece stating that the story was “no surprise”. ESPN also ran a feature Friday, with quotes from Nelson saying that the article misrepresented him. By Friday NBC News did a live interview with Nelson.

But on game day against UW, the Bruins played very well. Wilcox was red hot, hitting 9-12 from the field and 4-6 from three to score 22 points to lead all scorers, but he missed some chances late when they would have really helped and the
Bruins did a much better job keeping him under control in the latter stages of the game. To C.J.’s credit he stayed very disciplined in his shot selection and didn’t force anything when it wasn’t there.

Ross scored 18 points in impressive fashion as usual, coming into the game red-hot. His five turnovers though, most of them late and because of Lamb, were a big part of UW’s demise. Wroten added 14, with five assists, but contributed to the
Dawgs unraveling late with a couple TO’s of his own. Gaddy logged 12 assists, but like Wilcox, the Bruins were able to slow him as the game progressed. Abdul also had a poor shooting night, going 1-7 from the field which didn’t help, while Bruin senior Lazeric Jones had a very good night with 20 points, most of them when Gaddy was on him. Romar called Gaddy’s performance with the 12 assists “masterful” after the game though and it certainly was something for him to build on.

Aziz was slowed with foul trouble, though he did log 22 minutes, scored seven points and grabbed six boards. Gant for all of the focus on his late misses, was the glue that held UW’s defense of UCLA’s huge and talented front line from doing
more damage, as he played 37 minutes of smart interior play.

Freshman posts Shawn Kemp Jr., Desmond Simmons and Austin Seferian-Jenkins chipped in 13 combined post minutes, but neither did much to push them staying longer. Overall it was a tough loss for UW, but certainly not a huge regression.They just didn’t have the killer instinct when it came to finishing the game as a team. Now we’ll see if they can get it back for the post season.

Post season conference awards are coming this week and after UW held first place all alone this past week, a number of folks were predicting good things for some Dawgs. Drew Schiller on his weekly Pac-12 official Podcast discussed the candidates intelligently on Tuesday.

On Wednesday ESPN Pac-12 blogger Eamonn Brennan gave the nod to Tony Wroten for league Player of the Year and Colorado’s Tad Boyle as Coach of the Year. On Thursday thenewstribune.com asserted that the award would come down to Gutierrez, Ross and Wroten, depending on who won over the weekend. It included comments from Romar and UW players.

Is UW on the bubble? I think so, but a Stanford win on Sunday will ease that concern. If UW loses it’s first game in the Pac-12 tourney and at-large bids get popped by Cinderellas in conference tourney’s, the Dawgs could easily be in trouble
all of a sudden. Perhaps the talk should have been steered away from postseason honors and more on UCLA. If it is deserved, others will do the talking, as the NCAA spoke loudly on Wednesday by choosing Wroten as one of the 30 Naismith finalists.

On Tuesday Bud Withers of the Seattle Times wondered if the league’s public image could steer as many as four teams in, but the loss by UW to UCLA can’t help the overall perception of the conference as a power. Or can it? is UCLA just another team that has strong talent, has been through tough times, but is capable of stepping up?

I think that history will show that the PaC-12 has a lot of talent that will go on to do great things in the future and if the league does get the benefit of the doubt by the committee, I doubt that they will under perform in the dance. A feature from thenewstribune.com on Saturday, discussing the Dawgs potential dance card, included a quote from Romar (which I thought was also a bit premature on Lorenzo’s part). Romar’s press conference on Tuesday was overall very worth
while.

All of that though is nit-picky, as Lorenzo has done such a great job this year and in general at UW. On Wednesday Gregg Bell of gohuskies.com ran a nice feature that pointed out a number of obvious and some not-so obvious positives about the
program that Romar didn’t build on his own, but has done a wonderful job of stewarding.

Romar received a gift when he came to UW, as former coach Bob Bender had succeeded in turning a corner in repairing local recruiting ties and the confidence of the local hoops community to some degree. Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Mike Jensen and Will Conroy were the cornerstones of the house that Lorenzo built, but he has long since ended any speculation that he has on his own done an incredible job.

The story of Roy is also a great success, except for the tragedy of his career ending knee injury. The Oregonian though reported on Tuesday that there are rumors coming from Europe that Roy is attempting a comeback. Jamal Crawford said in the piece however that, there was not much of substance there.

“I talked to him two days ago and he didn’t say anything about coming back. I mean he’s kicked the idea around before. But he didn’t say anything like it was for sure or anything.”

I’m sure that on some level Roy will return to the game, much more likely in coaching. His love for it is way too strong. That is pretty obvious if you’ve followed his career with UW, let alone to dedication and focus that he showed to give the NBA everything he had.

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