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College Hoops

Washington Husky Huddle for Tuesday February 7th 2012 (Part Two)

The Huskies got the sweep by beating a USC team that is now 1-10 in the Pac-12. Washington seemed like a team that just had a bigger hammer, as it played weakly, but were still able to pound the nail when things got tough. UW dominated USC on the boards an incredible 49-16. This game was one of those games that the Huskies needed to prove a point, but they took a long time to demonstrate their obvious superiority. It was a contest where the lead keeps getting bigger and bigger, despite gutty play, by an obvious inferior. Though it wasn’t pretty at times, it was definitely a strong team effort defensively and on the glass by UW.

There were only two Husky players who stepped on the court that didn’t score in walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Alex Wegner. The reserves came in and had their moments, which made the Dawg Pack and Husky starters happy on the sidelines. Freshman guard Hikeem Stewart, who has been a good team player but really struggling with his jumper, brought down the house with the final points of the game with 40-seconds to play, a long two. When the game began though Wroten, who led UW for the game with 13 points, was the only UW guard scoring the ball. Even more amazing was the warrior, the prize fighter that Tony personified. Wroten was questionable for the game because of the thigh contusion that he sustained against UCLA. Ross didn’t score much early, but was a force on the boards and as usual finished well. Terrence grabbed 14 boards and scored 10 on the night before his 21st birthday. Aziz and Kemp Jr. again were the primary force down in the paint. N’Diaye is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Kemp Jr again played with more confidence was really a nice spark off the bench during this home LA series. Facing a foil like freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins in practices has paid off for Kemp. “ASJ” himself had a smart five points late in the game, during garbage time. In a low scoring first half, the Huskies held the Trojans to only 19 points, but only put up 29 points themselves. But in the second half, that’s when the Huskies’ hammer dropped. ‘SC finished the game shooting only 28% from the field, 6% from three and 46% from the free throw line on limited attempts that worsened as their hopes did. The Huskies defense caved in on a lot of shots and forced USC to turn it over 12 times, even though milking the clock and protecting the ball was their sole aim. Senior post Darnell Gant talked about the challenge of keeping up the intensity when a team does that efficiently, when he spoke to the media after the game.

“They slowed it down a lot and tried to run a lot of clock. We’re an uptempo team. When you play teams like that, they kind of lull you to sleep. And you get caught standing and not moving the ball around.”

Wroten was setting up his teammates and getting to the rim at will, but UW made only two 3-pointers in the game. Gant had a solid outing with eight points and seven board and also hit some nice mid-range jumpers. Darnell should do Ross’
laundry this week for his hot streak late that saved the game, as Darnell really put his foot in his mouth on Tuesday in my opinion, while talking to the media. I would think that Darnell has seen too much in his career to talk so much, but Gant actually said, “I didn’t expect (UCLA) to be as great as the media was making them out to be”. Darnell then added, “They are a decent team. But it didn’t shock me that they struggled”. Aziz doesn’t talk much, but almost got into an altercation early in the 2nd half when he was fouled hard on a break away by ‘SC junior post James Blasczyk. N’Diaye was dominant in the paint against the undermanned USC front court with nine points, five boards and a block in only 22 minutes.

The best thing about Wroten’s game, besides the scoring, six rebounds and eight assists, was that he only committed one TO. “I thought he played like a veteran tonight.” Were the words from Coach Romar. Everyone who was on the roster that
was available to play received playing time, as freshman post Martin Breunig scored four impressive points late. Gaddy as usual led the team in minutes with 34 and had a conservative approach offensively, as has been the knock on him, but also to some an overall positive. Abdul scored six points, with six assists and three TO’s, but was a strong leader, who guided the ship mentally on the court like a player coach. I feel that Gaddy demonstrated this by the way that he described what was holding his team back and what it took to get it going, when he spoke after the game to the media after the UCLA game.

“We were playing as individuals the first 30 minutes and then we came together as a team. Those last two T.V. timeouts we came together and we said ‘man, we need to play as a team’.”

On Monday Gaddy and Wroten were the subject of a feature in uwdawgpound.com in which spoke about the differences between Abdul and Tony and their respective good qualities. Freshman post Desmond Simmons only scored two in 13 minutes against ‘SC, but was his usual self in the team structure, facilitating on both ends. Bringing Gant off the bench and starting “Dez” just makes sense and seems to be working, so even though Gant had a solid weekend (excluding his pregame comments against UCLA), it makes good sense to stay with that formula. Gant can have a great year by just helping the team win. It is a win/win for him, as he could become the first UW men’s player to participate in four NCAA tournament teams as a Dawg. Darnell was the subject of a feature on foxsportswest.com, the LA area version of Fox Sports NW, on Thursday. The article focused on Gant’s ability to play whatever role that he is cast in, whether it be on the court, on the stage (he’s a drama major and an aspiring actor) or on the band stand (Gant’s an accomplished keyboardist/songwriter/producer).

Wilcox was also used less against ‘SC, likely by design, for 14 minutes and scored an anemic four points on 2-7 from the field, with four TO’s. Just keeping C.J. in the rotation and seeing that he is available was good though for the UW team.
Sending the message that Wilcox is on the line-up card makes UW about twice as hard to prepare for. On Tuesday Romar told the media that C.J. will not be practicing, just playing in games, based on a greater need to rest his femur injury than to run him through game plans. On Monday however, on his weekly radio show, Lorenzo said that Wilcox was cleared by the doctors to do more in practice this week and that last week all he was allowed to do was 50 jumpers. Despite the trials and tribulations, it was a great weekend of basketball for UW. Gant intimated to the media after the ‘SC game that despite the backsliding, his team was “buying” in.

“We’re more focused now. Everyone’s buying into the system right now. No one’s thinking about themselves. They’re all thinking about the team. And when you think about the team, you’re playing defense and you’re playing Husky basketball like we try to do, good things start to happen.”

Now they will have to get back on top of their game to have a chance in Oregon. It won’t be for lack of coaching if UW goes down in Oregon, as Lorenzo has done a great job this season. Romar has taken a team that lost what could easily be a
great starting five. UW lost their best player ever pound for pound in Thomas, as well as their only legit inside scorer in Matthew Bryan-Amaning. They lost their best shooter, percentage wise, in senior guard Scott Suggs (who is red-shirting and will be back next year). Last but not least, the Dawgs lost two major defensive contributors to three straight Pac-10 championships in wing Justin Holiday and guard Venoy Overton.

Romar has been able to build a team, even though it is still a work in progress, that could put on a show like they did in Arizona and is all alone in first place, despite it’s tenuous footing. That is impressive and doesn’t go unnoticed. The LA Times ran a feature on Wednesday, which pointed out that Romar the former UCLA assistant (who won a national championship under Jim Harrick there in 1995), is also a person that is both a serious competitor and very well liked and gracious. In honor of a 70’s night against UCLA on Thursday, when fans were encouraged to wear 70’s duds, Montlake Madness decorated their game story with pictures of Romar from the late 70’s and early 80’s at UW, with a Lionel Richie style “Afro” hairstyle. I remember Lorenzo at UW as a player and he was really good. He would probably start on this year’s Husky team, which is saying something.

Former Dawgs Doing Well

Thomas and Wroten’s cousin Nate Robinson had a showdown in the Bay Area on Tuesday and it was not dull. IT and Nate gave it all they had and both distinguished themselves in an even display of talent and skill. Thomas’ late game heroics appeared to be more important to his team, but Robinson’s performance was solid and workmanlike. On Wednesday the Sacramento Bee talked about Thomas’ consistent contributions late in games and on Saturday the Bee talked about how Isaiah has really played himself into the Kings main rotation. On Monday, King blog sactownroyalty.com talked about Thomas not only as a role player, but potentially a central figure in the King’s future.

(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

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