The vets take over for the Huskies
With 8:11 remaining against UCLA and trailing 60-53 Aziz N’Diaye re-entered the game. Tony Wroten had come out 25 seconds earlier. It was the last substitution Lorenzo Romar would make. Momentum seemed to be pointing in the direction of UCLA who had hit back to back threes to turn a one point deficit at the half into a 7 point lead with the Huskies doing the them all sorts of favors turning the ball over time after time. The game was ugly. Then something happened.
“We were playing like individuals in the first 30 minutes and then we came together as a team,” Abdul Gaddy explained. “It’s just our competitive nature, we want to win so bad that we yell at our teammates sometimes but that We came together and said we had to cheer each other on no matter what and things started to go our way.”
Terrence Ross was a force down the stretch scoring 11 of the final 13 points for the Huskies. That cannot be ignored but what stood out was that when this final group of Ross, Gaddy, N’Diaye, Gant and Wilcox was on the floor order seemed to be restored. They played like a veteran team. They took care of the basketball, got the ball to the right guy, they fought for the loose ball, played lockdown defense and seemed to slow the game down. Not in actual time, rather, in control.
Missing on the floor for all of this was Tony Wroten who was noticeably slowed after taking a knee in the thigh in the first half. How much did his absence play into the last 8 minutes of the game?
“You would phrase it that way, I would phrase it we put CJ in,” said Lorenzo Romar who noted that Wroten seemed to lose a step after the injury. “CJ again, you have got to pay attention to him. When we were in there and started to make that comeback those guys were playing so well together we stuck with that group.”
Wilcox, coming off of a week where he was not allowed to practice played 26 minutes and scored 6 points. In the final stretch he hit four free throws and came up with the steal and assist that led to a monster dunk by Darnell Gant to give the Huskies a 3 point lead with 2:08 to go. These points were about the only ones Ross was not involved in in the final stretch. Second half Terrence Ross showed up to the tune of 18 points. Darnell Gant for one, is not surprised to see Ross break out in the second half game after game.
“The thing about Terrence is, people sleep on his will to win,” he said. “That guy has a will to win. He might be quiet to everybody else, but the things I catch him saying in the locker room and the things he says personally, man that guy has a will to win. He hates losing. He always picks it up in the second half. We always tell him any shot is a good shot, and he just carried us in the end.”
Ross was a huge part of the win but it was the play of those around him who allowed him to get the ball and be in the position to win. Those five out on the floor were not going to let this get away. Because of early losses the feeling is every game is must win. What has changed however is now there is a feeling every game can be won. This team is still inconsistent in a lot of categories and let’s not miss the fact that they turned the ball over 16 times tonight, but watching them now there seems to be less in doubt. They seem to be a team that can flat out find a way to win.
“I think it showed our maturity,” Gaddy said of the win. “We were down 10 points and we fought back. We wanted to prove our maturity; we had a will to win. Down the stretch we started getting stops, and then we went to our guy, Terrence Ross.”