Washington Husky Huddle for Monday December 5th 2011

Dec 5, 2011, 7:00 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2011, 8:35 am

The Washington Huskies again failed their second test of their set of four non-conference road games, this one a road trip against Nevada on Friday. Some considered this game to be the easiest of the four. The Dawgs shot themselves in the foot by the way they protected the basketball throughout the game. In a 76-73 overtime loss, the Huskies turned the ball over 18 times.

A lot of Husky fans were frustrated by the loss, in a game in which their team was up 9-10 points going down the stretch. On Saturday Jeff Taylor of Husky Haul vented in an article titled, “This Husky team has one of the lowest basketball IQ’s
I have ever seen”.

This is harsh criticism, though Taylor backs his statement up with decent reasoning. What is more true to me is that this UW team is young, but very talented. Their future is bright, but like I said at length over the summer after watching open gyms and the like, pulling this team together is going to be a bumpy but fun ride.

It’s been a characteristic of the tenure of coach Lorenzo Romar to not have the best success on the road in non-conference play, other than the 2004-05 team who ended up a #1 seed in the NCAA’s, won the Great Alaska Shootout (when that meant something) and beat LMU in LA, CA. The 2005-06 team had no non-conference road games, but were undefeated in non-con play. I guess that’s success.

The 2007-08 team beat a bad LSU team on the road in late December. The 2003-04 team took down San Diego State, which sounds good, but was not so impressive then. How can anyone forget the game at Key Arena last season against Seattle U. Road success in the non-con has been few and far between in the Romar era.

On Friday it was probably the turnovers that did them in. Romar acknowledged after the game that there had been some progress made in being able to play on the road from the last outing. Better, but not good enough.

“Take away the turnovers, we did a lot of better things than we did at St. Louis (77-64 loss), but it was not enough to come out on top.”

What do the Huskies do from here? They have a tough two games ahead of them against Marquette and Duke at Madison Square Garden in NYC this week, starting with Marquette on Tuesday at 6 p.m. (PST). Marquette just accomplished the unthinkable and beat Wisconsin 61-54 in Madison. So in the face of all of this pessimism, are there any positives for the Dawgs?

The Pros

The Huskies survived the first punch from Nevada. They were down in the first half and came back to take a lead into the second half.

Freshman guard Tony Wroten’s free throw shooting has improved. Wroten was 6-8 from the line and attempted the most free throws on the team.

Sophomore guard Terrance Ross is one dynamic player. He can hurt the opposing team in many ways. He scored 18 points, five boards and five assists on Friday.

Junior post Aziz N’Diaye looked real good on the court on the defensive side. Picking up his second foul in OT is a positive thing for the Dawgs. The big man had a career high 12 rebounds, plus four blocks.

When it comes to rebounding, the Huskies out-boarded Nevada, 41-35.

The Cons

The 2-3 zone has been an Achilles heel to Coach Romar’s teams. Once in a half court setting, the team execution isn’t as good. The Huskies are at their best when out on the run.

Costly TO’s are what cost the Dawgs the game down the stretch. Wroten and Gaddy combined for nine (half UW’s total) of the Dawgs TO’s. You want your point guards to protect the ball better.

Defense was lackluster. Deonte Burton had a field day beyond the arc down the stretch. Burton finished with 31 points on 4-6 from the three after going into the game shooting less than 30% for the season.

He was a huge reason why Nevada won the game. The UW defense could have been played better against Deonte but you have to give credit when credit is due. Burton literally took over the game. Rgj.com put it well in their feel good wrap up on the home team’s big win.

“Burton scored a career-high 31 points, including 19 of the team’s 22 points from the 5:51 mark of the second half until the last bucket of the game.”

Someone needs to be able to put out fires better than that for the Dawgs.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times said after the game, “With eight NBA scouts sitting court-side, the 6-1, 185-pound sophomore was clearly the best player on the floor”.

Not only was he not effective in stopping Burton, but Gaddy needs to be aggressive and get to the rim. There have been games where Abdul has shown the aggression to take it to the rim but just not the consistency, especially against better competition.

Senior post Darnell Gant has had inconsistent numbers all year long. Gant shot 2-6 and finished with seven rebounds and seven points in 29 minutes.

The UW team chemistry isn’t quite there. The Dawgs received a technical foul with 13-minutes to play that stopped them from pulling away at a time when it felt like they could have. The Huskies will need to regroup and learn quickly how to play
more heady ball on the road.

Good news/bad news

Wroten needs to let the game come to him. He is a threat on the court but also a liability at the same time. Once the young freshman can protect the ball better and make smarter decisions, he will have a great career at UW. Until then it’s anyone’s guess what will happen game after game.

Freshman wing Desmond Simmons had six points, two steals and five boards in nine minutes. Like Wroten he is also a work in progress though with three fouls and a TO.

Senior guard Scott Suggs should be back this week to add another scoring threat to the team to go along with veteran leadership. Romar said on Monday though that he was doubtful for Tuesday’s game against Marquette.

The Huskies led in almost every statistical category except the score and turnovers. They didn’t have a better 3-point percentage than Nevada as well, a statistic that so far this year had been a challenge for the Wolfpack. Nevada played a great game, as they did on the road in a 4-point loss to UNLV, but UW still would have won with a few less TO’s.

Sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox kept shooting and found his shot falling in the second half. Unfortunately for Dawg fans he was a ghost in overtime.

Key Play of the Game

The Huskies were up three with just 5-seconds to go. Wroten attempted to foul Burton to send him to the line. The foul didn’t get called due to Wroten just barely tapping Burton. The play continues with no foul call and Burton hit a three to send the game into overtime.

What next?

So now the Dawgs move on to Marquette. On Monday the UW Daily’s Jacob B. Thorpe published an ongoing blog of the NY trip for the Dawgs that includes photos of what the Dawgs are doing along the way.

Gregg Bell of gohuskies.com is also with the team in the Big Apple and also wrote a piece on what the team is doing, hoop-wise and otherwise in Manhattan.

Perhaps the losses to Nevada and Saint Louis have lowered the pressure on the Dawgs going into the Marquette game. The underdog role is one that Romar teams tend to do best in and under the bright lights of Broadway (as long as the Dawgs
stay hungry), I think they stand a decent chance, believe it or not.

ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan is already talking about how UW can improve it’s image, whether they win or not.

“Buzz Williams is coming off one of the biggest wins in his tenure, as his Golden Eagles became the rarest of breeds: a team with a win at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center. Next up is Washington, a young but talented team that could make a statement about its Pac-12 title candidacy with a win — or even an impressive performance in a loss — at the Garden on Tuesday night.”

Ross is still being touted by the national media, as on Monday Seth Davis of sportsillustrated.cnn.com picked Terrence as one of ten “Sophs to keep an eye on”.

Marquette guard Vander Blue was another one of those “sophs”. Vander started against Wisconsin ahead of Junior Cadougan, but all that says is how deep and talented the Golden Eagles are. Darius Johnson-Odom lit up UW in the 1st half in the 2nd round game of the 2010 NCAA tournament. UW was able to slow him down with Thomas, but “DJO” is quite a bit better.

Don’t think that Cadougan being out was the reason for Marquette’s success against the Badgers, Junior leads Marquette in assists with six per game this season. Senior forward Jae Crowder is MU’s leading rebounder with seven per game. Crowder is also averaging 17 points per game. what makes Jae so tough is that he also leads MU in 3-point percentage at 43%.

Romar gave Crowder a lot of credit on Monday when he spoke to the media.

“I think he’s the most difficult match-up we’ll see this season. Someone with that size and that versatility is a difficult cover. You can’t put a smaller guy on him because he’ll just post him up. You put a slower guy on him and he’ll take you outside. He does a lot of things defensively.”

“He’s out there kind of like a linebacker and I don’t mean that in terms of his physical appearance. He’s pressing sometimes. He’s switching on ball screens. He plays the ball screen several different ways. He’s just very, very versatile. And he’s a hard guy to deal with.”

Everything seems to favor the Golden Eagles, but I think that this game will be close and wouldn’t it be nice for the purple and gold faithful to see the Dawgs pull it out.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins has a long way to go to be as good of a hooper as Crowder, but he could probably be a better linebacker tomorrow if both put on pads. Austin talked with the Everett Herald on Sunday about his desire to play hoops after football.

“Whatever time was left, if I was to play basketball, I would play basketball. But while I was playing basketball, I would really be playing; I would put my 100 percent into it.”

Who knows if “ASJ” can help this UW team? If he loves the game enough to work as hard as he’ll have to, to even sit on the bench while contributing in practice, he deserves a chance.

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

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Washington Husky Huddle for Monday December 5th 2011