Dawgs dunk slippery Ducks, but Ross raises Husky hopes
Washington was challenged by Oregon at Hec-Ed Pavilion in Seattle WA on Thursday, but rode a 23-12 run in the last 7:53 to win going away 87-69. Junior guard Isaiah Thomas scored 14 of his 20 points in that run, but Washington was led in the scoring column for the game by freshman guard Terrence Ross who led all scorers with 25 points.
Coach Lorenzo Romar explained why Ross is starting to play so dynamically, as if out of the blue.
“When youâ€™re thinking, it takes your athleticism away. It handcuffs your athleticism. When you can go out and play without thinking, you have that ability and athleticism that comes out and I think thatâ€™s what weâ€™re seeing with Terrence. Sometimes people question â€˜Why wasnâ€™t he playing that much earlier?â€™ He had to learn how to play right yet.”
Ross seemed to say that this new-found dynamism is just him feeling more comfortable being himself, as well as playing without thinking.
“Iâ€™m getting more used to it. Itâ€™s a little faster now. Iâ€™m just settling down and getting used to it, and not thinking so much.”
After the sweep of the LA schools last weekend, based on his solid performance, it was thought by many that Ross would start, with the loss of sophomore starting point guard Abdul Gaddy to a season ending ACL injury.
Instead Romar went with senior guard Venoy Overton in Gaddy’s place, along with Thomas, senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, senior forward Justin Holiday and sophomore post Aziz N’Diaye. Oregon lost so much talent in the off-season to various defections and was starting fresh with a new coach in Dana Altman.
Romar gave the Ducks credit for their efforts.
“I think they did an outstanding job. This is not going to be an Oregon team thatâ€™s going to go through the Pac-10 and end up 1-17.”
On paper the Ducks have some talent, but I differ with Romar and feel that they will not have enough to be a threat to many if any Pac-10 teams this season. But they gave Washington fits for all but around 12-minutes of the game, which to me was more about the Huskies losing intensity and focus than the Ducks awesome play.
Washington to me were their own worst enemy and allowed the Ducks to both stay close and have plenty of opportunities with their dull play.
Oregon came with the press, to slow up the Dawgs and get them out of their rhythm and because the Dawgs responded as if they barely wanted to be there for most of the game, they played right into the trap and Romar admitted as much.
“They kind of lulled us to sleep with their three quarter court pickup. They werenâ€™t doing it to necessarily steal the basketball but just to slow us up a little bit. It made us stagnant. Once we figured that out and started to be a little more aggressive, we were better offensively.”
With 15:40 to play in the first half UW was dominating UO as I expected leading 11-4.
Clearly the favorite and seemingly not bothered much by the Duck defense, which looked timid and certainly not in the press mode that had served them well at times this season. But Oregon made plays while the Huskies started to lose their edge and by 11:50 to play before half-time it was 19-12, as the two teams scrapped back and forth in an even fashion.
UW was clearly the better team, but the Dawgs started playing sloppily and tentatively after some energetic play to begin the game. Holiday, Ross and Overton all had threes, but Thomas looked a bit tight. His tweet that he was going to “kill the Pac-10”, yesterday after news of Gaddy’s injury started breaking was probably not the best idea.
He made similar noises and predictions when UW went up against Kentucky in the Maul Classic, where they lost a very winnable game against the “Big Blue Machine” and also came out tight in that one. Soon the Dawgs looked even more frustrated, while the Ducks gained momentum by hitting shots and started looking at each other as if they could pull off the upset.
With 7:47 to go in the first half the Ducks had come back to within three at 24-21. Washington appeared tighter in general as time wore on, while Oregon (who looked a bit scared to begin with) looked to be loosening up.
At 3:46 to play before the half the Huskies were up 31-27, though Oregon had come within one point on junior guard Garrett Sim’s three, junior guard Scott Suggs hit his 2nd three to go back up four.
Oregon’s junior guard Teondre Williams was fouled in the act by Holiday with 3:04 to go in the half made both to tie the game at 31-31. By half-time UW was up 39-33, as Ross scored on three very impressive plays and Suggs finished off a good half with a drive to the hoop.
Senior guard Jay-R Strowbridge gave Thomas a push in that sequence, easily worthy of a technical foul, but the officials ignored it. Strowbridge also close-lined Thomas in the second half and really appeared to be trying to get into Thomas’ head. To his credit, both times, Altman pulled Strowbridge immediately after both of those plays.
In the 2nd half things continued to be out of sync for Washington, while Oregon was feeling as if it stood a chance. With 16:43 to play Oregon had gone ahead up one on a three-point jumper from freshman point guard Jonathan Loyd. Washington had been playing very sloppily throughout the game other than that first 4-minute stretch and the UW crowd appeared to be quieted.
Nearly 10,000 people groaned collectively as on two consecutive possessions Thomas and Overton both through the ball away to each other, as if neither were ready to take control of the facilitator role left open by Gaddy. Whenever things started looking like they were slipping away for the Dawgs it was Ross with a bit of flash and a quiet Suggs who made it better.
Suggs played a very positive game, also giving Husky fans further confidence that life after Gaddy for this team may be something pretty good after all. Suggs finished with 13 points, as did Bryan-Amaning, who also contributed a team high 8 rebounds. Though UW was out-rebounded by Oregon in the first half 19-16, Washington prevailed on the glass 40-31.
At 12:51 to play UW had gone up 56-51, as again Ross had an impressive score and Suggs a three, to go with a tip-in of a Darnell Gant miss by Bryan-Amaning and a Thomas bank shot. Oregon continued to score, especially Joevan Catron, who led the Ducks with 20 points in the contest followed by Sim with 13.
The teams see-sawed back and forth, with the Dawgs leading but unable to pull away and with 10:56 to play it was UW up 60-53. UW continued to play with more and more of a fire that they only have seemed to get back after the great showing in LA, at the beginning of the game and over the previous 5-minutes, but Oregon answered and wouldn’t die.
Finally with 7:39 to play the dam broke and the Dawgs started building persistently on their seven point lead at 64-57. That was when Washington, fueled by Thomas, Ross and Bryan-Amaning delivered the knock-out punch that ended the drama and sent the crowd into a happy romping mode with that 23-12 run to end it.
Thomas flushed down his first dunk in a Husky uniform and Ross also made the crowd go wild with an alley-oop shot from Thomas, who had 9 assists for the 2nd game in a row. If Ross didn’t fully arrive against USC, he definitely did against Oregon.
While the UW team looked a bit as if they need to start from the ground up without Gaddy, the Dawgs looked as if they added a huge missing link with Ross. I spoke at length over the off-season about the loss of Quincy Pondexter and how UW needed someone who could create their own shot when the chips are down or when the team is stuck in a rut.
Ross did that and scored in so many ways, that I almost felt as if he is ready to take that mantle of go-to-guy, allowing Thomas and Bryan-Amaning to have a solid bridge between them. A player that can use the space that those two create by drawing attention and light it up, thus also opening opportunity for the two of them and others.
Romar was very pleased and seemed to say that Ross has performed beyond his expectations.
“I wouldnâ€™t have told you heâ€™d average about 17 during Pac-10 play, I donâ€™t know if weâ€™ve had any freshman do that. Isaiah was probably close but thatâ€™s pretty good. Heâ€™s done it on the road, heâ€™s done it in tight situations.”
It’s a major break through for the Huskies, should Ross be able to step into that role with Suggs right behind him providing quiet but consistent support. UW fans should be wary of thinking that their team is ready for this new found wealth to be money in the bank though.
The game was an adjustment for the Dawgs, to play without Gaddy and they showed that they will need some work to regain a new cohesion without his calm confidence. Ross still may need to shake off some of that freshman rust, but it appears as if the process has at least begun.
The Beavers are a much better team than the Ducks, as we saw last weekend when they blew out ASU and nipped ‘Zona in Corvallis OR, while the Ducks were badly beaten by the ‘Cats and beaten in a close one by the Sun Devils.
OSU has some unleashed dynamite in sophomore guard Jared Cunningham and sophomore forward Joe Burton, freshman guard Roberto Nelson, freshman forward Devon Collier and freshman guard Ahmad Starks, to go with senior guard Calvin Haynes and senior forward Omari Johnson.
If Washington doesn’t come out firing, stay mad, finish well and prepare itself for a battle, this group of talented Beavs on a hot steak could find a way to win that would take away most of the good vibes created by the sweep of the LA schools.
The Dawgs face the Beavers in Seattle at 3:30 p.m. (PST) on Saturday.