Positives, negatives from loss to Kentucky
By Craig Yamada
The second round of the Maui Invitational was a bitter pill to swallow for Husky fans Tuesday night. Ever since April, the Husky fans had this day marked on their calendar: a chance to get even with Terrence Jones and John Calipari. That simply did not happen on Tuesday as the Wildcats outplayed the Huskies on both sides of the ball in the second half and exploited a lot of glaring weaknesses in UW’s team.
The Huskies have to tip their hats to the Wildcats as they were simply outplayed. Brandon Knight (pictured) came as advertised as the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the 2010 class. Knight was absolutely unstoppable as he had his jump shot going early on and was able to take any man off the dribble into the lane. Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton traded turns trying to guard the blue chipper, but Knight proved to be too much as he took control of the game with 24 points.
UW kept Jones in check early, but in the end, it was Jones, not UW that was smiling at the end.
Let’s take a deeper look as we explore the positives and negatives of Tuesday’s game.
Darnell Gant: Although Thomas was the leading scorer, Darnell Gant was the star for UW. He stepped up big with 10 points in the first half as he hit several big shots when he was open. He also did well guarding Jones when he was in the game. Unfortunately foul trouble was an issue.
Abdul Gaddy: Gaddy was a star for the Huskies with his defense and court vision. He is taking the ball to the rack with confidence and showed off his jumper. With his size, Gaddy will be a vital cog in this offense as they take on lengthier teams such as Kentucky.
Aziz N’Diaye: N’Diaye was force to be reckoned with in the middle. He showed several pro scouts the upside he possesses in changing a game plan for an opposing offense. With five big blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds, N’Diaye put his own stamp on this game.
Shot blocking as a negative? N’Diaye played a stellar game on the defensive end in the first half. However some of N’Diaye’s other attempts resulted in several offensive rebounds as he helped another beaten defender, leaving his man open for rebounds. At times the Huskies would have three players swarm the ball handler and try and block the shot. Kentucky grabbed 17 offensive boards as a result.
Isaiah Thomas never found his shot: Thomas struggled early and often on Tuesday as his usual antics of getting into the lane proved to be met with much resistance from Kentucky. Thomas could not convert anything from beyond the arc. Their floor leader will need to shoot better for UW to get off to better starts this season.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning forcing shots: Bryan-Amaning took a bit of a backward step as he seemed to force his shot in the post. He did not have his balance on most of his shots, which seemed rushed for the most part. Bryan-Amaning began fading away from the basket on some of his shots and that led to a low field goal percentage as he shot 3-11 from the field.
Free throw shooting: The true achilles heel was the performance from the stripe. The Huskies shot 64 percent from the line, which is not terrible, but several free throws were missed in critical times. Thomas went 50 percent from the line, which is very uncharacteristic of him. The Huskies will need to be able to knock down crunch-time freebies if they have hopes of taking their team deep into the NCAA Tournament this year.
Standing around: This was a glaring weakness as UW struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm or continuity on Tuesday. Many times the off guard and forward would wait for Thomas or Gaddy to create something for them instead of cutting harder off screens to open up a passing lane.
No deep threat: Darnell Gant and CJ Wilcox combined for all three of UW’s three point field goals. After knocking down 17 threes the night before, UW could not get it going from downtown against Kentucky and the score was a direct reflection of that.
Wanted: A Play Maker: It was interesting to note that Terrence Ross was in the lineup for the final minutes of the game. With Gant in foul trouble, Romar turned to the freshman to play critical minutes at the end. Ross looked comfortable on the floor and more than held his own in guarding his man. He left many fans wondering why Romar waited so long to put him in the game. Ross has the athleticism, length and creativity to create space for his own shot, which is something UW desperately needed on Tuesday. With Thomas struggling to find room for his shot amongst the taller defenders, a player like Ross would have given UW a better chance at scoring. Suggs looked to be struggling on defense and around the arc. Likewise for Wilcox.
Poor shooting, but still in it: With as poorly as the Huskies shot the ball (38 percent), the Huskies must have left the gym with their heads held high as they stuck around with one of the best teams in the nation for an entire game. If a couple of free throws dropped or a three pointer went down, we may not be having this discussion right now.
Justin Holiday: Holiday played a great game all around. He drew the main assignment in Jones, which was not an easy task. Unfortunately he lacked the size to keep Jones off the glass and as a result, Kentucky got a lot of second chance points. Holiday is much better suited guarding a primary ball-handling guard or small forward. He just lacks the strength to handle a big power forward assignment.
Playing big: Playing off the last point, UW will need to find answers for their bigs when they get into foul trouble. With Desmond Simmons sidelined with an injury for the rest of the year, someone else will need to answer the call when UW plays bigger teams such as Kentucky.