Come Back Falls Short as USC Beats Back Dawgs 67-64
The University of Washington decided to play Husky basketball the last 9 minutes of the game as the Huskies made a 22-7 run to evaporate a 16 point Trojan lead down to 1 with 1:27 to play. Unfortunately USC prevailed as the Huskies late rally fell short in a 67-64 loss at Hec-Ed Pavilion in Seattle on Thursday.
The Dawgs came out flat after an early 8-2 lead as USC got 16 1st half points out of Dwight Lewis, who finished with 22 points.
Lewis came out the gates ready to play and the Dawgs didn’t have as much of an answer as they went into half-time down 32-24. Washington has not delivered a good counter punch this season for the height nor the heart of the Trojans, as USC beat them badly in LA and closed the door on what looked to be a serious threat in Seattle with near professional proficiency.
Though USC will not play in the post season because of self imposed sanctions that were issued as a result of an ongoing NCAA investigation, currently in the live hearing stage down in Tempe AZ this week, the Trojans are playing with the mentality of nothing to lose and came into Hec-Ed on a mission.
Washington was again bothered by the maturity, length and athleticism of USC, especially their three seniors Lewis, wing Marcus Johnson and point guard Mike Gerrity who scored 12. Though Johnson didn’t hold Husky senior leader Quincy Pondexter to a single two-point bucket, as he did earlier in the season in LA, he noticeably slowed Pondexter.
Johnson also set the tone for the Trojans, dominating Pondexter in the paint in the 1st half when in essence the game was decided. Marcus finished with only 10 points but those points, but when combined with his suffocating defense of Quincy, he was a huge factor.
USC Coach Kevin O’Neill also saw this as a huge key to his teams important road win.
“Marcus [Johnson] has been a big time player for us all year. When he came out of the game was when we were having troubles. He is our second best scoring threat, he drives the ball well, and he is our best defender. [Quincy] Pondexter was able to get some things going for their team when he wasn’t in there.”
Pondexter led the Dawgs with 18 points for the game and the Dawgs were able to do a better job challenging Johnson as a team, fouling him out with 3:26 to play, but USC was able to silence Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies 2nd leading scorer and also did a better job on Venoy Overton who led the Dawgs with 18 down in LA. Isaiah scored only 5 points and was benched for much of crunch time.
IT had 4 assists, but also 3 turnovers and did not do as good a job on defense against his taller Trojan defensive assignments. Venoy also had a very difficult time covering USC’s PG Gerrity, who has allowed the Trojans to look as different as night and day since joining the team for winter quarter. No one, including UW defensive ace Justin Holiday, could stop Gerrity from penetrating and controlling the ball. That, perhaps even more than any one factor, was the key to the loss for the Huskies who fall to 17-9 and 7-7 in Pac-10 play.
Holiday admitted it in so many words in the post game press conference.
“He [Gerrity] was pretty much able to do whatever he wants really. Get into the key and dish off or make the easy bucket. That’s pretty much all he did all night. We had problems keeping him in front of us.”
In the early first half of the game the Dawgs came out neck and neck with the Trojans. Sloppy play and questionable calls by the refs ended that when Lewis stepped it up and got to the basket at will. The Huskies looked much less inspired than USC for the majority of the game, much like they did in the 1st week of Pac-10 play in the loss to Oregon. During their come-back run, they found the commitment to compete, but whether it was too little too late or just not enough, the net result is a devastating blow to the Husky teams once glowing hopes for the season.
Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar praised his team, but acknowledged that they have to do better.
“I was proud of our guys for fighting back, the ability to fight back and come in and make it a game, but we weren’t able to get over the hump.”
Pondexter was quiet the first half but the Huskies continued to get better play from Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who had 14 points for the game. Matt and Quincy led UW on the glass against USC with 7 boards.
At the end of the first half the Trojans went on a 25-12 run to finish the half. The Trojans spread the offense and held the ball quite a bit limiting the touches for the Dawgs. The second half came and the Trojans started where they left off. If a stat was kept for time of possession, as it is in football, USC would have trounced UW. Lewis came out and hit a bucket to set the tone for the first part of the second half, but the Huskies kept the game from really getting out of reach with a fairly balanced attack.
Pondexter and M.B.A pushed the Huskies to a comeback along with the Husky defense, chopping down the lead slowly but steadily. Lewis and Johnson cooled down, possibly because of increased pressure and tired legs. Overton and Holiday stepped up their defense to slow the two Trojans down. The Dawgs seemed to wake up around midway through the 2nd half and it started paying dividends by the 9 minute mark. MBA got it going down in the paint and Elston Turner and Quincy each hit a three to get the fans off their feet.
A full court press put the Huskies right back in the game, but when the Dawgs came within 1 point of the Trojans, Gerrity got by Overton for a lay-in with 1:02 to play. Venoy then made one of two from the line and Gerrity then shut the door deep in the shot clock when he worked his way open for a 10 foot jumper in the key with 10 seconds left. That was the game for UW as Turner missed on an open three look from the top of the key and USC ground it out at the free throw line despite a long three from Venoy with one second to play.
The Huskies got a steal at mid-court, but couldn’t get off a shot. Overton showed heart towards of the end of the game, but his missed a free throw was crucial to the game’s outcome. Free throws were an underlying factor for the Dawgs as they made 11-18 in the three point loss to 12-14 for the Trojans. A factor for the Trojans which bodes well for their future under Head Coach Kevin O’Neill was the play of sophomore post Nikola Vucevic who had 13 points including two monster scores down the stretch to hold back the Husky come back effort.
The Trojans are now 16-9 for the season and 8-5 in Pac-10 play, a half game behind 1st place Cal. USC could very easily finish the season in first place, but due to the self-imposed probation, they will not be able to compete in the post season. The Pac-10 regular season title is all they have to play for and it looked as if that mattered to them more than it did to the Huskies. The Dawgs have played with much greater commitment and will get another chance when they face UCLA on Saturday at 6 pm (PST).
The Huskies lost their first battle with the Bruins earlier in the year on a heartbreaking buzzer beater. The USC loss at home was just as much of an emotion killer and it will be interesting to see if UW and its fans can bounce back for ESPN College Game day, which will be at Hec-Ed for the first time ever for Saturday’s game. It will also be the last game at home for Senior Quincy Pondexter who seems to still cling to the hope of a great season.
“We just have to bounce back. There’s not much you can say but bounce back. We’re going to have to play good basketball from now on.”
Isaiah Thomas looked very off tonight. Romar made an example again and sat Thomas the majority of the second half including crunch time. Although Thomas was struggling, one wonders if things would have been different if he would have been in the game at the end to give another scoring option and fresh legs. Isaiah will bounce back though and hopefully whatever the coaches were trying to communicate will provide him with growth.
Thomas is 33 points shy of 1,000 for his career after less than two years in the program. With at least 5 games to play Isaiah must average 11 points per game (6 below his average) to break Doug Smarts mark of 1,021 points in his first two seasons. IT is clearly, barring injury, on track to break the all-time scoring record for Washington, just as Jon Brockman did to the all-time school rebounding mark last year.
Pondexter is within 82 points of Eldridge Recasner for #5 on the all-time Washington scoring list.
MBA looked solid tonight. Playing with a little bit more heart and playing with a little more confidence, Matt could use this game to build on.
Guard play for the Dawgs was sub-par.
Husky-UCLA Game Notes
ESPN previewed the UW/UCLA game under it’s “Ten to track: Why these games matter” heading in the Weekend Watch column. They spoke only about the game from a UCLA perspective.
“The Bruins, yes the Bruins, are tied for fourth place in the Pac-10. Depending on what happens this weekend, a UCLA win could push the Bruins into a first-place tie in the loss column with Cal, Arizona, Arizona State and USC (if the Trojans and Bears lose and the Wildcats beat the Sun Devils on Sunday). That’s how wide open the Pac-10 is. This league will get only one bid to the tourney at this point but someone is going to claim the regular-season trophy.”
There was also a very nice, relaxed interview video clip of Romar that is well worth UW fans time to watch.
Reeves Nelson experienced a severe fall in the Bruins 20 point beat down of WSU in Pullman Thursday. He had to have 15 stitches and did not return to the game, though the Bruins obviously didn’t need him to secure the win. This blog post on ESPN tells much more about his injury and his physical, reckless style of play. :
One factor in the improvement of Husky Hoops over the last decade has been the talent pool in the Seattle area. This feature in Sports Illustrated chronicles the growth of the Seattle Hoops scene and discusses some of the folk lore of its many notable players.
Husky Recruiting Corner
One factor that seems to be an excellent selling point for the Huskies with recruits is the success of Romar’s former players in the professional ranks. From Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman in the NBA to Justin Dentmon, Will Conroy, Bobby Jones, Tre Simmons, Hakeem Rollins and Jamaal Williams in the minor leagues and overseas, Romar and his staff have been able to bring in players that have been lower ranked recruits and turn them into better pros than the “experts” projected them to be.
Some of this has to do with coaching, some of it has to do with talent evaluating, but I believe that a lot of this is an ability to inspire kids to work hard and learn to find and accept their roles. Romar and assistant coach Paul Fortier can also claim experience as pros on their teaching resume, but excellent coaching and life lessons from other assistants like Ken Bone, Cameron Dollar and Jim Shaw have been just important in my mind.
This darkly humorous Youtube clip pokes “fun” at all of the big name recruits that Bill Self at Kansas has had to work with and how most of them underachieved as pros.
Romar and his staff are getting a reputation as a staff that prepares kids well for professional basketball one kid at a time and I believe that in light of a very difficult loss to USC they need to be commended for that.
UW 2010 forward recruit Terrence Jones, as well as Kent WA’s Josh Smith (a UCLA signee) will take part in the Jordan Brand Classic.
Sliding Cougs Embarrassed at Home by Bruins 71-51
The Cougs were defeated by an old foe Thursday night, no, not the UCLA Bruins, the 2-3 zone. Apart from the opening five minutes where WSU attacked the zone and had brilliant ball rotation, the offense was pitiful. Poor passing and impatience led to bad turnovers and even worse shot selection. On the night Wazzu was 18-50 (36%) from the field, couple that with a lazy defense which allowed the Bruins to shoot 29-44 (64.9%) in the game, and the 71-51 rollicking the Bruins put on WSU looks about right.
The Cougs lacked the energy and passion to win a tough conference game late in the season.
“We had a bad night. In a nutshell, that’s the deal. We had a bad night”, said Coach Bone in the post game press conference.
It’s hard to find a facet of the game in which the Cougs played well. They were outscored by 18 (38-20) in the paint, committed 14 turnovers and were just 3-19 (15.8%) from three point range, including 0-9 from beyond the arc in the second half. It almost looked too easy for UCLA at times, getting easy bucket after easy bucket. When the Bruins would make a few shots in a row to get a run going, WSU had no answer.
The Bruins held a 26-24 lead with 7:27 remaining in the first half, and it looked as though the Beasley Coliseum crowd of 6,566 was in for a good show. But WSU would hit just one more field goal the remainder of the half, a last second DeAngelo Casto bucket to close the half. During that stretch UCLA went on a 14-0 run, led by eight Michael Roll points, to put the halftime score at 40-26.
The second half was more of the same as the Cougs came out cold and could never find their shooting touch. The Bruin zone played well and no one in a WSU uniform could get a hot hand.
“Their zone defense was good. They have great length and it’s hard to sometimes create good shots”, said Coach Bone.
Coug’s leading scorer Klay Thompson was, once again, foiled by the 2-3 zone and mustered a weak eight points on 2-9 shooting from the field and committed six turnovers. Senior Nikola Koprivica also continued his cold streak shooting, also scoring eight points on just 3-11 shooting. Reggie Moore was WSU’s leading scorer in the game, putting up 11 points, five of which coming at the charity stripe.
UCLA pushed the lead to 20 at 48-28 early in the second half, and it was going through the motions from there. The Cougs put on a lazy full court press for the ten minutes of the game which the Bruins picked apart with ease, getting lay-up after lay-up. The teams cleared their benches in the final minute of the game, about three minutes before the Cougar faithful in the stands decided to call it a night.
As bad as the Cougar shooting was, the Bruins were good. UCLA had five players in double figures in points, with senior guard Michael Roll leading the way with 15. Sophomore Jerime Anderson also had a good game for the underachieving Bruins, with 10 points and four assists. Anderson played quite a bit tonight as starting guard Malcolm Lee was in foul trouble for the majority of the game. UCLA shot great, but it was really the lack of defensive intensity and focus that gave away easy buckets all night.
“If it’s not all five guysâ€¦Then you’re not going to play good defense. You’re not going to stop anybody”, said DeAngelo Casto after the loss.
UCLA freshman forward Reeves Nelson, who was the leading scorer for the Bruins in the first match up with the Cougs, had four points in just ten minutes of play for the Bruins. With 4:23 left in the first half Nelson went in hard for a big dunk and ended up face planting into the court. His face hit right above his right eye, giving him a big cut and blood out on the court. Nelson would not return to the game, but had 15 stitches and was cleared medically for Saturday night’s visit to Washington.
The loss puts WSU at 15-11 on the year and 5-9 in Pac-10 play. A .500 record is the best the Cougs can hope for with four games remaining on the conference schedule. But, those four games remaining, USC, Washington (at home) and the Oregon schools (away) are all very winnable games. If the Cougar team that has shot the ball terribly and lost six of their last seven games can get pushed aside by the team that swept a good Arizona squad this year and started the conference season at 4-3, then a solid finish heading into the conference tournament is very possible.
First up out of those remaining games is a visit from USC Saturday night (7PM PST, FSN). The Cougs beat the Trojans in LA in the earlier meeting this season, 67-60. The Cougs came back from down 10 at the half to get a solid road win. Oh how long ago that seems to Cougar nation. Moore had 21 points to lead the Cougs and Thompson put up a solid 20. It’ll take a solid game, much like the one in LA against USC, to come up with what has to be considered a must win victory for the Cougs to have a chance at a good seed for the conference tournament.
USC defeated Washington Thursday night in Seattle, 67-64, giving UW just their second loss at home this season. The win puts the Trojans at 8-5 in Pac-10 play and right in the mix at the top of the conference standings. USC has won four in a row now, including 5 out of their seven games since the first meeting with WSU. The Cougs in that span have gone just 1-6.
Zags Lose at Loyola Marymount in Up and Down Thriller 74-66
LMU got gutsy performances from Ashley Hamilton (17 points and 6 boards) and former Oregon Duck Drew Viney (16 points and 10 boards) and stopped the Zags from edging much closer to what seemed like a virtual lock on the regular season WCC title in Westchester CA on Thursday with a 74-66 win.
Elias Harris led the Zags with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray each scored 11, but the Zags, who led for most of the contest, dropped their 2nd road game of the conference schedule. Gonzaga are now 9-2 in the WCC, 21-5 overall and sit a half game ahead of St. Mary’s with three WCC games to play. The Zags will end the regular season at home against independent Cal-State Bakersfield. The Gaels have two WCC games left and have one more loss than the Zags, but are even in the win column at 9 wins.
Redhawks Lose to Vandals 82-72
Seattle U dropped below .500 to 13-14 with an 82-72 loss to Idaho in Moscow ID on Thursday.
Idaho is a very talented group made up of players that are at or near Pac-10 level. The Vandals have underachieved this year, but still are capable of excellent play especially at home. Seattle U got balanced scoring from Chris Gweth (15), Charles Garcia (14), Alex Jones (14) and Taylor Olsen (career high 11), but made too many mistakes to overcome the tall, talented and athletic Vandals in their home gym.
Now Seattle U will travel for a reunion of sorts with former Washington guard Adrian Oliver, a former pupil of Redhawks Head Coach Cameron Dollar, and the San Jose State Spartans. Oliver is blowing up this season and it could make for a wild affair Monday night at 7PM (PST) as he goes up against his old coach.
Pac-10 Round Up
OSU beat Cal in Corvallis on Thursday 80-64. The story of the game was Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Jerome Randle being held to 6 points on 0-5 from three and 2-9 from the field overall by a team defensive effort by7 the Beavers.
Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher of the Bears scored 15 and 12 points respectively, but neither they nor fellow senior Jamal Boykin were all that effective against a versatile OSU defense. Roeland Schaftenaar was the big gun for the Beavs with 22 points and fellow senior Seth Tarver had a whale of a game on both ends with 16 points, 7 assists and 4 steals.
OSU now will face Stanford on Saturday at 1PM (PST) and sit at 6-7 in Pac-10 play, 12-13 overall. By losing, Cal (9-5 in Pac-10 play and 17-9 overall) opens the door on a Pac-10 race that is now up for grabs.
With each Pac-10 team still playing another game this weekend (then two more weekends after that) all 10 Pac-10 teams still have a chance at finishing even at 9-9. Though it’s hard to conceive, all 10 teams still have a shot at a piece of the league title.
Oregon lost to Stanford in Eugene 72-65. Two of the teams with the longest shot of getting to .500 in Pac-10 play went at it in Oregon on Thursday and Stanford came out with a road win.
Again for the Cardinal it was their two big guns Landry Fields with 21 points and Jeremy Green with 18 that led the way. Oregon was led by Jeremy Jacob with 19, followed by E.J. Singler with 15, but the story for the Ducks has been the disappearance of senior Tajuan Porter who finished with 3 pointers on 1-7 from the field.
Since playing a key role in two home wins in the last weekend of January against the LA schools, Tajuan has averaged 4 points on 3-21 from three and 4-32 from the field. He’s literally shot Oregon into the cellar of the Pac-10.