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January 12, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Did the Huskies really slow it down?

So of all the e-mails and other correspondence I’ve gotten regarding UW’s loss to Cal on Saturday, the most consistent critique of UW coach Lorenzo Romar is that he helped lose the game by slowing it down once the Huskies built a 10-point lead late in the second half.
Played a “prevent defense” so to speak.
So with the replay on this afternoon, I decided to watch it and deconstruct the end to see how much validity there is to that argument. (And a quick digression — judging by the ads, apparently everyone watching FSN in the afternoon has lots of jewelry hanging around just waiting to sell to make millions, or has had a bad reaction to some medicine that could allow them to sue and make millions).
Back to the game — the Huskies took their biggest lead of the game at 54-43 with 7:36 left (they had also led by 11 at 52-41 at the 9:35 mark).
The Huskies still led by 10, at 56-46, with 6:09 left, the point at which I decided to break down each possession.
UW took its 56-46 lead on a jumper by Justin Dentmon that came on a possession in which UW took 34 seconds off the shot clock before scoring, eventually getting a good shot that resulted in a made basket:
— Cal responded with a jumper by Jerome Randle at the 5:44 mark to make it 56-48. It’s generally tougher to run after made baskets, and Cal set up its defense quickly. So UW did walk the ball up on its next possession — either deliberately or because there really wasn’t an opening — working it around an setting up a lay-in with three seconds on the shot clock that Jon Brockman missed in traffic. Cal got the rebound, missed a quick three-pointer, and Brockman got the rebound, with the Huskies calling time out, preventing any chance of getting out and running, though it didn’t appear there was any fast break opportunity anyway.
— After the time out, the Huskies took a good 25 seconds off the shot clock before spreading the floor and letting Thomas work one-on-one. He missed but Brockman got the rebound and tossed it back out.
— UW then worked the ball around again and with three seconds left on the shot clock, Justin Holiday worked his way inside for a layin that likely would have gone had he not been fouled hard at the 3:51 mark. He then made one of two free throws to make it 57-48.
— Randle scored quickly to make it 57-50, and the Bears appeared to set their defense up fast, so the Huskies again worked it up court patiently. Again, UW got a good shot, Thomas getting fouled on a nice backdoor play. He made one of two free throws with 3:12 left to make it 58-50 — UW’s last point of regulation.
— Cal’s Theo Robertson hit a three on the other end to make it 58-53 with 2:52 left and Cal called time, again preventing any fastbreak-type opportunity.
— The Huskies then again worked the ball around and set up Brockman for a layin that almost trickled in as he was fouled. Brockman missed both free throws with 2:24 left, leaving the score at 58-53.
— After a Cal miss, Thomas got the rebound with about 2:15 to go but had trouble getting control of the ball and by the time he did, he walked the ball up. The Huskies again worked the ball around taking off most of the shot clock before Thomas tried to feed Brockman inside. But the pass was knocked away, creating a scramble for the ball that ended in a shot clock violation for UW and a turnover.
— Cal responded with a quick lay-in by Christopher that made it 58-55 with 1:34 left.
— Cal then set up a full court press and UW again took off most of the shot clock before again getting what was a pretty good shot, a drive by Thomas in the lane with two seconds on the shot clock. It missed and Cal got the rebound, responding on the other end with a three-pointer by Randle that tied the game with 44 seconds left.
So in the span of 5:07, Cal outscored UW 12-2 to tie the game and set the stage for the three overtimes that followed.
In that time, UW had seven possessions, going 0-3 from the field, getting fouled three times — making just two of six free throws — and turning the ball over once.
So was the so-called slowdown to blame for the loss?
Watching it again, at the risk of sounding like an apologist for Romar, I really didn’t think so.
It never seemed as if there was a great fast-break opportunity that the Huskies didn’t take. They were definitely more deliberate on the offensive end once they got the ball up court, but almost all the possessions ended in good shots, a couple of which UW just didn’t make, and three times getting fouled. And once there was no fast-break opportunity, you could probably argue you’re better off running time off the clock than taking quick shots in that situation.
The biggest issues really seemed to be the free throws, and letting Cal go 5-9 from the field (one of the Cal misses was an out-of-control missed putback by Jorge Gutierrez).
Play better defense one time, and make a couple more free throws, and UW would happily be 3-0 in Pac-10 play right now.

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