Needed a night to digest Washington’s 68-51 defeat at Arizona State. There were ominous signs before the game that hinted to this type of performance.
For starters, the Huskies were missing junior forward Justin Holiday, who remained in Seattle because of eligibility issues. Holiday is one of UW’s best defenders and he might have slowed down Sun Devils sharpshooter Rihards Kuksiks (left) who was lights out all night.
During post-game comments, coach Lorenzo Romar presented a calm demeanor, but I don’t think he realized UW’s lockerroom was next to a room where ASU holds post-game interviews.
While Kuksiks and Ty Abbott sat at a table in front of a room filled with media, someone in Washington’s locker was overheard yelling and swearing over and over. At one point, the voice said: “You let a (expletive) guy score 27 points.”
Photo credit: AP PHOTO – Paul Connors
It was so loud, Abbott stopped answering a question and said “Wow.”
I had a chance to talk to several Sun Devil players after the game and here’s what they said about the Huskies, who were held nearly 30 points below their scoring average.
Abbott: “We really made an effort to find out where (Quincy Pondexter) was and tried to contain him. We had guys who were sitting in the dribbling lanes and really helped and shaded towards him so he didn’t have open looks.
“We started off with defense, getting the big rebounds, the loose balls and diving on the floor. We’re a team that we build off of energy.”
“The first four minutes we jumped on them. We really made an emphasis to jump out early and not let up.
“When you’re playing (Isaiah Thomas), we kind of put ourself on an island. The guy on the ball, guards the ball and we got to make sure we don’t give up any threes. We’ll give up a two before we give up a three and that worked for us.”
“We’re a shooting team. We have a lot of shooters. We come out with four shooters every time. That’s really a big thing for us.”
Senior guard Derek Glasser: “We’re two good teams and we respect each other, I think we just made a few tough shots early. Ric hit a few tough shots that if he didn’t make early, the game could have been a 2-4 point game all the way. But thank God that he did.
“We know that we don’t have a guy like James (Harden) or Jeff (Pendergraft) that can carry us offensively. Thank God that Ric did tonight, but our stamp going out the rest of the season is to hold guys to high 40s, low 50s for us to have a chance to win.
“We love to see games like this. For some people it’s ugly, but not for us. … I’m sure it’s frustrating for some teams to play us because we try to make teams play a style they’re not used to.”
SOME MORE THOUGHTS:
— Romar said the key to winning on the road is experience and good guard play. Last night, UW didn’t look as if it had a floor general capable of directing the offense against ASU’s tough 2-3 zone.
— It’s a lot to ask Abdul Gaddy, who just turned 18, to guide the Huskies offensively as a freshman. (Sidenote: Freshman point guards are like rookie quarterbacks in that they’re good only if the surrounding parts are great.) He’s only playing 15-18 minutes these days and games like last night’s (0 points, 2 assists) are becoming more common.
— Venoy Overton is essentially Washington’s point guard and UW will continue to struggle until he embraces all the responsibilities that comes with being a point guard. A friend made the observation that Overton is like a cover corner in football. He just wants to be left on an island to do his thing on the defensive end.
Unfortunately, the Huskies need him to do so much more. They need him to make Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Tyreese Breshers better the way Oregon’s Malcolm Armstead set up Michael Dunigan in last week’s loss to the Ducks.
— Too often Overton disappears offensively. He drifts to the wing and waits to knock down his set shot. During those times, Thomas slides into the lead guard role.
When he has 8 and 6 assists like he did against Portland and San Francisco respectively, UW is practically unbeatable.
But in the past three games, Thomas has just 1 assist.
To his defense, he’s in a tough spot. Romar moved him to the 2-guard role that was Justin Dentmon’s last season. Thomas is expected to score much like Tajuan Porter at Oregon. So he’s always in attack mode. He’s not looking to set up teammates. And often, he gets the ball with few seconds on the clock and he has to create something out of nothing.
— Another friend pointed out to me that UW will struggle because Pondexter and Thomas don’t make their teammates better. Initially I disagreed. But now, I’m not so sure. Jon Brockman helped his teammates because he commanded a double team. Dentmon made his teammates better because he would make the proper pass.
Abbott said Pondexter draws double teams, but UW hasn’t taken advantage of them. Like Thomas, Pondexter looks to score when he has the ball. He hasn’t had more than 4 assists in any game this season and in the past 7 games, he’s averaging 1 per game.
— Romar said he believes hard work will turn things around for the Huskies, but not sure if hard work can make the Huskies big men grow any taller or help them shoot any better, which were factors in their two Pac-10 losses.
— Romar tried tweaking the lineup to get more production from the post. He benched Bryan-Amaning and promoted Breshers. Afterward, Romar admitted the switch didn’t produce what he expected.
Breshers may develop into a solid low post presence, but he looked like a redshirt freshman making his second start. He’s not at the point where UW can drop the ball to him on the block and expect positive results.
And he’s got a bit of a temper, which was evident when he picked up a technical foul in the first half after slamming the ball on the floor. At the time, it appeared like a silly call, but it came at a bad time for UW, which trailed 19-11 and fell farther behind (22-11) after the free throws.
— Benching Bryan-Amaning didn’t help him. In fact, he regressed. He finished with 2 points and 1 rebound. In the past two games, Bryan-Amaning has 3 points and 4 rebounds.
— C.J. Wilcox is arguably UW’s best shooter and he’s redshirting this season. Last week, Romar said he would not burn Wilcox’s redshirt just to win a game or two. Romar admitted it might be a mistake if the Huskies weren’t successful this season.
Well it may be time to revisit that decision. UW eighth in the Pac-10 in three-pointers made and three-point field goal percentage. It made 3 of 14 last night and the two from Elston Turner came during garbage time.
Maybe the decision has already been made and Wilcox will sit out, but it could be a decision that haunts Romar and the Huskies.
— And finally, it goes without saying that UW is at a early crossroads. The Huskies bused to Tucson, Arizona last night and they have an afternoon practice to prepare for the Arizona Wildcats.
When asked if he was surprised by the season, Pondexter said: “Very. I never wanted to go out like this. We got to clean up somethings. We got to right the ship.”