Lorenzo Romar isn’t pushing the panic button. After today’s 76-71 defeat to Michigan State, he said he was disappointed with Washington’s 1-2 record at the Maui Invitational, but he was pleased with the Huskies’ effort this week.
Think about, UW lost by a combined 12 points to the No. 2 and No. 8 teams in the country. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
But on the other hand, the Huskies are too experienced, too deep and too talented to settle for moral victories.
Perhaps too much attention and criticism is going to be made of UW’s poor free throw shooting, which played a role in today’s defeat. The Huskies missed 10 of 25 at the line and Matthew Bryan-Amaning was 1 for 2 in the final 13 seconds when he could have tied the score.
Romar said he’s not worried. He said he’s more concerned with UW’s rebounding and he should be because the Huskies were outrebounded for the third time in five games. And that’s four out of six, including the exhibition.
Still, the free throws need to be addressed. Washington is 58 percent and the three players who have taken the most FTs are awful. Bryan-Amaning is 18 of 31 (58.1 percent), Isaiah Thomas is 15 of 26 (57.7 percent) and Aziz N’Diaye is 10 of 25 (40 percent).
The free throw shooting problem is correctable.
What’s more troubling is the way UW began and finished the second half.
Leading 44-34 at intermission, the Huskies needed to start the second half with a flurry to extinguish any hope Michigan State might have had to make it a game. After six minutes, their lead had been erased and it was anybody’s game.
You knew Michigan State would make a run because the Spartans are a second-half team and they’re too good not to make a run. Still, Washington could have made their day a lot easier if they had just played hard at the start of the second half. MSU is good, but I’m not sure it could have overcome a 15-point or 20-point second-half deficit.
With all that being said, I felt the game turned on a Spartans offensive rebound. Washington did an excellent job in the second half extending its defense and forcing a couple of shot clock violations.
But leading 68-66, the Huskies failed to corral a long rebound after Draymond Green’s missed three-pointer. MSU called a timeout and seconds later, Durrell Summers drilled a three-pointer over Justin Holiday (above, right), who was picked off by a screen.
On the ensuing possession, Thomas missed a mid-range jumper over Korie Luscious and the Huskies couldn’t secure the rebound.
Seconds later, Summers drains another three-pointer over Holiday who was caught peaking on a dribble drive by Lucious. MSU led 72-68 with 1:13 left and essentially that was the game.
For the second straight day, Washington allowed an opposing point guard to exploit the defense for a big performance. Tuesday Kentucky Brandon Knight had 24 points and today Kalin Lucas finished with 29 and four three-pointers.
“The only thing we saw was we might be able to have some success coming off screens,” Lucas said. “I thought the (outside) shot might be open and it was.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— If not for a missed free throw, Bryan-Amaning might have been the game’s hero. Still, he bounced back from Tuesday’s off night and led UW in scoring (15 points), rebounding (six) and free throws (5 of 7). He made half of his shots and snagged two steals, but you got the feeling he could have had a bigger game because MSU didn’t double team him the way Kentucky did.
— In the past two games, Thomas is shooting 7 of 20 and is 1 for seven on three-pointers. Still, found a way today to positively impact the game and finished with a game-high six assists. He also had four rebounds. That’s the good stuff. The not-so good stuff: Thomas committed three turnovers and he has to bear a lot of responsibility for Lucas scoring 29 points. Washington plays a team defense, in which everyone switches and helps each other. Still, when you’re the lead guard and face of your team, it’s your job to contain the opposition’s lead guard and that didn’t happen for the second straight day.
— Offensively Holiday had his best moments in the first half when he scored seven straight points on three possession. It was a nice display of firepower. He scored on a layup, a dribble drive and sank a mid-range jumper. Defensively, Holiday had his hands full with an array of players. At times he defended 6-7 and 230-pound Draymond Green. Other times, he was on Summers. Holiday took the blame for Summers’ two three-pointers, but he played a solid game.
— Darnell Gant had the best 24 hours of basketball in his life. He couldn’t miss. In the past two games, he’s 8 of 10 and 3 of 4 on three-pointers. That’s being efficient. He followed Tuesday’s career-high 10-point performance with nine. And while he deserves a lot of praise for his shooting and scoring, what’s up with rebounding. Gant failed to collect a rebound in 29 minutes and that’s not Husky basketball.
— The only other starter without a rebound was Abdul Gaddy and normally that’s not a cause for concern, but it was today when he contributed eight points, one assist and two turnovers. He has got to be more productive.
— No one on the bench scored more than three points and they were outscored 25-14 by MSU’s reserves. It was asking a lot of C.J. Wilcox to come in cold after playing just three minutes to hit a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds. He had a good look and the shot was on line, but it didn’t draw rim, glass or anything. N’Diaye made a meaningful impact and finished with five rebounds. Otherwise, the backups disappeared. It’s a bit of a surprise because UW’s bench was considered a strength and I thought they would show up in a major in the second half of the third game in three days.
Photo credit: AP Photo – Eugene Tanner