Say goodbye to that No. 21 ranking. Washington will undoubtedly fall from the polls Monday following today’s 63-62 defeat at Texas A&M.
Where do we begin?
Lot’s of issues to address, but then, the Huskies’ problem are nothing new. The rebounding issues. The toughness issues. The half-court issues. The late-game execution issues. The road issues.
All of it came into play against the Aggies, which improved to 9-1 and extended its home winning streak to 70 games against non-conference teams in the regular season.
Reed Arena is a tough venue, but I’m not sure how much the hostile environment contributed to Washington’s troubles.
From the start, you knew this game wouldn’t be a cakewalk and the Huskies would have to win a slugfest. I likened it to last year’s game at Texas Tech. Obviously the tempo was much slower, but it was a back-and-forth affair in which no team led by more than 10 points.
And even when A&M surged ahead 61-51 with 5:44 left, Washington quickly made a 10-2 run and scored the last six points in the game.
The Huskies, however, needed one more point to force overtime.
The final minutes deserve a second look because in many ways late-game execution has been one of Washington’s fundamental failures. It happened against Kentucky and Michigan State and it again today. In each of it’s three defeats, UW trailed by two points in the final minute.
This time the Huskies weren’t undone by poor free throws. In fact, UW was perfect at the line connecting on 16 attempts.
And for the most part, Washington was near flawless when they trailed by 10. It was an odd lineup that made a run. For the most part, the group included Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, C.J. Wilcox, Darnell Gant and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
Venoy Overton was in there early and he sank a layup. Justin Holiday was in there for awhile, but he fouled out with UW trailing 63-56.
Holiday’s foul sent Nathan Walkup to the line where he sank what proved to be two decisive free throws.
From there, Suggs sank a jumper, Bryan-Amaning made a layup and Gaddy converted two FTs.
It was telling that coach Lorenzo Romar sat Isaiah Thomas down at the 6:55 mark and kept him on the bench until there was 35 seconds left.
Romar is going to be second guessed about re-inserting Thomas, who wasn’t having his best game and taking out Suggs, who also wasn’t having a great day. Critics will say, why mess with the chemistry.
And while we’re second-guessing Romar, we have to examine the usage of timeouts. Trailing by a point, he called a timeout with 35 seconds to set up a play. When the Huskies walked on the court, Romar called his last timeout.
He said he didn’t like what he saw and wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. A couple of players said after the game some of the guys were unsure of their responsibilities on the play, which is why Romar called the second timeout.
Still it was a unconventional decision because coaches like to keep timeout in case of emergency. What if UW wasn’t able to inbound the ball? What if they scored too early and A&M answers with basket? There’s a million what-if scenarios that says keep a timeout in your back pocket just in case.
Even if the players were fuzzy on the play, UW could have missed a shot, fouled, force a pair of free throws and call timeout trailing by three with time remaining.
Washington, however, had no timeouts.
And the play design was a curious choice. Needing two points to win, Wilcox peeled free on a baseline screen and got the ball in the corner. He had a great look and missed a three-pointer.
Romar said it was the shot they wanted. He hinted earlier in the week Wilcox may develop into a go-to guy late in games. Wilcox also took UW’s lost shot in the loss to Michigan State.
Still Washington needed two points to win, not three and seemingly a higher-percentage attempt may have been the way to go. Texas A&M was in the double bonus and any foul would have resulted in two shots for the Huskies who were perfect at the line.
In Romar’s defense, you can’t expect the refs to call a foul in a tight game like that. Also, the UW coach didn’t have many good scoring options today.
Thomas was 2 for 6 at that point, Suggs 1 for 4, Gant 1 for 7 and Bryan-Amaning was having a heckuva time avoiding traveling calls. On paper, Gaddy might have been the best option because he converted 3 of 4 shots. But that’s a theoretical debate.
Romar went with Wilcox, a redshirt freshman playing in his first game inside a hostile venue who was 3 for 9 from the field and 3 of 7 from behind the arc.
Because Washington didn’t have a timeout, the Huskies couldn’t stop the clock when Thomas stripped Walkup with four seconds left. That was an amazing defensive play and credit Thomas for racing up court to get a shot off.
Maybe he should have passed to Gant or Wilcox who were open, but Thomas saw 1.5 seconds on the clock and didn’t think he had enough time to get them the ball for a shot. He made the right decision. He had to shoot. Unfortunately, David Loubeau knew it and the 6-foot-8 Aggies forward rejected the shot.
“Texas A&M fought hard,” Romar said. “Give them a lot of credit. They were patient on offense and did a tremendous job guarding us. They pretty much clogged up the middle. Everything we got we had to work hard for. Give them a lot of credit.
“On our end, they score 63 points and score 41 off our turnovers and their second-chance points. If you’re a Husky, you’re kicking yourself because you lose by one-point and shoot 6-for-22 from three-point range and we lead the nation in 3-point shooting. They scored two-thirds of their poings on things you hope you could control. But you don’t. Give them a lot of credit. No one has forced us into 20 turnovers so they did a good job.”
Photo credit: AP Photo – Jon Eilts
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Forget the last shot. Yeah Thomas’ got his shot blocked. So what. It happens. If not for his never-say-die attitude and brilliant defensive play, the Huskies wouldn’t have gotten another chance to win. What’s more troubling were the litany of traveling calls. How many were there. Three? Thomas finished with a season-high six turnovers in a one-point game. Credit the kid for correcting his free throw issues. He drained all eight attempts. But Thomas said he pulled up for the last three-pointer because he didn’t want to go into the lane due to the refs not calling many fouls. I don’t know if he had time to get into the lane, but an off-balance runner may have been better than a 5-9 guy trying to shoot over someone who is nearly a foot taller.
— Not exactly sure why Gaddy played just 18 minutes considering he was 3 for 4 in the first half and finished with 10 points. Doling out minutes is always going to be issue when you have a 10-man rotation. In wins, no one complains. In defeats, coaches are second-guessed why this player or that player didn’t play more. This time it’s Gaddy. He committed three turnovers, but his size made a difference. Remember his block in the second half? Or his three second-half rebounds? Still waiting for Gaddy to take over these games. Today, he had a chance and was on the court in the final minutes. Maybe that’s a start.
— The only other Husky to receive high marks is Aziz N’Diaye, who finished with seven rebounds. In the second half, he played just four minutes and didn’t have a rebound.
— Holiday is Washington’s most consistent player, but he had a dreadful outting today. He said the referees “just didn’t allow me to play my game.” Maybe he’s right. Holiday is all about help defense, but too often officials thought he was late with the help or too aggressive with the defense. Either way, he finished with more fouls (five) than rebounds (four), attempts (four) and points (four).
— Gant seemed to take this loss harder than anyone else. He said UW “played soft” and admitted “we have to be tougher.” He was talking primarily about himself and Bryan-Amaning and said they need to take a lesson from N’Diaye. Maybe Gant is right. He had just two rebounds, two turnovers and three points on 1 for 7 shooting.
— Uneven day for Bryan-Amaning. He did some good things. Created two steals. Played a team-high 27 minutes. He also had some problems. Against taller teams, Bryan-Amaning hasn’t played his best. Today he looked as if he was trying to do too much when he got the ball in the post. He didn’t power into defenders, but tried to get them out of position with a series of moves. Often times he was called for traveling. He finished with four turnovers, which equaled his rebounds.
— Shooters shoot and Wilcox is a shooter. He missed 7 of 10 shots, but that’s going to happen. It says something about him that Romar has twice entrusted the redshirt freshman to take a game-winning shot. Wilcox acknowledged playing his first true road game was “an experience.” He talked about his last trey and said it looked good and felt good, but was slightly offline.
— Washington committed 20 turnovers and Overton only had one, which speaks to the way he ran the team. He had seven points and three rebounds. Defensively, I’m not sure Overton had a significant impact on the game.
— Suggs was saddled with three first-half fouls and much like Holiday, he couldn’t do much of anything without drawing a whistle from the refs.
— Terrence Ross played seven minutes in the first half, six in the second. He scored one basket and collected two rebounds.