Photo credit: AP Photo – Don Ryan
The sight of a Washington opponent dancing after a game has become a recent trend.
— Washington State celebrated with about hundred Cougar fans at Friel Court last Sunday.
— Oregon State partied on the Gill Coliseum floor last two days ago.
— And today the Oregon players gathered in a huddle at midcourt at Matthew Knight Arena and celebrated a 81-76 UW defeat while Washington players walked away with their heads down.
The Huskies were shaken following their 5-point loss because they truly believed they had hit rock bottom Thursday in Corvallis, Ore. They held a players-only meeting Friday night at the team hotel in Eugene, Ore.
It wasn’t the first time they met without the coaches this season, but it felt like a turning point.
“Our captains did most of talking,” said a Husky player. “It felt good to get some things out. Kind of clearing the air. But I guess it didn’t work.”
Maybe it did. That remains to be seen. However, the meeting didn’t produce an immediate victory. Washington certainly played better than it has in recent weeks. Even though the Huskies shot 27 three-pointers, they took better shots behind the arc because they were patient and looked to score inside before taking uncontested treys.
The Huskies also rebounded better than they did in the last outing and controlled the glass with a 35-31 edge.
Otherwise it was hard to spot many other improvements.
Washington attempted just 11 free throws while Oregon had 23. That suggests the the Huskies weren’t being aggressive offensively and attacking the rim.
Washington committed 15 turnovers that resulted in 26 points. Isaiah Thomas took better care of the ball, but Venoy Overton had four turnovers and Justin Holiday three.
Coach Lorenzo Romar believes UW played better defense than it had recently, but that’s debatable. Oregon shot just 28.6 percent (6 of 21) on three-pointers, but it was 45.2 percent from the field.
The Ducks had little difficulty scoring against Washington’s 2-3 zone because the guards were patient and able to find teammates who cut the basket for points late in the shot clock. Guards Malcolm Armstead had five assists and Garrett Sim four.
The Huskies didn’t have a lot of length because reserve forward Darnell Gant was limited to just five minutes due to a quadriceps injury. His absence tipped a mental domino inside Romar’s head.
The UW coach needed to protect and rest Aziz N’Diaye therefore Washington started the game in a 2-3 zone and went away from its trademark man-to-man defense. The zone forced Oregon into an awful percentage, but also stifled Washington’s defensive aggressiveness.
Oregon committed just eight turnovers and UW tied its season low with two steals.
Even more distressing, the Ducks found pockets on the baseline in the zone when UW’s big men didn’t rotate properly. Oregon scored 30 points in the paint.
It’s uncertain where Washington goes from here. Romar stressed calm. He knows UW fans will freak out, but he’s not panicking.
“We were 5-2 in 2006 and we lost three road games in a row and we were 5-5,” he said. “Everyone else panicked, but we didn’t. We ended up finishing second (in the Pac-10) and going to the Sweet 16.
“Last year we started out 1-3 and lost by 17 on the road twice. We haven’t done that yet. … Everyone else panicked, but we didn’t. We ended up going to the Sweet 16.”
Still Romar acknowledged Washington (15-7, 7-4 Pac-10) is no longer in the driver’s seat in the conference race and will need help to win the league championship.
“Our guys are frustrated no doubt,” he said. “We have high aspirations in our minds. Hopefully win the league outright. I don’t know if that’s going to be able to happen at this point. Some other teams are going to have to help us.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Big bounce back game for Bryan-Amaning offensively. He held up his end of the bargain in terms of scoring. He sank 10 of 16 shots for a game-high 21 points. Perhaps the only gripe is Bryan-Amaning attempted just three free throws and he converted one. Defensively, the 6-9 forward has to take pride in shutting down the opposing big man and not sure if that’s happening just yet. Joevan Catron finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, which nearly matched his performance from the first meeting when he had 20 and 10. Bryan-Amaning didn’t defend Catron most of the night, but the two were matched up in the final minutes and the Oregon forward scored on a jumper that put the Ducks up 76-72. But then that’s knit picking. Bryan-Amaning wasn’t the problem today.
— Holiday rebounded – literally and figuratively speaking – in a major way. He was efficient offensively while converting four of six three-pointers. He also had his hand in almost every aspect of the game. He dished out five assists and was overly anxious at times about feeding the ball inside, which led to a couple of his three turnovers. Holiday also had five rebounds and three blocks.
— Thomas took over for a stretch in the second half and it was needed. Realizing his outside shot was off – he was 1 for 5 on three-pointers – he attacked the basket for layups late in the game. Thomas had 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, six assists and five rebounds. He also cut down on the turnovers. He had seven in each of the past two games and today he had two.
— It was a bit of a homecoming for Terrence Ross, who played high school in Portland. He finished with 12 points on 4 for 9 shooting on three-pointers. Ross has a little trigger happy and fell in love with the three-point shot today. Trailing 76-72 with 1:14 left he took a quick trey when it would have been wiser to make a few more passes for a better shot.
— N’Diaye had his best performance since the Jan. 13 Stanford game. He collected nine rebounds and had five rebounds, including a putback dunk. N’Diaye also committed just two fouls in 19 minutes. It seemed as if he made a concerted effort to avoid silly fouls, which is a good thing. On the other hand, Oregon’s starting front line combined for 50 points and 19 rebounds. Romar said N’Diaye got hit in the eye in the second half and needed to be helped off the court.
— After scoring a career-high 18 points Thursday, Scott Suggs missed four of five shots, including three three-pointers and finished with three points. His scoring was off, but he made improvements as a playmaker and defender. Suggs had four assists and four rebounds. Both totals are one shy of his career best. He also committed a critical turnover late in the game when it seemed the Huskies might have tied the score.
— C.J. Wilcox managed just three points on 1-for-4 shooting in 12 minutes.
— The struggles continue for Overton who had three points on 1-for-3 shooting in 14 minutes. While he was ineffective early, the senior guard was on the court in the final minute and kept the Huskies alive for a few seconds with a layup. At times, he hurt UW’s cause with a season-high four turnovers.
— Gant played five scoreless minutes. He had two rebounds.