Photo credit: AP Photo
After South Dakota State thrashed Washington 92-73 and snapped a 32-game home nonconference winning streak I asked coach Lorenzo Romar if the embarrassing 19-point defeat changes his perception of the Huskies and forces him to re-evaluate what they can accomplish this season.
“I can answer that question better after Thursday,” he said. “If we’re playing like this on Thursday then we need to go back to the drawing board and change a lot of things after the Christmas break and before we come back.
“But we’ll see how we play on Thursday.
“There’s not been very many times when we played like this at home and lost like this. But in situations like this before we’ve been able to get back and get our team’s attention and look like a different team.
“If this happens and we’re playing 2-3 games like this …
“Is it time to panic? That question gets asked. If we’re doing this again against Cal State Northridge (then) it’s time to panic, but right now we’ll have a few days to try and be much better than we were today.”
The Huskies (5-5) are running out of time to secure an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. It’s becoming increasingly obvious they’ll need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to guarantee a spot in the 68-team field.
This loss hurts more than any other. Earlier this season, fans could take solace in the fact UW dropped games to teams that were likely to make it to the NCAA tournament.
SDSU (10-4) may receive a Big Dance ticket it wins the Summit League Tournament, but the Jackrabbits were 13.5-point underdogs and this game was supposed to be a tuneup for Washington before Pac-12 play begins Dec. 29.
But in many ways, this defeat is worse then the 77-64 loss at Saint Louis because the Huskies said they learned from mistakes against the Billikens.
But against a SDSU team that had a similar defensive plan, the Huskies repeated their mistakes.
“There were some similarities,” Romar said about the SDSU and Saint Louis games. “We were very impatient in the first half. They’re the type of team that really packs it in and we were trying to go to early without getting ball reversals.
“We were trying to switch everything (defensively). It was fairly affective against UC Santa Barbara, but not effective at all against them. We changed in the second half and for awhile we were playing better defense.”
The loss is also disturbing because for the second time, the Huskies allowed a player to take control of the game and essentially carry his team to a win.
Against Nevada it was Deonte Burton, who scored 31 points and sank a three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.
Today it was Nate Wolters, who drew comparisons from Romar to Jason Kidd. The UW coach said Wolters had “one of the best performances by a point guard I’ve ever seen.”
You might expect Romar or an opposing coach to say that about Tony Wroten Jr. or Abdul Gaddy, but Wolters stole the show. With NBA execs in the stands to scout Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Wroten, Wolters upstaged the Huskies.
He finished with 34 points on 10 for 20 shooting. He connected on 13 of 16 free throws. He dished seven assists and collected five rebounds. He had a steal. And he didn’t commit a turnover in 40 minutes.
“I haven’t seen a performance like that since Jason Kidd was in the Pac-10,” Romar said. “The guy played the entire game without a turnover. Without a turnover. Seven assists. Thirty-four points. That’s a heckuva game.
“Their guys played off of him and some of their other guys scored because of the pressure he put on our team. I thought it was an awesome performance.”
Wolters, Burton and to a lesser extent SLU’s Kwamain Mitchell, who scored 18 points and didn’t commit a turnover, torched the Huskies with deft dribbling, good decisions and flawless leadership.
At least three Huskies (Wroten, Wilcox and Gaddy) had a chance to slow down Wolters and all of them failed. Just as distressing, the Huskies appeared a step slow defensively. They were out of sync with the defensive rotations, which led to open shooters and SDSU made them pay. The Jackrabbits shot 54.9 percent from the field and 10 of 16 on three-pointers.
Maybe the early start time led to UW’s malaise. The Huskies are 0-3 in noon games.
Romar noticed his team was in the funk before the game and could sense things might go awry.
“I saw it at 8:30 this morning when we met for our pregame meal,” he said. “You know our team. You know the look in their eyes. You know when there’s a pep in their step.
“I don’t think they’ve ever seen highlights on Sportscenter of South Dakota State and subconsciously that can affect you. All we can as coaches is try to make sure we understand this team is better than you might think. We tried to help our team understand how good a basketball player Nate Wolters was, but the bottom line is energy or no energy this unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Darnell Gant notched his first double double after hauling in a career-high 10 rebounds and tallying 15 points. He was efficient scoring on 5 of 8 shots and 4 of 5 free throws. Gant collected five offensive rebounds and was one of the few UW players who played with energy and purpose.
— Romar singled out Desmond Simmons who finished with a career best 11 rebounds and scored eight points. Romar liked Simmons energy and hustle. At least once, Romar didn’t like Simmons defensive acumen and benched the redshirt freshman for seemingly failing to rotate to an open shooter.
— In the past three games, Wroten has scored 23, 27 and 23. He also has four assists and 13 turnovers during that span. Today was a typical Wroten performance. He carried the Huskies at times offensively. He added four rebounds and three assists, but mostly he had the mindset of a scorer. He bullied and raced to the rim where he either scored, scored on his putback, got fouled or threw up a shot that had no chance of going in. This was the first game in which it seemed the opponent thoroughly scouted Wroten and was prepared for his left-hand drive. SDSU had a defender in the lane waiting for him after he got past the first player or made a spin move in the paint. Wroten will need to develop a Plan B because he’s likely to face this defense again.
— Not sure why Gaddy didn’t plow into the paint like he did Friday. Gaddy returned to his old ways, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He was more distributor than scorer. He finished with seven assists and seven points and just one turnover in 35 minutes. But he was ineffective from the perimeter where he sank 1 of 3 three-pointers and was 2 of 8 from the field. He also couldn’t stop Wolters, but he wasn’t alone.
— If Ross is UW’s best player, then he has to shoot more than four times. He was 3 of 4 from the field. It seems the Huskies don’t do enough to get him touches. He gets the ball on the elbow where he’s free to shoot, drive or pass. But he doesn’t get enough screens or pin downs. And often Ross disappears offensively for long of stretches, which is odd for a player many believe will be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft. He had trouble with fouls today and was disqualified after 23 minutes with 12 minutes left. Nothing against Simmons, but he had seven shots and the backup redshirt freshman forward shouldn’t take more attempts than the leading scorer.
— Wilcox certainly isn’t shy. He was 2 for 5 on Friday and came out firing today. Unfortunately for UW he missed nine of 15 shots. Can’t fault Wilcox for taking the shots because somebody has to. Still on this team, not sure if anybody should take more than 12 shots. There’s just too much balance. At least on paper.
— Freshman forward Martin Breunig received eight minutes and had some good moments. He collected three rebounds – all on the offensive glass. He also scored two points on 1-for-3 shooting.
— Hikeem Stewart and Shawn Kemp Jr. combined for nine scoreless minutes.
— About the only good news from the game came from Romar who said injured center Aziz N’Diaye should return Thursday.