Photo credit: AP Photo – Elaine Thompson
First it was a rout. Then things got close and in the end Washington held Oregon State scoreless in the final 2:55 to make it a rout again.
The final score – 95-80 – doesn’t begin to tell the full story of this Pac-12 opener.
It was the most points this season for the Huskies. Six players scored in double figures, which has happened just once this season. The Huskies converted 17 of 20 free throws and committed just nine turnovers – two shy of their season low.
Despite a size disadvantage, Washington outrebounded Oregon State 38-33. They also had more assists (15-13), more blocks (5-4), more points in the paint (50-44) more second-chance points (17-13) and more points from the bench (30-9).
That last statistic is significant because coach Lorenzo Romar jostled the starting lineup for the second time this season and started a group that included Abdul Gaddy, Tony Wroten Jr. (above), Terrence Ross, Darnell Gant and Aziz N’Diaye. The odd man out – C.J. Wilcox.
Romar spent about 2 1/2 minutes of his eight-minute postgame interview explaining why he chose Wroten over Wilcox.
“A big part of our defense is being disruptive and C.J. is disruptive on the wings,” Romar said. “Guarding the ball we felt Tony had been behind defensively, but we thought he made enough progress to where he can be functional enough to at least bother the ball handler.
“I don’t even like to say had him on the bench. He played 30 minutes. On the bench to me when you’re on the bench it’s like when I played 11 minutes against UCLA my senior year. [Laughter in the audience] Still a little bitter about that. That’s the bench. It’s not the bench when you’re playing 30 minutes. We get him in and we rotate. And that may not be the way we start the next game or next week. It may not be, but in this particular game they had three big guys so we had to go with our biggest wing, which was Terrence Ross. We went with him.
“We wanted Tony to be able to bother the basketball up front. And Abdul Gaddy is our best at just taking care of the ball and making sure we get into the offense.
“The thing with C.J. is, C.J. will play the same way whether there’s four guards on the floor with him or two guards on the floor with him. Starts or comes off the bench. He is probably the most versatile that way. There’s a lot going into that and it’s very close. We went back and forth several times on what would fit best with our team.”
It’s difficult to argue with Romar’s thinking considering the results.
Wroten finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and just two turnovers in 32 minutes. Wilcox rebounded from a 0-for-6 start and finished with 15 points and four rebounds.
The Huskies got off to a great start and led 6-0 before the first substitution.
Washington’s shaky chemistry never looked better. And the Huskies played their best game of the season against a quality opponent. Washington improved to 7-5, 1-0 Pac-12.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Wroten is simply a force of nature. He’s relentless. And this was the type of game that’s perfect for the freshman guard because often times he’s isolated on the wing where he’s able to beat his man off the dribble and dive to the basket. It’s strange, but teams with inferior talent often use a zone, which bottles up aggressive players like Wroten. Oregon State tried to defend him with 5-9 Ahmad Starks and 6-4 Jared Cunningham. When Wroten got by them, he elevated over OSU’s big men. When he missed the layup, Wroten collected the rebound for a putback. Or he got fouled on the attempt and made 5 of 7 shots at the line.
It was a remarkably efficient performance. Wroten still whipped two no-look passes for assists, but he played under control. He committed a turnover on the first play and drew an offensive charge in the second half. Otherwise, he was text book.
Wroten (16.8 points per game) also took over the Pac-12 scoring lead from Cunningham (16.7 ppg).
“He is darn good,” OSU coach Craig Robinson said. “That is why everyone had him being one and done. He is strong and he has a good way about him even though he is young. He has a mature way about him. He is going to be good in this league.”
— Gaddy did his best work on the defensive end in the second half. Romar assigned him to Cunningham, who had 13 points in the first half. In the second half, the OSU star had two points on 1-for-3 shooting. Gaddy also had a game-high six assists and 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting. During a stretch early in the second half, Gaddy took over the game with a two dribble-drive layups against Starks.
— Desmond Simmons matched his career best with 13 points. He set his career high in the previous game against Cal State Northridge. He’s playing so well lately, he’s getting starter minutes. Tonight he played 28 minutes partly because Gant got in foul trouble. Simmons worked on his perimeter shot and it shows. He took three three-pointers and made one, his fifth this season. He also had eight rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.
— N’Diaye had his hands full with Angus Brandt, who was better than advertised. The OSU big man scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Still N’Diaye was effective. He played 30 minutes, which is a significant achievement considering he sprained his right knee three weeks ago. He also had 10 points and seven rebounds. It was good to see the Huskies continue to feed N’Diaye inside after he badly missed his first two hook shots. N’Diaye got a better feel on the shot as the game went on.
— Wilcox recovered from a rocky start and provided a spark off the bench. He came into the game with 17 minutes in the first half and tallied 30 minutes. It was more minutes than he had in four games as a starter. Wilcox was 4 of 13 from the field and made all six of his free throws.
— Quiet game for Ross, who had some good moments early in the first half when he forced a steal and grabbed a rebound in traffic. Ross had a difficult matchup against 6-8, 215-pound Devon Collier, who had eight points.
— Gant had a strong start scoring four points to help the Huskies to a 10-2 lead. But he picked up two quick fouls and collected his third in the first half. When that happened, he wasn’t as aggressive going after rebounds or boxing out. But who could blame him. Two of his fouls were questionable calls and it made him tentative. He finished with six points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.
— Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr. combined for two points and six minutes.