The sequel was just as good as the previous two games.
Washington didn’t win a conference title this time, however the 69-67 win over Arizona gave the Huskies sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. Maybe they’ll have to share the lead with California and Oregon who play Sunday. Maybe not.
At any rate, the Huskies are in first. They captured a desert sweep for just the fifth time in school history and the first since 2006. They have a three-game winning streak. They’ve won three straight on the road. And they’ve won 10 of the last 12 games.
Lorenzo Romar called today’s win the biggest of the season.
“We’re still in first place,” he said. “It’s our third consecutive road win and it’s a really good road win over a quality team and in adverse conditions – Abdul Gaddy got in foul trouble.”
When asked how the Huskies were able to break their five-game losing streak at Arizona and win at a place where they were 6-27, Romar said: “We played good solid basketball.”
There were no tricks or gimmicks with Washington’s game plan. They defended well. They executed offensively. They got a little lucky and they overcame adversity and a shaky first half.
The Huskies put themselves in position to win. They didn’t need a super human effort from Tony Wroten Jr. (above, right) or Terrence Ross. They didn’t have to drain a bunch of three-pointers or overwhelm the Wildcats with a suffocating defense that turned steals into layups.
As a team, Washington made it a priority to crash the glass and it outrebounded Arizona 39-36. Six players had at least four boards.
The Huskies shot 48.5 percent (16 of 33) in the second half and took better care of the ball after the break. They had eight turnovers in the first half, six in the second.
Washington had no answer for Solomon Hill who scored a 28 points, but the Huskies put a blanket on everyone else.
“We’ve learned so much this year that now we’re at the point where we can go out and
like coach said, just play good solid basketball,” senior co-captain Darnell Gant said. “Really it’s all about maturing and getting better each day.”
The Romar resurgence is in full effect.
There’s something about his teams. Each year they do this. Slow starts followed by a fantastic finish and a NCAA tournament berth.
It’s may be too early to seriously start thinking about postseason jockeying and at-large berths. However, at the midpoint in the Pac-12 season it’s justifiable to believe the Huskies will remain in contention for a regular-season conference title in the final five weeks.
“Here we come,” Wroten said. “We’re a good basketball team. When we play like we’re capable of we can be a very dangerous team.”
Photo credit: AP Photo – Wily Low
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Barring a 40-point explosion in Sunday’s games, Wroten likely won his second Pac-12 Player of the Week award after leading the Huskies for a second straight game in scoring. On Thursday, he beat Arizona State with the dunk that toppled the Sun Devils. On Saturday, it was the block that rejected Josiah Turner’s potential game-tying layup. Wroten is finding new ways to win games. Hard to believe he did it this time with defense.
Said Romar: “Earlier in the year he wouldn’t have been in position to make that play but beause he’s learned more about defensive system he’s in postion to make more plays now. He has that type of capability.”
Wroten made several big plays and little plays. The block was certainly huge, but equally important was his ability to stay on the court after picking up his fourth foul with 5:31 left. He converted 5 of 7 free throws en route to 17 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists, which offset five turnovers.
— For awhile, it looked as if Terrence Ross was going to be the game’s star. Once again, he came alive in the second half when he made five shots. It felt as if each was turned the momentum towards the Huskies. He nailed two long jumpers in the final six minutes and converted a dazzling baseline layup in traffic. Ross finished with 16 points and it’s not surprising he did some of his best work on the glass where he had seven rebounds. He also had three blocks, three steals and two assists to offset three turnovers. Ross played 36 minutes.
— I asked C.J. Wilcox about his hip after the game. He said it’s still a little sore and spoke as if it gives him problems. It didn’t look as if Wilcox was feeling any discomfort today. He logged 26 minutes and finished with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Wilcox made important plays for the Huskies. When Arizona tied the game at 67-67 with 8.3 seconds left, Wilcox ran to the ball to retrieve the inbound pass. He wanted the ball in his hands and was charging down court to get off a shot. But he was fouled and calmly drained two game-winning free throws with five seconds left.
— Aziz N’Diaye was the unsung hero today. He carried the Huskies early scoring eight of his 12 points in the first half. For awhile, the 7-foot center was so good Arizona was forced to double team him in the post. When is the last time that happened? This is the type of performance Romar envisioned when he said N’Diaye could average a double double. It would have happened today if he’d made a few free throws. Still he finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Two statistics that really jump out. He played 32 minutes against a team that he struggled with last season. N’Diaye also held Jesse Perry to 3-for-14 shooting.
— In some ways, it wasn’t Gaddy’s game. He managed just two points and zero rebound sin 29 minutes. Still Gaddy was instrumental. He never left the court in the first half and kept everyone together when Washington struggled. He had a game-high five assists, but logged just nine minutes after picking up his third foul with 16:34 left and his fourth at the 11:46 mark.
— Desmond Simmons and Gant’s stat line were nearly identical. They shot 1 for 3 from the field and each had four rebounds. Neither could slow down Hill.
— With N’Diaye playing major minutes, there wasn’t much time for Austin Seferian-Jenkins to make a big impact off the bench. He had three rebounds and two points in six minutes.