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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

February 2, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Washington stands alone on top of the Pac-12

Thanks to Kyle McCormick for the highlights (above).
About two hours after Washington’s 71-69 win over UCLA, California lost 78-74 at home to Arizona to fall out of a first-place tie with the Huskies in the Pac-12.
Washington doesn’t need help from anyone. Not any more. The Huskies control their destiny. They stand alone at the top of the standings and over the next six weeks they’ll decide if they win a regular-season conference championship and earn a NCAA tournament berth.
The Huskies improved to 15-7 and 8-2. They took sole possession of first place. Cal (17-6, 7-3), Oregon (16-6, 7-3) and Colorado (15-7, 7-3) are in second place.
Eight games remain. Washington plays USC, at Oregon and Oregon State and home against Arizona and Arizona State before finishing with three straight road games at Washington State, USC and UCLA.
Oregon and Arizona are the only schools with winning conference records.
Washington can’t get caught napping, which is almost what happened tonight. The Huskies sleepwalked through the first 34 minutes and trailed 65-55 with 6:02 left. They finished the game on a 16-4 run.
The Huskies have played better this season, but tonight might have been their grittiest and gutsiest performance.
“I think it showed our maturity,” Abdul Gaddy said. “We were down 10 points and we fought back. We wanted to prove our maturity; we had a will to win. Down the stretch we started getting stops, and then we went to our guy, Terrance Ross.”
There’s something about the second half and Ross. Maybe he likes shooting on the UW end of the court at Edmundson Pavilion. When asked about that, he laughed sheepishly and said that wasn’t the case.
Whatever it is, Ross is developing a reputation as a slow starter and a closer. He did it against Washington State and Stanford. And he did it again tonight scoring 18 of his 22 points in the second half.
With Ross providing the points, the Huskies shut down the Bruins and Joshua Smith in the final minutes. They had no answer for UCLA’s 305-pound center for most of the game. He finished with a career-high 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting and nine rebounds.
It looked as if Smith was going to be the star in the game. However, he scored his last basket with 56 seconds left and failed to secure a rebound in the final seconds as time expired.
Credit the Huskies for playing great defense on the final possession and not allowing UCLA to get the ball inside to Smith. Coach Ben Howland had a timeout, but chose not to use it when Ross missed a jumper with 26 seconds left.
The Bruins had plenty of time to get a good shot, but Washington denied everything. Freshman guard Norman Powell drove right around Darnell Gant, but was cut off by Aziz N’Diaye who came over to help. Powell pulled up for a mid-range jumper that was contested by Gant.
The shot rattled around the rim. Ross, who stands 6-6, pushed Smith beneath the rim and Gaddy, who stands 6-3, buried 6-10 David Wear beneath the glass. Smith was still able to get his hands on the loose ball before N’Diaye secured the rebound.
“We were trying to get something inside, something to the opposite side and nothing presented itself,” Howland said. “It actually wasn’t that bad of a shot, he (Norman Powell) kind of fell away a little bit, but it wasn’t a terrible shot.”
Maybe not terrible, but it wasn’t the first, second or third option. The Huskies’ defense was so good, they made a freshman guard, who was 1 for 3 in the game, shoot a contested shot.
“Tonight we were a little scattered,” Romar said. “And I thought we were scattered in practice yesterday. One of the things we talked to the team about was handling success. It’s human nature when things are going well to relax a little bit and we tried to guard against it. We talked about it and talked about it, but we just weren’t that fist together.
“The last few minutes we became a team.”
Let’s finish with the streaks.
Washington has won four straight overall and posted four consecutive wins over UCLA. That’s the first time in school history the Huskies won four in a row over the Bruins.
Washington also ran its home winning streak against UCLA to eight straight games.
“If we would have lost tonight I don’t know what I would have done,” Gant said. “When we won I was telling Scott [Suggs] I almost cry, I really did, and I don’t cry like that. The fact that it’s so emotional, and we pulled that win off, we dodged a bullet. We are battling for a Pac-12 championship, and we don’t want to look back in the summer time and say what if, what if we played harder in that UCLA game.”

Photo credit: Seattle Times – Dean Rutz
— Ross is maddening. He’ll disappear for long minutes, halves even. Then the sophomore guard will explode for a series of jumpers and before anyone knows it, he has 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting and he’s carried the Huskies to a win in a game they probably should have lost. In the first half, Ross was content to let others carry the scoring load. But when it mattered, the Huskies got him the ball. Ross also has four assists, two blocks and a steal to offset three turnovers. He played 34 minutes.
Gant on Ross: “The thing about Terrance is, people sleep on his will to win. That guy has a will to win. He might be quiet to everybody else, but the things I catch him saying in the locker room and the things he says personally, man that guy has a will to win. He hates losing. In the second half, I’m not surprised he did that. He always picks it up in the second half. We always tell him any shot is a good shot, and he just carried us in the end.”
— Gant is playing well recently and you wonder if it’s time for him to return to the starting lineup. He managed just one rebound tonight, but Washington needed his 12 points, defense and leadership. Gant had a nice block just before halftime and he came up with two steals. But he made his biggest impact with a consistent fadeaway, mid-range jumper. He’s also one of the first to verbally support teammates. You can tell he’s realizing that his senior year – and likely his basketball career – is coming to an end. It’s obvious Gant wants to end on a high note. He has a chance to become the first UW player to appear in four NCAA tournaments.
— N’Diaye had his hands full with Smith. He got outplayed. However, N’Diaye made significant contributions. For starters, he played 23 minutes and managed to stay on the court despite picking up a fourth foul with 7:51 left. That was huge because Washington needed his 11 rebounds and seven points. The Huskies also needed the 7-foot center to clog the lane. He also finished the game the ball in his hands.
— When the Huskies made their 16-4 run to finish the game, they did it without Tony Wroten Jr. The freshman guard didn’t play the final six minutes and that’s OK. It happens sometimes. With the exception of committing five turnovers, it’s not as if he did anything wrong. He wasn’t in foul trouble and Romar wasn’t punishing him. Romar was simply sticking with the group that was having success and he didn’t make any substitutions in the final minutes. Wroten did appear to move gingerly and was said to have been kneed in the thigh. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
— Gaddy has dished five assists in each of the past three games. His turnovers are creeping up and tonight he had four. Two of them were really bad plays, but he was trying to get the ball inside to N’Diaye. Still, he’s got to take better care of the ball in a close game. Gaddy was really good in the first half finishing through contact and scoring twice despite being fouled. Even though he didn’t have a rebound, he battled with UCLA’s big men beneath the glass and kept them from securing rebounds.
— Where have you been Shawn Kemp Jr.? He played his best game of the season, which says a lot about how the year has been going for the freshman. So often, Kemp failed to make a impact when he was on the court, but tonight he had a few plays that made you notice the 6-9 forward. He took a pass from C.J. Wilcox and flushed a dunk in the first half that reminded me of his dad. He also swatted a short jumper – not sure why it’s not in the official statistics? – and battled Smith in the paint. When Kemp sat down in the first half, the crowd gave him a nice ovation.
— Don’t want to read too much into Wilcox’s 1-for-4 shooting. Of the three misses, he had two good looks that just didnt’ go down. That happens. Still you wonder how not being able to practice is going to affect his game. Good to see Wilcox get to the line four times. He made each one and finished with six points and two assists.
Desmond Simmons may have hit the rookie wall. His minutes have been reduced lately and he’s been slumping in the past five games. Tonight he had two rebounds in 11 minutes. He shot an airball on a mid-range jumper and didn’t come up with many of the hustle plays that he did earlier in the season.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins played five minutes and delivered two hard fouls.

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs


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