C.J. Wilcox made a noteworthy observation after Washington’s 75-72 hard-fought win at Oregon State.
“We know when we play on the road we have to grind out wins,” he said. “We’re not going to blow a team out. We’re not going to play amazing. Weird stuff happens so we’re going to have to grind it out and get the job done.”
In their four conference road wins, the Huskies have won by an average of 3.3 points. They beat Utah (57-53), Arizona State (60-54) and Arizona (69-67).
In many ways today’s game had a similar feel.
Momentum was a rare commodity. The lead sea-sawed 11 times and Washington worked hard to tie the score 31-31 at halftime. The Huskies took the lead for good with 5:01 left and they hung on in the end thanks to timely free throw shooting.
They’re one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the Pac-12 (actually they’re 11th at 61.7 percent), but they made 10 of 15 at the line in the final 2 1/2 minutes when it mattered most.
The Huskies shot a season low 34.8 percent (23 of 66) from the field and won a game on the road. Imagine that. Their previous worse was 36.4 percent Thursday at Oregon and they lost by 25 points.
Washington played much better defense. Oregon State shot 41.3 percent from the field, including 4 of 16 three-pointers. The Huskies were also helped by OSU’s shoddy free-throw shooting. The Beavers made 16 of 26 at the line.
“That’s the kind of team you aspire to be,” OSU coach Craig Robinson said. “You aspire to be that team where you don’t necessarily shoot your best percentage and you still win a game on the road. We’re not there yet.”
This game felt a lot like the win at Arizona. The Huskies didn’t do anything amazing. They received 21 points and 13 rebounds from Terrence Ross (above, left), but everyone else played within their roles. They controlled tempo, committed just 11 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 47-41.
“I thought today we were much more dialed in,” coach Lorenzo Romar said.
It’s interesting to note the Huskies are treating every game like a must-win game.
Ross likened the raucous setting at Gill Coliseum to an NCAA tournament environment. OSU drew a season-high 8,027 at the game and the Huskies weren’t fazed by their surroundings.
They understand what’s at stake.
“We know if we don’t win the outright, we need to win the Pac-12 Tournament which is hard to do,” Wilcox said.
Only five games remain. Two at home next week against Arizona State and Arizona followed by three on the road at Washington State, USC and UCLA.
Washington (17-8) is tied with California (20-6) at 10-3.
Romar admits he’s been watching the scoreboard lately.
“Now I do at this point,” he said. “You follow the whole league. I know every score of every game. … You know who’s right there with you.”
Photo credit: AP Photo – Don Ryan
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Ross notched the sixth double of his career and at times looked like the best player on the floor in an audience that included a half dozen NBA scouts. He missed his first four shots and still finished with a team-high 21 points. Granted it took him 21 shots to get there, but the Huskies will live with their best player taking the lion’s share of the attempts. Especially when he collects 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Ross also attempted seven free throws and made six.
Robinson on Ross: “In the first half we did a decent job of it (slowing him down). I don’t think you necessarily slow down a guy like that. I’m not an NBA guy, but I’ve heard that guy is good enough. What we had to do was change defenses. We tried a smaller guy on him and he still had a great game. So maybe I’m not the guy to ask.”
— Wilcox scored 17 of Washington’s 24 bench points. That’s a big number considering OSU got just seven points from reserves. Wilcox scored in an unusual fashion, which was good to see. He missed 5 of 7 three-pointers and recognized his shot wasn’t falling. So he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim where he made layups or drew fouls. He attempted nine free throws – the second most in his career – and made seven. He also scored on two deft dribble drive layups. Wilcox admits his hip still bothers him after games and he’s not allowed to practice much during the week.
“I’m just not getting reps at practice and it’s tough with my shooting,” he said. “My shot’s not falling so I have to find other ways to help.”
— Abdul Gaddy didn’t shoot particularly well, but he was effective running the offense. Romar said he spoke with his point guard before the game and reminded him he had one of his better performances the last time against OSU when he had 13 points and six assists. Today Gaddy managed just eight points, his most in the past five games, on 3-for-10 shooting. But he did his best work as a floor general and the statistics don’t reflect his contribution. It’s difficult to describe what he does. Often he makes hockey assists, which means he’ll make the proper pass before someone else gets the assist.
Against OSU’s soft press, he was never rattled and beat the pressure with nifty bounce passes between defenders. Gaddy nailed two of three three-pointers. He also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Gaddy: “Our backs were really against the wall. I was trying not to lose. I wasn’t going to let us lose.”
— Desmond Simmons made everyone forget his four turnovers when he sank two very big free throws with 22 seconds left that gave UW a 72-68 lead. He was 4 of 4 at the line. Considering he was shooting 59 percent at the line before today, he had an outstanding game due to his foul shots. Simmons also hauled in nine rebounds, the most in the past 12 games.
— Tony Wroten Jr. dominated OSU last time, but the Beavers came out in a zone which partially neutralized the freshman guard. He air balled a mid-range jumper and his best offense was driving hard into the middle, throwing the ball off the glass and collecting the rebound for a putback or drawing a foul. Five of Wroten’s seven rebounds were on the offensive end. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting. He also had three assists – including two alley-oop lobs to Ross for dunks – and two steals, which offset three turnovers.
— Aziz N’Diaye tends to struggle against mobile big men like Angus Brandt who had 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. N’Diaye countered with six points and three rebounds in 24 minutes.
— Darnell Gant struggled with fouls. He was disqualified after just 10 minutes. He had more fouls (five) than field goal attempts (four), rebounds (three) or points (two).
— Shawn Kemp Jr. and Austin Seferian-Jenkins came off the bench and combined for 15 minutes, five points and two rebounds.
CORRECTED: 10:25 p.m.