Until Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp Jr. return from injuries, Washington’s winning formula includes major contributions from C.J. Wilcox, who has scored a career-high 28 and 27 points in the past two games.
It also includes a large helping of Abdul Gaddy, who scored 17 points Wednesday, which is one shy of his career best.
And it entails a big dose of Aziz N’Diaye, who tallied 14 points, one away from his personal high, and eight rebounds.
They played a very high level in Washington’s 66-61 win over Saint Louis and they’ll have to continue to perform at a high level if the Huskies are going to continue their success even against upcoming mid-major opponents like Cal-State Fullerton and Nevada.
The offense has to flow through those three and they have to understand how to play with each other and when to take over the games.
The second half against the Billikens was a perfect example.
Gaddy got it going early. He scored six of UW’s first eight points after the break to put the Huskies up 37-33.
Then N’Diaye scored eight of the next 14 points to lift the Huskies to a 51-48 advantage.
At that point, Wilcox drained consecutive three-pointers and Washington is up 57-48 with 6:51 left. Leading by nine, the Huskies needed to play solid defense, take care of the ball and make a few free throws down the stretch to secure a much needed comfortable victory.
It’s interesting to note that when Washington took control of the game, it went away from its new high-post offense and put the game in the hands of its guards.
“They were really bodying us up, grabbing a lot and holding, just really clogging everything,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “It just kind of slowed us up. When we spread them out we didn’t think that they could beat us off the dribble, and that proved to be true. Our guys got into the lane and made plays.”
Gaddy made a concentrated effort to force the action. He dove into the paint to score layups or draw fouls particularly during the stretch early in the second half when he took over the game. That was probably the turning point of the game.
As good as he was, N’Diaye was just as important. He’s developing as an offensive threat and it was interesting watching the Huskies throw the ball into the big guy in a two-possession game, get out of his way and let him work against 6-11 Rob Loe.
N’Diaye had his moments, but if Wilcox doesn’t put together one of the finest shooting displays in UW history then Washington probably loses a third straight game. He converted 11 of 13 shots, including 4 of 5 three-pointers.
“Those guys right now are showing they’re the most capable until we get our other guys back,” Romar said. “When we have such a short bench, you count on those guys to bring it every game.
“If one of those guys don’t play as well it will be tougher because we don’t have a lot of options because of injuries right now.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Wilcox said his he’s still feeling the effects from a bruised tailbone suffered Saturday. He experienced cramping in his back, but it didn’t look like he was hurting when he was shooting the lights out of Hec Ed. Tonight’s performance easily surpasses Saturday’s game when he scored a career-high 28 points because Wilcox was much more efficient against Saint Louis. He took nearly half as many shots (13 to 25) and the same number of three-pointers (five) while still leading the way offensively. Wilcox moved into a fourth-place tie with Curtis Allen on UW’s all-time three-point list. Both have 151. Wilcox is 14 away from passing Isaiah Thomas and moving into third place. Ryan Appleby (231) tops the list and Deon Luton is (212) is second.
Wilcox did his best work inside the arc. He had a lot of success running along the baseline, curling around a screen and pulling up to hit a running floater just below the free throw line. Wilcox played 37 minutes.
— Gaddy would have surpassed his career high if he had done a better job at the line where he was 4 of 7. He shot 82 percent as a sophomore, but last season that dipped to 69 percent and this year it was at 68 before Wednesday. Shoddy free throws were one of two problems for Gaddy, who had difficulties for stint of keeping SLU’s Jordair Jett out of the lane. Still Gaddy overcame his problems with a solid performance. He blocked a shot, took a charge, collected two rebounds and scored at least 15 points for the fifth time this season.
— N’Diaye’s jump hook is looking better than ever. Sometimes he doesn’t even jump. He’ll lull his defender with a few dribbles before extending and flipping the ball off the glass. At least on two occasions, the Huskies threw the ball into the post, N’Diaye threw it back out before re-setting and establishing better position and retrieving the ball again. That was new. In the past, if N’Diaye gave up the ball the guards wouldn’t go back to him.
N’Diaye also did a nice job catching a low pass from Andrew Andrews and flushing a dunk. He had a misconnection with Wilcox and someone else missed him on an entry pass, but the Huskies made a point to try and get the ball inside. Both teams scored 28 points in the paint.
— Jernard Jarreau scored all of his six points in the first half and he had four of his six rebounds in the second. It’s obvious Jarreau is the only supporting cast member who has the green light to shoot. He doesn’t hesitate when teams sag off and give him room for a mid-ranger jumper. Jarreau drained three of six shots in the first half. He only took one in the second.
“I thought Jernard Jarreau was very good,” Romar said. “He made some defensive mistakes, but he was aggressive. He took shots when he needed to.”
— In his first start, Andrews finished with a personal best five assists. He was also responsible for holding Mike McCall Jr. (11 points, six assists) in check. Andrews continues to struggle with his shot. He was 0 for 3 and is 6 for 27 this season. However, he’s pretty good at the line where he made 3 of 4 and is 22 of 30 this season.
— Desmond Simmons and Hikeem Stewart were scoreless in 32 combined minutes, but that’s not their job. Simmons did an outstanding job defensively on SLU’s leading scorer Dwayne Evans, who finished with eight points. Simmons also had five rebounds. Stewart collected two boards and played solid defense.