Strange game for Washington. The Huskies shot better behind the arc than they do inside the semi-circle. They connected on 9 of 25 three-pointers (36 percent) while shooting just 28.1 percent (9 of 32) on shots inside the arc.
Perhaps even more bizarre, Washington drained 22 of 24 free throws and shot a season-high 91.7 percent at the line.
UW forwards Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau struggled from close range. They combined to make 1 of 12 shots. And Andrew Andrews still has been unable to find the shooting stroke. He was 1 for 6.
But thanks to C.J. Wilcox, Aziz N’Diaye (near right) and Abdul Gaddy, Washington managed to win 67-57 in a game that was probably a step backwards in spite of the win. The Huskies took the lead two minutes into the game and never trailed again. They led by as many as 15 with 14:28 left in the second half, but they staggered down the stretch and nearly ran out of gas.
Washington converted just one field goal in the final 9:44 minutes and missed seven field goal attempts. Gaddy’s three-pointer with 3:06 left was the only field goal that fell and it gave the Huskies an 11-point lead (63-52).
However, NIU scored five unanswered points to cut its lead to six (63-57) at the 1:43 mark.
Perhaps appropriately, the game was decided on a missed shot and a rebound, considering UW dominated the glass 42-30.
Scott Suggs missed a mid-range jumper. Simmons tipped the ball to Gaddy who collected the rebound. He was fouled and made two. Wilcox also made two on the next possession while NIU finished the game with two missed three-pointers.
Washington never delivered a knockout punch like it did Thursday against Cal Poly. Instead, the Huskies hung on and waited for the clock to expire on NIU, which fell to 2-9.
There weren’t many positives for the Huskies. They improved to 8-4, but a win against a team with a 326 RPI rating isn’t going to bolster the resume. They got good work against a full-court press. Andrews, playing his second game since a three-game injury layoff, nearly doubled his minutes from Thursday. N’Diaye and Wilcox proved again they can dominate against lesser-caliber opponents.
“Interesting game for us, I can’t remember a game where we shot 31% from the field, that hadn’t been a pattern for this team,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “You go back and look, 11 years that we’ve been here, and I think we shot under 47 percent maybe one or two times in eleven years, so we have been shooting a high percentage and then tonight all of a sudden, with a lot of open looks the ball didn’t go down. Thank goodness our free throws did and I don’ t know if that was a carry over to some other areas of the game. We didn’t have 20 turnovers but our turnovers led to points for them, made it a little easier for them to get buckets at times. But give them credit, they are a scrappy team. (NIU’s Abdel Nader) is very good offensive player, hard to deal with.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Wilcox is the only UW player to score in double figures in every game. With more than a third of the regular season completed, he’s looking like the real deal. He took 10 three-pointers and made four, but it didn’t feel like he was gunning without purpose. Most were open looks and good shots. Even better, Wilcox was 8 for 8 at the line. He also had seven rebounds. He’s starting to get fouled because he’s rebounding, which is interesting. Twice he had good position for a rebound, but drew a foul and went the line and scored points. Wilcox also had two steals and two assists. He’s trying to be a playmaker and twice he made silly passes into the post that had no chance of connecting. He finished with three turnovers.
— N’Diaye had eight of his 12 rebounds on the offensive glass. With the big fella leading the way, UW had 22 offensive boards. N’Diaye is the tone setter. He gets things started. If he can make a few baskets early, it seems to get everyone into a nice flow. He was 5 of 7 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line for 13 points. He also had block and a steal. N’Diaye drew raves for two hustle plays. Early in the game, he took out two rows of courtside fans along the baseline when he dove into the stands for a loose ball. Later he fell hard after jumping to block a shot.
— Considering the other UW players made 15 of 18 field goals, it’s impressive Gaddy finished with a season-high tying six assists. He probably could have had 10, but the shots just weren’t falling tonight. Gaddy was 3 of 7 from the field. He also had a season-high tying five rebounds to offset three turnovers in 32 minutes.
— Romar said Suggs will be bothered by plantar fasciitis in his right foot all season and maybe the soreness attributed to his woeful 3-of-11 shooting performance. He was 1 of 5 on three-pointers and finished with nine points in 32 minutes. It’s the first time he’s been held to under 10 in a game that he’s finished. Despite the sub-par offensive showing, Suggs provided quality defense on Nader.
— Andrews played 26 minutes after playing 14 on Thursday. With Wilcox and Suggs on the floor, he’s going to get open jumpers and will need to do a better job of converting. Tonight he was 1 of 5 on three-pointers and 1 of 6 from the field. He’s converted 5 of 23 treys this season.
— Simmons had more rebounds (five) than points (four), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He was 1 of 5 from the field.
— For the second straight outing, it was nearly an identical performance for Kemp and Jarreau. Kemp missed all four of his shots, Jarreau was 0 for 3. Jarreau had three rebounds, Kemp two. Kemp played 12 minutes, Jarreau eight. Both finished with two points.
— Hikeem Stewart played three minutes.