Good teams don’t commit 19 turnovers. Especially when they’re on the road in a closely contested game where every possession matters.
And with the outcome hanging in the balance, good teams find a way to win on the final possession.
But then, the Washington Huskies has been a good team in a long time. Maybe they never were. Last Saturday’s win notwithstanding, Washington has struggled since its Jan. 16 win over Colorado.
Their offense has been non-existent. Their three-point shooting has been abysmal in the past three games. And the turnovers continue to pile up.
All three areas of concern played a factor in Thursday’s 59-57 defeat at UCLA.
A lot of attention will be given to Larry Drew II’s ESPN-highlight-worthy, game-winning shot over Shawn Kemp Jr. as time expired (pictured above). Aziz N’Diaye was also in the vicinity, but the 7-foot center arrived too late to alter the shot.
He said: “It was a really good shot.”
But the Huskies lost this game in the first half when they committed 13 turnovers that led to 13 points for the Bruins. They lost when they committed six TOs in the second half. Every intercepted pass, botched exchange, traveling call and offensive foul contributed in the loss.
It’s getting to a point were UW’s turnovers overshadow everything else. You can’t talk about its outstanding defense that held high-scoring UCLA 18 points below its Pac-12 leading scoring average without adding a “yeah but” and segueing back to the turnovers. It’s difficult to praise a defensive effort that limited the Bruins to 33.3 point shooting without noting seven Huskies committed at least one turnover.
Washington outrebounded UCLA 46-36 and had more assists (11-9) and more blocks (3-1).
But turnovers killed 19 possessions for Washington, which shot 24 of 57 percent (.421) from the floor.
“The turnover bug bit us again,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “That’s the difference in the game – 19 turnovers and we lose by two.
“I don’t think you have to look any further. I thought our guys fought. I thought our guys put forth effort. I thought we guarded. I thought we ran offense. We had a lot of open looks we didn’t knock down. But we didn’t take care of the ball.”
It’s the fifth straight game Washington had at least 14 turnovers.
A veteran team that starts four upperclassmen with at least four years of experience shouldn’t make that many miscues.
But C.J. Wilcox had six turnovers. Abdul Gaddy four, Scott Suggs two and N’Diaye one. They’re supposed to be the leaders. But they weren’t the only ones making mistakes. Desmond Simmons had three turnovers, Kemp two and Andrew Andrews one.
“I know I had a traveling call and I’ve had maybe two traveling calls all year,” Simmons said. “I guess I dragged my foot. That can’t happen. I know it. Everybody had something crazy like that.’
Kemp added: “It’s not chemistry or not playing with each other. That’s not it. But for some reason, the turnover thing just keep happening.”
Romar blamed himself. But what can he do at this point in the season? Only eight regular-season games remain. It’s not as if the Huskies are intentionally committing turnovers and benching players such as Wilcox and Gaddy isn’t a great option because of their absence hurts UW’s chances of winning. Besides their backups aren’t ready to carry the load.
It’s likely the turnovers will decrease with greater concentration. A more difficult fix is solving the perimeter shooting woes.
Washington has connected on just 6 of 40 three-pointers in the past three games. The slump coincides with cold streak from Wilcox who is 1 of 14 during the span.
After the game he revealed he’s been dealing with a pain in his left foot. A MRI days ago revealed he’s in the early stages of a stress fracture beneath his fourth and smallest toe.
Wilcox said he doesn’t feel any pain during games, but you have to wonder if the injury has anything to do with his disappearing three-point shot.
At one time he averaged 19.4 points and it’s down to 18.2. He’s finished below his average in five of the past six games. Opposing teams make Wilcox a defensive priority, which probably explains the drop in production. But maybe the injured foot has also attributed to the decline.
Whatever the case, Wilcox doesn’t plan to miss any games in the near future. He’ll play Sunday at USC in what is suddenly a must-win game for the Huskies who are seeking a split on this Los Angeles road trip. They can’t afford another defeat. At least not now.
Washington (13-10, 5-5) has lost five of the last six games. It’s the first time UW has reached 10 defeats in February since the 2007-08 season when it finished 16-17.
“We can’t have these setbacks,” Gaddy said. “You just have to look ahead. There’s a lot of season left.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— N’Diaye finished with a career-high 18 rebounds. He also had 11 points for his 10th double double this season.
“Eighteen rebounds is really hard,” said Simmons who did it in December against Cal State Fullerton. “Sometimes they just fall to you, but you have to work for it. I’m really proud of him for how he played and going out and rebounding like he did.’
— Wilcox represented everything good and bad about the Huskies. He committed six turnovers, including a few of the head-scratching variety. He was 0 for 6 on three-pointers and needed 16 shots to score 15 points. But Wilcox atoned for it all with a daring dribble drive layup over 6-10 forward Travis Wear that tied the score with 10 seconds left. It was the type of play that a star would make. He got himself open despite pressure defense to deny him the ball. Once he got it, he didn’t hesitate. He made a decisive move and finished strong in the paint. Wilcox also collected seven rebounds.
— You ever hear the adage you can’t make scrambled eggs without cracking a few eggs. Well in Gaddy’s case, you can’t finish with eight assists without making four turnovers. When you play 34 minutes and you’ve got the ball in your hands and you’re constantly trying to feed passes into the post or locate shooters on the perimeter, you’re going to commit some mistakes. That’s not an excuse. It’s a fact. Gaddy made many positive contributions including a big three-pointer when Washington trailed 52-48. But those turnovers are a bugaboo. He’s had at least three in the past five games.
— In his third start, Kemp finished with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting. He played a career high 32 minutes. Kemp had trouble defending on the perimeter, but provided a presence inside offensively. He also had four rebounds. Kemp blamed himself for Drew’s last-second shot, which was admirable. But Drew’s game-winner wasn’t Kemp’s fault.
— Suggs, Andrews and Simmons combined for eight points on 3-for-14 shooting. Andrews distinguished himself with six rebounds and Simmons had three. Otherwise the trio had a marginal impact on the game.
— Due to foul trouble, reserves Hikeem Stewart played seven minutes and Jernard Jarreau logged four in the first half.