Five years ago when C.J. Wilcox and Lorenzo Romar decided the skinny sharp-shooter from Pleasant Grove, Utah was going to redshirt and sit out his freshman season, they probably envisioned nights like Thursday.
There was Wilcox, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior co-captain, with the ball and Washington’s fate in his hands.
He didn’t rush. He didn’t panic. He did what came natural – bury a three-pointer with 44 seconds left, which delivered the proverbial dagger in UW’s 80-76 win over Oregon.
“At this point it’s just repetition,” Wilcox said. “You’ve done it million times. It’s just something that you’ve done before. In the gym. By yourself. You don’t really think about the pressure at the time. It’s just a shot that you know you can make and you take it.”
Wilcox scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. He did a little bit of everything. He made 5 of 6 three-pointers. He was 7 for 11 from the field. He blocked three shots, collected three steals and three rebounds while dishing out three assists in 38 minutes. It was a virtuoso performance.
Romar knew always knew this day would come. Even when he was taking heat five years ago for leaving one of the team’s best shooters on the bench. He knew the payoff at the end of Wilcox’s career would be far greater than anything he might have done as a true freshman.
“We expect him to do (that) now at this point,” Romar said. “He’s not only a fifth-year senior. He’s one of the best guards in America. And when you’re one of those guys, they make those type of plays at the end. He’s kind of been doing that lately.”
Washington rallied from a 35-33 halftime deficit. The Huskies outscored the Ducks 47-41 in the second half. UW lost the rebounding battle 32-25 and struggled at the free throw line (21 of 32 for 65.6 percent).
However, the Huskies made amends with a terrific offensive display. They shot a season high 57.8 percent from the field. Aside from a few miscues, they broke Oregon’s back-court trap and converted at the other end for dunks and layups.
And the UW players displayed the maturity to pull out a see-saw battle in which neither team led by more than seven points, the score was tied 13 times and the lead changed nine times.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Wilcox bounced from from Saturday’s nine-point outing at Stanford, which was the first time he’s failed to score in double figures. He’s currently eighth on the Pac-12 all-time three-point list at 271 behind former Arizona star Damon Stoudamire.
— Andrew Andrews carried the Huskies early scoring 12 of his 17 points in the first half. In the second half, he became a playmaker distributing 5 of his 6 assists. Andrews was 8 of 10 on free throws and he drained a big three-pointer in the first half. He also executed a nifty euro-step around a defender for a layup. But it was his free throw with 5.2 seconds left that put UW ahead by four and capped the scoring and sealed the win.
— It might be safe to say Perris Blackwell is finally out of his shooting/scoring slump. He showed signs of recovery last Saturday when he had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting at Stanford. Tonight, he was 5 of 7 from the field for 15 points. It was the most points he’s scored since Dec. 27. In the three games prior to the Stanford contest, Blackwell was a combined 2 for 20 from the field for nine points. He had 13 in the second half against Oregon.
— And speaking of comebacks, Darin Johnson where have you been? The first half, he played like the loose-cannon freshman whose been slumping in the second half of the season. In the previous five games, he averaged 2.8 points on 3-for-15 shooting, 1.0 rebounds, 0.2 assists and 1.0 turnovers. In seven second-half minutes Thursday, Johnson had seven points and three rebounds.
Romar on Johnson: “Darin probably gave us the best quality minutes of the year, given the circumstances. It’s a Pac-12 game, and the game is close, and he came in and made some impactful plays. He hit a big 3 for us. He got a big offensive rebound. He rebounded the ball better than he’s been rebounding. He had really good minutes. It’s good to see that. He helped us.”
— Sometimes when Mike Anderson plays well, you hardly notice him. You hardly notice the guy he’s defending too. Anderson held Mike Moser to nine points, which is five points fewer than his scoring average. Anderson collected just two rebounds, but he did a good job of boxing out and forcing Oregon players to foul while attempting to grab rebounds. Anderson was invaluable in breaking Oregon’s press. He was the guy in the front court who caught long passes from guards. Anderson did a nice job of being aggressive after breaking the press and finding an open man for a score. He had three assists.
— Nigel Williams-Goss did his best work on the defensive end against former Findlay Prep teammates Dominic Artis, who had three points on 1-for-6 shooting. Artis made his first start of the season and in hindsight, it may have been a mistake by Oregon coach Dana Altman. Artis was a non-factor offensively and he had three turnovers. Williams-Goss also committed three turnovers, including a bad pass to Anderson late in the game. However, Williams-Goss also had seven points and four assists.
— Shawn Kemp Jr. believed he could build on Saturday’s 13-point outing, but you get the feeling this season is going to be one of fits and starts for the junior forward who was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. Thursday Kemp finished with just as many turnovers (two) as baskets. Still, he produced a highlight in the second half. After Wilcox collected a steal, he dished to Kemp on a fast break who finished with a flamboyant windmill dunk that brought the fans to their feet.
— Desmond Simmons had five rebounds and was scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in 15 minutes.