Something had to change. The Huskies had little energy at the start of Wednesday’s game against Stanford. They had 12 first-half turnovers. They were down six at the break and appeared headed to a fourth straight defeat, which would all but snuff out any chance at earning a NCAA tournament at-large berth.
So coach Lorenzo Romar benched Andrew Andrews in favor of Mike Anderson. Shawn Kemp Jr. also started the second half in place of Perris Blackwell, who stayed in the locker room for about five minutes when the team ran back on the court.
The revamped lineup started the second half with a 12-2 run. Anderson provided timely jumpers and carried the Huskies for a stretch allowing C.J. Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss to take a rest on the offensive end.
Unexpectedly Desmond Simmons hit the biggest shot in the game, drilling a mid-range, baseline jumper with 2:25 left. Almost predictably, Simmons came up with biggest defensive play – drawing a charge with 5.5 seconds on the clock to preserve Washington’s 64-60 win.
It’s silly to believe all of the problems that plagued Washington the past two weeks during its three-game losing streak have been fixed. But then, maybe it’s not so silly at all. Not when you consider the Huskies are 12-2 at home, including 5-0 in Pac-12 play. On the road, they’re 2-7 overall and 1-6 in conference.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been better on the road,” Romar said. “We still have two on the road but I think it’s pretty clear we’re just a different team this year when we’re at home.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— It’s difficult to pick a player of the game because the Huskies took turns carrying Washington to a must-win victory. Still, Williams-Goss had a special game. And he did it with a bruised right hip. Not sure when it happened, but the freshman point guard has elevated to the point where you expect him to play at a high level in every outing. He still commits a few careless turnovers, but with Williams-Goss on the floor UW’s offense is more efficient. When injured his hip and left the game for three minutes the score was tied 41-41 with 13:28 left. The Huskies were a mess. They went 0 for 3 from the field and committed two turnovers. When Williams-Goss returned at the 10:27 mark, Washington traield 46-41. Washington scored on its next six possessions.
Williams-Goss finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, five rebounds, five assists and three turnovers in 34 minutes.
“Nigel is a freshman and at times makes mistakes,” Romar said. “At times he’ll turn the ball over. At times. But if you take that away, he is so heady and so focused on impacting the game the right way, I think it just brings a calm to everyone else. He’s constantly (saying) ‘‘What are we doing next coach? What’s the next thing?’ … He’s constantly doing it. He’s not doing it to get brownie points. He’s doing it because he thinks it’s the best way to get it done. And that’s valuable to have. There’s not many freshmen that have the ability to do that.”
— Wilcox played every minute. He never left the floor, which is befitting of a fifth-year senior co-captain. He rebounded from a 2-for-12 shooting display Sunday and had 17 points. His shooting wasn’t stellar (4 of 14 on field goas, 3 of 10 on three-pointers and 6 of 8 on free throws), but he contributed at both ends of the court. Wilcox had five rebounds, four assists and a steal to offset four turnovers.
— Anderson was the catalyst to the win. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. It was the most points for Anderson since he scored 19 on Nov. 30. He played 17 of 20 minutes in the second half. Anderson converted 4 of 5 field goals, including 2 of 3 three-pointers. He was also 3 of 4 at the line. Anderson finished with three rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal.
Romar said: “We’ve been talking to him all year about being more aggressive. He was just able to stay in there. … You can’t discount the fact that he didn’t play inside all night. He played his natural position, the perimeter. And as I keep saying, Mike is probably the most selfless player on our basketball team in this day and age where everybody has to play the perfect position and all. He didn’t care. He just did it. And I think it wore him down. I really do. Battling, because he’s not going to back down, and battle. Lately he’s been playing more on the perimeter and tonight he didn’t have to battle down there as much but he still battled because that’s his nature. He played a great game.”
— Simmons was in the right spot at the right time. Twice. First he made a timely mid-range jumper. Then he made a headsup play and prevented Stanford’s Chasson Randle from getting to the basket. It wasn’t a perfect game for Simmons. He struggled containing Dwight Powell, who had a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds. Simmons had four points and seven rebounds.
— Kemp was on the floor when momentum shifted to Washington early in the second half. He provided solid defense against Stefan Nastic, who fouled out with 3:06 left. Kemp had a nice flurry in the second half when he flushed two highlight-worthy dunks. Still, the 6-9 junior has got to get more than one rebound in 22 minutes.
— Blackwell held his own inside against Stanford’s big front line that dominated the first meeting. He had no choice and repeatedly challenged the Cardinal inside. Blackwell made 3 of 6 shots for six points. He also had eight rebounds. Perhaps most remarkable, Blackwell didn’t draw a foul in 31 minutes.
— Andrews played a season-low five minutes and didn’t get off the bench in the second half. It just wasn’t his game. Officially, he had one turnover but he threw two bad passes that were intercepted and returned for layups. Andrews dealt with an sprained ankle last week, but said days ago the injury isn’t an excuse to explain his poor shooting during UW’s three-game road trip.
When asked why Andrews didn’t play after the break, Romar said: “The way we were going, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. One of those situations. Our guys were playing really well.”
Romar said it’s possible he’ll start Anderson ahead of Andrews in the next game.
— Darin Johnson has to figure out a way to make a consistent, positive contribution. Right now, he looks lost. Especially on the offensive end. It appears as if the stage is too big for him or the game is moving too fast. He had a nice defensive rotation and blocked a shot, which was his best play of the game. On the offensive end, the ball tends to get stuck in his hands. He gets isolated and tries to go one on one and that’s when trouble happens. Johnson had two turnovers.
— Jahmel Taylor played three scoreless minutes when Williams-Goss was out.