Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2nd ranked Michigan State beats11th Washington in third place game 76-71

By Kshell

The #11 Washington Huskies(3-2) drop another close contest to an elite program like #2 Michigan State(4-1) 76-71 in the Maui Invitational. This tournament was a chance for the Huskies to make a name for themselves across the country instead they are left flying home wondering what if? The Huskies blew a 44-34 halftime lead as the three point shot disappeared for the second straight game. In a close contest once again the Huskies just couldn't come up with that big shot to give them that big win.

The Huskies just like yesterday against Kentucky started off slow in the first half. The Huskies found themselves trailing 20-11 before going on a run ignited by Senior Co-Captain Justin Holiday who stole a pass for a layup, made another bucket then had a dunk plus free throw and the Huskies tied the score up at 22-22. The Huskies would continue to go on their run with Darnell Gant hitting another three pointer while scoring seven points in the first half. Then Isaiah Thomas would lead the Huskies with 10 points in the first half as the Huskies forced 16 turnovers on Michigan State. The Huskies took a commanding 44-34 lead at halftime as it was looking like they were finally going to get a win over an elite program. Well that is why we play two halves and unfortunately for Huskies fans the second half was a disaster.

The second half the Spartans wasted no time cutting into the Huskies lead cutting it to 46-42. The teams traded baskets back and forth after that. A turning point was when Washington was up 50-49 and Isaiah Thomas was fouled shooting a three pointer but made just one free throw, the Spartans then hit a three pointer to take the lead. The game would go back and forth as Justin Holiday hit a three pointer to give the Huskies their final lead of the game 64-62 with about five minutes to go in the game. At the end of the day Michigan State hit some huge shots including a three pointer by Durrell Summers to give the Spartans a 72-68 lead. After Isaiah Thomas scored a layup to cut the lead to 72-70 the Huskies turned up the defense and forced a turnover. The Huskies were down by two with just 24 seconds remaining after a timeout had 13 seconds. The game then came down to Matthew Bryan-Amaning who was fouled with 13 seconds to go. Bryan-Amaning sank the first free throw but then he missed the second free throw. Michigan State made both free throws and the Huskies game basically ended when C.J. Wilcox who had played just three minutes all game and playing for the first time all second half air balled a three pointer. The Huskies would leave Maui 1-2 with two games they let slip away.

Now the Huskies must find a way to regroup. That shouldn't be a problem as the Huskies came out and battled Michigan State. The facts are the Huskies lost to two really good teams in the last 24 hours. Another fact is that the Huskies continue to struggle against top notch competition. The Huskies still haven't beaten a non conference ranked opponent on a road game or neutral court since November of 2004 when the Huskies won the Great Alaska Shootout. Ever since then the Huskies have mostly been blown out or find ways to lose. The Huskies unfortunately because the Pac-10 is viewed as being weak won't get another chance until March. The Huskies season is far from over in fact it has just begun but these last 24 hours was a big missed opportunity.


- Although Abdul Gaddy didn't play great today I like it better when he is in the game. Gaddy finished with just eight points and one assist but there is a flow to our offense. While with Overton and Thomas on the court at the same time it turns into street ball and non stop erratic play.

- When is Matthew Bryan-Amaning finally going to step his game up? I know statistically he had a good game with 5-10 shooting,5-7 FT's with with 15 points and six rebounds. My eyes say otherwise as he missed five close range shots and still isn't a presence in the paint unlike Aziz N'Diaye. I don't get why Romar didn't play N'Diaye more than just 15 minutes where he had five rebounds. N'Diaye isn't a great scorer but he forces teams to shoot from the outside.

- Where has the three point shot gone? The Huskies were 42-89 from three point range first three days. The last two games they have been just 9 of 32(28%). Instead of hitting on average 14 three pointers a game the Huskies hit just 4.5 a game the last two days. The Huskies must find a way to get points and not become reliant on fast break points or three point shots.

- The Huskies struggle against the elite opponents out of conference. The Huskies have found a way to be the elite of the Pac-10 but must find a way to be an elite team in the country. The Huskies have lost over the years to such powerful programs as Lousiville, UCONN, Syracuse, Pittsburgh twice, Kansas, Florida, West Virginia, Kentucky and now Michigan State. The Huskies if they want to get to that elite level must start winning these games not just competing.

- Isaiah Thomas had a horrible 24 hour stretch scoring just 13 points on 4-11 shooting. Thomas has shot 8-25(32.0%) from the field including 1-7(14.3%) from three point range and hitting just 9-17(52.9%) from the free throw line. Overall a poor shooting two days for Thomas against two elite teams. Unfortunately for Thomas and the rest of the team this was their last chance until March to make a statement nationally.

All in all, the Huskies must keep things in perspective. They can still win the Pac-10 championship which is the goal, they can still make the sweet 16 which is always the goal as well. The Huskies must improve on their half court offense which has been the biggest weakness of Lorenzo Romar. Romar is a great recruiter and his players develop really well but his lack of a half court offense all these years has killed the Huskies in games like today. The Huskies will get a week off before they play Long Beach State then they will get a rematch against Texas Tech on Saturday December 4th. The Huskies have a long ways to go before they reach elite status.

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