Monday, February 21, 2011

Williams steps up huge as #12 Arizona survives 87-86 over Washington

By Kshell

In a game which featured a "white out" theme the atmosphere was electric in Tucson, Arizona. When a game lives up to the hype you have an instant classic which was the case today as Derrick Williams led the 12th ranked Arizona Wildcats(23-4,12-2) to a controversial one point victory over the Washington Huskies(18-8,10-5). This win by the Wildcats basically clinched the Pac-10 title for the Wildcats while the Huskies will have a long plane ride home wondering what could have been. The Huskies once again couldn't come through down the stretch falling to 0-5 in games decided by less than five points. Unlike last game where Thomas pulled ahead in the player of the year race, Williams probably clinched the award. Williams scored 26 points including a huge three pointer to give the Wildcats the lead and grabbed 11 rebounds. Williams also had two blocks including the game winner which had some controversy on it which I'll talk about later. Just like in games past in this rivalry the Huskies and Wildcats put on another instant classic and showed the nation the Pac-10 can play good basketball. The Huskies showed they can hang tough on the road now they need to finally win one of these games.

The Arizona Wildcats shot lights out in the first half. The Huskies simply couldn't keep up. The Wildcats led by as many as 12 points and if not for freshman C.J. Wilcox keeping the Huskies in the game the Huskies could have been blown out. The Huskies hung tough in the first half but found themselves trailing 49-40. The Wildcats shot 15-37(40.5%) from the field but an unrealistic 8-11(72.7%) from three pointers and 11-13(84.6%) from the free throw line. The Huskies didn't shoot bad though shooting 13-28(46.4%) from the field but just 3-12(25.0%) from three point range and just 11-16(68.8%) from the foul line. In the first half Williams was the star for Arizona scoring 11 points on three for eight shooting including a three pointer while grabbing seven rebounds. The Wildcats dominated the rebounds in the first half.

For the Huskies they were led by freshman C.J. Wilcox who overcame two air balls to score 11 points on four for eight shooting including hitting two three pointers. Isaiah Thomas scored eight points on two for two shooting while dishing out six assists. Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored six points on three for seven shooting and Justin Holiday scored five points on two for five shooting including a three pointer. The Huskies were getting killed on the three pointers and rebounds. In the second half they would correct that which would make for a terrific second half.

In the second half the Huskies started to penetrate the Wildcats defense. Several times Thomas or Venoy Overton would drive the rim and dish to Bryan-Amaning for an easy dunk. Bryan-Amaning scored 18 points on 9-12 shooting in the second half. Wilcox continued to be on fire scoring eight points and nailed both three point attempts. The Huskies in the second half 21-35(60.0%) from the field in the second half. The Huskies even took the lead and stretched it to four points. Then in the final two minutes the Wildcats trailing 84-82 Williams showing why he is the player of the year hit his second three pointer of the game as he scored 10 points in the final six minutes. Then Darnell Gant scored on a putback to give the Huskies a 86-85 lead with 40 seconds to go. With 24 seconds left after a Wildcats miss Solomon Hill scored the putback to give the Wildcats a 87-86 lead. After Lorenzo Romar called timeout the Huskies fed the ball to the hot hand in Bryan-Amaning which the refs called a controversial travel with three seconds to go in the game. The Wildcats failed to inbound the pass so the Huskies had one last chance. Thomas inbounded the ball to Gant who put up the shot and it was apparently blocked by Williams. The Huskies had 0.2 seconds left. That blocked looked more like a goaltending call and if it was a block there should have been 0.9 seconds left. As is the Huskies lose another close game.

The Huskies finished with a tough loss but showed once again they can hang with the best teams in hostile environments. The Huskies now must learn to win these games as they fall to 0-5 in games decided by five points or less. For the Huskies Matthew Bryan-Amaning was the star of the game scoring 24 points on 12-19(63.1%) from the field while grabbing eight rebounds. Bryan-Amaning also tied a school record with seven block shots, stole four passes and dished out four assists. Considering he was going up against a lottery pick both games this year Bryan-Amaning held his own against Williams. Once again for the fourth straight game C.J.Wilcox had a big game scoring 19 points on 7-11(63.6%) from the field and 4-8(50.0%) from three point range. Isaiah Thomas finished with just 12 points on four for nine shooting but did dish out 10 assists. Justin Holiday added 11 points on four for eight shooting. Darnell Gant making his first start since early December scored seven points on three for six shooting with seven rebounds. Venoy Overton scored six points on two for four shooting with three assists. The Huskies played a pretty good game blocking 11 shots, stealing eight passes and committing just 11 turnovers. For the game the Huskies shot 34-63(54.0%) and 13-18 from the foul line(72.2%) when you see those stats that usually results in a win. The Huskies battled and came up short nothing to be depressed about.

The Huskies must come to grips with reality that they won't win the Pac-10 regular season title. The Huskies played a close game and could have easily been blown out given that the Wildcats haven't lost a game at home all year. The Huskies have now lost by a combined two points to two top 15 teams(Texas A & M and Arizona) on the road. The Huskies have proven they can play with anyone in the country now they need to prove they can beat those teams. Hard to be to upset with this loss which the game came down the final possession which in Seattle they call goaltending and the Huskies win. The Huskies won't be playing a true road game rest of the year and won't face a hostile crowd until possibly Pac-10 tournament(semifinal matchup with UCLA potentially). The Huskies are playing well as a team and with Overton and Wilcox appearing to have turned the corner the Huskies should be fine. If the Huskies win out they'll take second place in the conference which means for the fifth time in the last eight years the Huskies will have finished in the top two in the conference.


- Once again Matthew Bryan-Amaning played a really good game. Yet the same fan base who will get upset if you don't say Jake Locker is the greatest quarterback of all-time in Huskies history will continue to bash on Bryan-Amaning I simply don't get it. Does Bryan-Amaning miss some easy shots? Probably but he is still shooting close to 60.0% on the year and played perhaps his best game of his career.

Bryan-Amaning who was going up against Derrick Williams who will be a top five lottery pick in this years draft had another good game against Williams. Bryan-Amaning finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 blocks, 4 steals and 4 assists. Look at those numbers again before you rag on Bryan-Amaning. Against Williams this year the best big man he has faced all year Bryan-Amaning in two games averaged 21.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 5.0 blocks per game. He also shot 19-32(59.4%) from the field against Williams. Williams against the Huskies this year has averaged 24.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG and 1.0 BPG while shooting 16-31(51.6%) from the field. So Williams is slighty getting the better of the matchup and considering he is a lottery pick Bryan-Amaning is doing just fine in this matchup.

- Once again C.J. Wilcox appears to be finally healthy or over the freshman wall. Whatever it is this makes the Huskies a dangerous team going forward. If you are going to be a three point shooting team you need Wilcox to be that guy. Wilcox and Scott Suggs I have no problem with jacking up a bunch of threes because they are shooters. Wilcox kept the Huskies in this game with his shooting scoring 19 points one shy of a career high and easily his best Pac-10 game.

Wilcox in the past four games is averaging 14.8 points per game. He is shooting 20-37(54.0%) from the field and shooting 14-31(45.1%) from three point range during this four game stretch. As you have noticed Wilcox on two point shots is a perfect six for six. He is starting to drive a little bit and pull up for the easy two point shot. He has hit 44 three pointers already and considering he had a 11 game stretch where he made just five three pointers that is pretty impressive. When Suggs returns the Huskies will have two great three point shooters which should open up drives by Thomas and Overton.

- The officiating in this game was downright horrible. I didn't want to blame the refs and by no way am I blaming the refs but star treatment towards Derrick Williams was ridiculous. Williams played 35 minutes and didn't record a single foul despite being a big guy who bangs inside. I'm sure the argument will be "well they let the kids play". Not exactly since Aziz N'Diaye had four fouls, Darnell Gant had four fouls and Matthew Bryan-Amaning had three fouls. Williams went to the foul line nine times while Bryan-Amaning despite attempting 19 field goal attempts which are all short range didn't shoot a single free throw.

The final three seconds also said a lot about the refs. After all game the Huskies getting bodied they called a suspect traveling call on Bryan-Amaning. Then the non goal tending call on Gant from the Williams block. If you are letting the kids play then don't call a suspect traveling call on Bryan-Amaning. Like I said the refs didn't lose the game for the Huskies but it sure felt like the Huskies were robbed. Oh by the way the Huskies shot just two free throws in the entire second half.

- The main reason the Wildcats won the game was because of rebounding. The normally good rebounding Huskies were outrebounded 35-22 including the Wildcats grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. Williams also wrapped up the Pac-10 player of the year award.

When the game was on the line Williams came up huge scoring 10 points including a three pointer. He also had the block that ultimately won the Wildcats the Pac-10 regular season title. This will be Arizona's first Pac-10 regular season championship since the 2004-2005 season which saw the Wildcats go to the elite 8.

The Sophomore forward on the year is averaging 19.7 points per game, 8.1 rebounds a game and shooting 63.1% from the field. He was also 2-2 from three's against the Huskies which was no accident. He is 27-40(67.5%) on the year from three point range. In Pac-10 play he is 14-21(66.7%) from three point range. So him shooting open three's isn't just some regular big guy shooting from the outside. This is why Williams will be a lottery pick because he is such a good scorer. He is the best player in the conference and is on the Pac-10 championship team. Open and shut case Derrick Williams will be the Pac-10 player of the year and should be.

- Whenever you lose a close game the first person to be second guessed is almost always the coach. In this game I won't second guess Lorenzo Romar although the Huskies fall to 0-5 in games decided by five points or less and 1-7 in games by 10 points or less.

However if you look at Romar's record in such games he is 28-26(.518) in games by five points or less and is 65-54(.546) in games decided by 10 points or less. Obviously those records aren't great but they aren't as bad as most would think. Before this year no Romar NCAA tournament team had ever had a losing record in these close games. So obviously this year is the exception and not the rule. Last year the Huskies were 4-2 in games decided by five points or less and 10-4 in games by 10 points or less.

The reason the Huskies don't win close games this year isn't because of Romar more so they don't have a go to guy. For an example when Brandon Roy was a Junior and Senior the Huskies were 12-2(.857) in games by five points or less and 22-8(.733) in games by 10 points or less. However the Huskies are just 11-20(.354) in five points or less and 35-34(.507) in games by 10 points or less. Romar didn't suddenly forget how to coach games down the stretch but he didn't recruit a player who be that go to guy. Quincy Pondexter was last year which is why the Huskies did well in those close games. This year they don't have that guy hopefully next year Terrence Ross or Tony Wroten who are both big guards can be that go to guy.

All in all the Huskies played a good tough game on the road and came up short again. The Huskies will finish the year with a game at Seattle University which will see plenty of Purple at Key Arena. Then the Huskies will close the year out with three straight home games. Unless the Huskies fall apart for the third straight year they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies are starting to come together as a team and the only concern is finding a go to guy. The Huskies can still take second place in the conference which wasn't the goal but still better than last year. The Huskies will be in good shape and this loss proved that the Pac-10 is back and the Huskies are starting to play well as a team. I'm not a believer in moral victories but the Huskies showed a lot more in losing than they had the previous three losses. The Huskies will be fine and this season will ultimately be judge based on what they do in March whether that is fair or not. The Huskies must learn to win these close games if they want to reach their first elite 8 under Lorenzo Romar.

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