Monday, March 21, 2011
Huskies season ends in heartbreak to Tar Heels 86-83 in round of 32
The Washington Huskies(24-11,11-7) season comes to a disappointing end to the second seeded North Carolina Tar Heels(28-7,14-2) 86-83. The Huskies had high hopes to begin the year which you can read here. There was talks of Final Fours and this being finally the year. Instead the Huskies fail to reach the sweet 16. The Huskies lost a close game to a tough opponent in which was basically a road game. The Huskies blew an 11 point lead and never trailed by more than two points until two minutes left in the game. Due to costly decision making down the stretch the Huskies season is over. The Tar Heels were led by Tyler Zeller who scored 23 points and Harrison Barnes who scored 22 points. The Huskies were led by freshman Terrence Ross who scored 19 points. The Huskies bench once again was the strength outscoring the Tar Heels bench 41-5 but the Tar Heels starters overcame that by scoring 81 points to the Huskies 42. In the end the season will be viewed as a disappointment to some fans while others are just happy to make the tournament. The Huskies played hard and came out on fire to start the game.
The first half was a high scoring run and gun half for both teams. The Huskies were trailing 15-14 went on a 12-0 run to lead 26-15 over the second seeded Tar Heels. The Tar Heels then responded to even take the lead. Both teams fought back and forth in the first half ultimately ending with the Huskies taking a 45-44 halftime lead over the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels were led Harrison Barnes who scored 14 points on 6-10 shooting including two three's. Tyler Zeller scored 12 points on four for eight shooting and was perfect from his four free throw attempts. The Tar Heels shot 16-36(44.4%) from the field and made three for eight three pointers. The Heels also shot 9-13(69.2%) from the foul line. The Huskies were actually out playing the Tar Heels most of the half.
For the Huskies they were led by freshman Terrence Ross. Ross who didn't score in his first tournament game came out with 12 points on four for five shooting including two three pointers. Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored eight points on four for eight shooting with seven rebounds. Darnell Gant scored six points hitting two three pointers. Isaiah Thomas slumped scoring just four points on two for eight shooting but had three assists. Aziz N'Diaye who was inserted back in the lineup dominated the glass. N'Diaye scored two points but grabbed eight rebounds. The Huskies shot 18-40(45.0%) from the field, 6-13(46.2%) from three point range and were perfect in their three free throws. The Huskies dominated the glass 24-15 despite the Tar Heels height advantage. The Tar Heels in the second started to dominate the paint and closed the gap on the rebounds.
In the second half saw both teams take turns having momentum. The Huskies led 74-69 with under six minutes to go. The Huskies then had a 76-73 lead which saw the Tar Heels go on a 7-0 run to take a 80-76 lead. After a crucial N'Diaye putback to pull the Huskies within 80-78 the Tar Heels went up six with under two minutes to go. After a Huskies bucket to pull within 84-80 with under 30 seconds left Thomas found a wide open Scott Suggs who drilled the three pointer to pull the Huskies within 84-83. The Huskies then fouled Kendall Marshall who was going to shoot a one and one free throw. Marshall missed the free throw and the Huskies got the rebound. Instead of calling their last timeout the Huskies let Venoy Overton take the ball to the hoop as he got his lay up swatted with 10 seconds. Fighting for the rebound the ball went out of bounds with seven seconds remaining. Justin Holiday's inbound pass was tipped and Dexter Strickland was then fouled. He made both free throws to give the Tar Heels an 86-83 lead. Once again Overton made a poor decision as he was expectating a Tar Heel to foul him he threw up a half court shot with 1.2 seconds on the clock. The Huskies caught a break as the ball went off a Tar Heel. So with 0.5 seconds left the Huskies inbounded the ball to Thomas for three and he missed it. The shot could have been called goaltending but on the review Thomas foot was on the line so it didn't matter. The Huskies lost 86-83 ending their season short of expectations.
The Huskies lose a tough close game despite shooting 33-72(45.8%) from the field and 10-19(52.6%) from three point range. The Huskies were even perfect on seven free throw attempts. Despite giving up the size advantage the Huskies outrebounded the Tar Heels 38-33 including 13 offensive rebounds. In the end that wasn't enough for the Huskies as the Tar Heels were led by their five starters who scored 81 points. Led by Zeller with 23 and Barnes with 22. Marshall scored 13 points while dishing out 14 assists. For the Huskies they were led by Ross who scored 19 points on 7-10 shooting including three three pointers and six rebounds. Bryan-Amaning finished his career with 14 points on 7-14 shooting with eight rebounds. Thomas scored just 12 points on 5-15 shooting but did have eight assists. C.J.Wilcox came alive in the second half to score 11 points on four for nine shooting including three three's. Scott Suggs added eight points on two three pointers. Gant scored six points and six rebounds. Overton finished his career with five points and two assists. Justin Holiday continued his shooting slump scoring just four points on two for six shooting. Then N'Diaye provided a lift scoring four points on two for three shooting with 11 rebounds including five offensive. The Huskies played a good game but five bad minutes down the stretch can offset 35 great minutes which is the sad reality of sports.
Overall the Huskies played a good but they just simply lost to the better team. The Huskies now you could argue if they had taken care of business in the regular season they wouldn't be in this position. As for the game itself it was a clean game which the Huskies battled hard. Now the cold reality is three guys on this Huskies team will never wear that Huskies uniform again. The Huskies will be returning six guys from this team along with Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten coming in should be in a position to make some noise next season. As for this year the year that started off with so much promise including at one time a top 10 ranking is over suddenly. Nobody would have accepted a round 32 loss at the start of the year or even three weeks ago. The Huskies didn't achieve their goals and now must always wonder what could have been?
- Years from now people will look back at this game as an instant classic. Unfortunately for Huskies fans they seem to be on the wrong side of those games. In this game you'll notice a young freshman who kept his team in it. No I'm not talking about Harrison Barnes who played great I might add.
Instead I'm talking about Terrence Ross. Ross who showed you why he is still a freshman at times but also showed how the sky is the limit for him. Given the situation of the game and the opponent I'd say this was Ross finest game of his freshman year. Ross started off hot in Pac-10 play averaging 16.0 points per game in his first four games. Then Ross like most freshman hit a wall. It was so bad he played four minutes against UCLA the second to last regular season game then didn't play against USC. Ross rebounded by averaging 15.3 PPG in the Pac-10 tournament being named first team all tournament team.
Then Ross took a big step backwards scoring zero points on 0-5 shooting in 10 lousy minutes against the Georgia Bulldogs. Ross found himself removed from the starting lineup today. Ross hit his first three point attempt in the first half. Ross, unlike Wilcox who can catch fire at any moment, you know what you are getting. Typically with Ross you can tell the game he will have in the first five minutes. Well today Ross grabbed six rebounds and made some nice athletic moves. He also showed he is a good shooter as well. Ross finished the year averaging 8.0 PPG while shooting 44.3% from the field, 35.2% from three's and 75.8% from free throw's. The future is bright with Ross and Wilcox being only freshman.
- The picture to my right is of Thomas giving support to teammate Justin Holiday who made a costly mistake on the inbound pass. Holiday has gone MIA the last seven games. Holiday who worked so hard to improve his scoring all year long. In the team's first 28 games Holiday averaged 11.9 PPG, shot 124-249(49.8%) from the field and 46-115(40.0%) from three point range. As you can see Holiday made great strides in his career but then in the last seven games he reverted back to how he was early in his junior season.
In Holiday's final seven games in a Huskies uniform he averaged just 4.9 PPG while shooting 14-48(29.1%) from the field and was 1-16(6.3%) from three point range. In four of those games Holiday played over 30 minutes despite slumping so badly. One can question why Holiday was even on the floor with those numbers down the stretch. I openly question that as well since as you can see Holiday has been an offensive liability. It is truly a shame Holiday's career ended the way it did. Hopefully the fans can remember the good he did for this school.
- Venoy Overton's career ends with two costly mistakes. Overton played just 12 minutes while scoring five points on one for three shooting. Romar smartly didn't play Overton much instead playing his three wings of Ross, Wilcox and Suggs. Yet with the season on the line on the two most important possessions the season was decided by Overton. Even Overton himself questioned that move after the game.
I'll talk about both plays and one play wasn't Overton's fault in my opinion. Down by one with 17 seconds left Overton chose to push the ball which I hated the decision. Even if he makes the bucket the Tar Heels still have 10 seconds to score the game winning shot. Now some may say Lorenzo Romar trusted his senior to make the right decision but that is just stupid. What makes Overton so great and so frustrating is how reckless he plays. Having said that with the game on the line you don't want that. Romar should have taken a timeout and put the ball in Thomas hands to let him decide the season.
On the half court shot Overton messed up big time. Up three with less than five seconds to go the Huskies expected the Tar Heels to foul them. Overton hoping they would foul him as he threw up that desperation three to earn three free throw's. What Overton should have done is not worry about them fouling him. Overton should have pushed the ball up court and quickly find a shooter. If they foul him simply make the first free throw then miss the second for a tip in or tip out three for the win. Once again remember this was after a made free throw why Overton brought the ball up the court instead of their best player and decision maker Thomas is a bit mind boggling. Once again hopefully the fans remember all the good that Overton did because like Holiday he didn't end his career on a high note at all.
- Pretty amazing the Huskies only lost by three points with Isaiah Thomas shooting 5-15 making zero three pointers. Thomas had just 12 points but did dish out eight assists. Most people figured if the Huskies were to win Thomas would have to have a big game which he didn't. Even with Thomas struggles you have to wonder why wasn't the ball in his hands with the game on the line. I know technically he took the last shot of the season but that was a catch and shoot situation.
Thomas the final time he brought the ball up faked a three and dished to an open Suggs who drilled the three to pull within one. Unlike last week where Romar put the ball in Thomas hands to win the game he elected to go with Overton. That decision fans will debate all offseason as they should. Thomas made great strides as an overall great player. Thomas was once again named first team all pac-10 finished his year averaging 16.8 PPG on 44.5% shooting from the field and 34.9% from three point range. The most important part is Thomas averaged 6.1 assists on the year the highest since Will Conroy averaged 6.5 assists in the 2004-05 season.
- Lorenzo Romar is a good coach for the Washington Huskies. That has been established with taking the team to the tournament in six of his eight seasons. He has a winning tournament record too at 8-6. He has won the Pac-10 tournament three times and the regular season once. He has also failed to take that next step in this program. It is becoming more painfully obvious he might not ever be able to take that step.
Now I felt for the first 35 minutes Romar coached great. There wasn't many stupid plays, the rotation was just fine. Then in the last five minutes just basic fundamental plays the Huskies couldn't make. The two Overton plays, Holiday inbound, Ross getting his pocket picked, having both Overton and Holiday on the court, etc. This seems to be a theme in the Romar era on tough losses that the Huskies don't lose because the other team beat them. They are losing by making stupid decisions late in games. This isn't to take away from North Carolina at all they were the better team playing basically a home game.
The Huskies are in a weird spot with Romar they truly are. Some fans and a certain KJR host seem to think he can do no wrong and are just happy with making the NCAA tournament. Those fans adjust expectations as the season goes on. Other fans know this program can do so much more with all that talent in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Romar is a great program builder as typically all his seniors get better. Only Mike Jensen and Venoy Overton appeared to have taken a step back throughout their careers. The Huskies need to land a big time recruit. I'm not talking about a player either I'm talking about scouting the country for an X's and O's geru at some D-2 or D-3 school. Ken Bone was a head coach at Seattle Pacific for 14 years and he left to Washington knowing he could move on from there. The question comes down to will Romar finally admit he needs help on offense or will the Huskies simply accept being a top tier team in a weak conference?
All in all this loss was probably the second toughest in the Romar era. I don't think any loss will top that Uconn game in 2006 but if there was a game this was it. This loss became even more depressing as 11th seeded Marquette(same team UW beat last year in tournament) upset 3rd seeded Syracuse. So the Huskies most likely would have been the favorites in a sweet 16 game instead their season is over. The Huskies future appears very bright but after seeing them underachieve in the regular season the last two years can you trust them?
The Huskies had to play basically a road game because they lost to Washington State twice, Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. Win at worst four of those games the Huskies would have a 28-10 record going into this game and most likely would have been in Tucson. Instead for the second straight year the Huskies lost seven conference games in a weak conference. The Pac-10 has sent just three teams out of 48 teams to the sweet 16 the last three years. There is no excuse to lose that many games in a crappy conference like that. The Huskies if they wish to advance in the tournament must take care of the regular season. Look at North Carolina they won the ACC regular season and now their path to elite 8 looks pretty good. Win in the regular season and you obviously get rewarded with easier opponents and are closer to home. The Huskies hopefully next year finally play up to their capabilities. As for this year well it wasn't a failure but it wasn't a success either. I guess there is always next year which is the typical Seattle saying unfortunately.