Friday, March 4, 2011

Wilcox huge second half leads Huskies in season sweep over Bruins 70-63

By Kshell

With the Washington Huskies NCAA tournament hopes looking like they were fading redshirt freshman C.J.Wilcox scored a career high 24 points in the second half to keep those hopes alive. In what has to be the greatest display in decades given the situation in a single half Wilcox scored 24 points in the second half to lead his Washington Huskies(20-9,11-6) to a season sweep over the UCLA Bruins(21-9,12-5) 70-63. This is the Huskies seventh consecutive home win over the Bruins. If the Huskies can beat the USC Trojans on Saturday with the Bruins losing to the Washington State Cougars the Huskies would be in second place due to tiebreakers from a season sweep. The Huskies were led by the freshman Wilcox who was on fire in the second half hitting seven of his eight shots while being perfect from all six free throw attempts. This is why the Huskies were picked to win the conference because they are so deep. Wilcox a guy who played just four minutes in the previous meeting was the hero today. With the Huskies season possibly hanging in the balance Wilcox saved the day for the Huskies.

The first half just like the previous game against the Cougars saw a very sloppy first half. The Huskies for the second straight game weren't lighting up the scoreboard which is rare at Hec Ed. The Bruins led the sloppy first half 25-24 as both teams shot horribly. The Bruins shot just 10-27(37.0%) from the field and made just one of four three point attempts. The Huskies were even worse shooting 7-33(21.2%) from the field making just two of seven from three point range. The Bruins were led by Reeves Nelson who scored 10 points while grabbing five rebounds. Freshman Josh Smith who is from Kentwood High School in Kent, Washington scored four points but had nine rebounds.

The Huskies leading scorer was Venoy Overton who scored six points making both field goal attempts. Justin Holiday added five points making a three pointer while grabbing four rebounds. Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored four points but was just two for eight shooting but did pull down seven rebounds. Aziz N'Diaye had four points on just one for four shooting but did pull down six rebounds. One player who was shutout was Isaiah Thomas who scored zero points while missing all six field goal attempts. He only had two assists as he was pretty much ineffective in the first half.

In the second half it was all C.J. Wilcox for the Huskies and Jerime Anderson for the Bruins. These two players traded three for three in trying to get the win. For the Huskies who were struggling offensively C.J. Wilcox provided that lift scoring 12 of the team's first 15 points in the second half. To keep pace Anderson for the Bruins made his first five field goal attempts including four three pointers. Not to be outshined Wilcox had the finishing touches on the Bruins. With the shot clock winding down and the Huskies up 56-52 with a little over two minutes left in the game Wilcox hitting a running two point shot as he was fouled. Of course the shot went in and he sunk the free throw to put the game away. Wilcox finished the second half seven for eight shooting while making four of five three pointers. Wilcox scored a career high 24 points as the Huskies won 70-63 over the Bruins. The Huskies led by Wilcox shot 15-28(53.5%) from the field and made half of their eight three point attempts. The Huskies also shot 12-17(70.5%) from the foul line. If not for Wilcox this blog write up would of course be completely different as is there is still hope for the NCAA tournament.

The Huskies were led by Wilcox who scored 24 points on 7-10(70.0%) shooting and 4-7(57.1%) from three point range. Wilcox also was perfect six for six from the foul line and blocked two shots. The next leading scorer for the Huskies was Overton off the bench scoring 10 points while being perfect from three field goal attempts. Thomas then scored just nine points on 3-12 shooting with just three assists but did have two steals. Bryan-Amaning for the second straight game shot horrible scoring just seven points on 3-11 shooting but he did pull down 13 rebounds including seven offensive. N'Diaye scored six points on two for seven shooting but did have eight rebounds including five offensive. Holiday filled up the stat sheet to make up for his poor shooting effort. Holiday had just five points on one for eight shooting but did grab six rebounds, dished out a team leading five assists and also blocked a shot. The Huskies will obviously need more from their upperclassmen going forward. Wilcox saved the team today scoring 34% of the teams points.

All in all, the Huskies went out and got an important win. The Huskies won a close game when their NCAA tournament hopes for the first time all season long was in jeopardy. The Huskies overcame a strong game by Bruins freshman Josh Smith who scored 12 points while pulling down 16 rebounds including eight offensive. The Huskies overcame a combined 7-31(22.5%) from their three best players Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday. In a big game usually a freshman will freeze up and the older guys will have to carry the team. Not today as the Huskies older guys appeared to have been frozen so Wilcox had to take over. Wilcox was injured most of the Pac-10 season and is a streaky shooter. Wilcox is only a freshman but eventually will be a better version of Tre Simmons. Simmons was first team all pac-10 his Senior year. Just watch out for Wilcox when he is a Junior and Senior. Thankfully for the Huskies and their current season Wilcox is healthy right now. If not for Wilcox it would be all gloom and doom for the Huskies. As is the Huskies live to see another day and in two weeks hopefully playing their best ball.


- For the second straight game Venoy Overton looked like his old self. For games were sloppy as the Huskies scored a combined 41 points. Overton helped the Huskies in both games with his attacking defense, quickness to the hole and just getting under his opponents skin.

Overton scored 10 points while making all three lay ups. Overton in his last six Pac-10 games is averaing 9.0 points per game, 3.5 assists to 1.8 turnovers a game. Overton during that six game stretch is shooting 16-32(50.0%) from the field. It's nice to see Overton is back to being that spark off the bench. Now if the starting point guard can start playing better which brings me to my next point.

- Unlike the previous meeting where Isaiah Thomas played lights out he was pretty bad today. Thomas the last game destroyed the Bruins on pick and rolls but the Bruins stopped that which ultimately stopped Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning from having a good game. Thomas has also the last two games got off to horrible starts shooting a combined 2-13 from the field in the first halves the last two games.

Thomas for only the third time all season long scored in single digits. Showing how great of a scorer he is all three games he scored nine points. In fact Thomas has been pretty boring as his low on the year is nine points and his high is 27 points. Some alarming stats to point since Thomas shot 10-18 from three point range against the Bay Area schools I correctly pointed out it was fools gold. Since then Thomas is shooting just 6-26(23.1%) from three point range. Thomas wasn't as good as his 10-18 but also isn't as bad as 6-26 either. Thomas from the free throw line has been terrible as well shooting just 15-30(50.0%) in the last five games. I'm not worried about Thomas though he has proven he will rise up in the NCAA tournament the past two years.

- When Lorenzo Romar made the decision to redshirt C.J. Wilcox last year he said that move will cost the Huskies a game or two. He also said it will pay off big time when he is a senior. Well if Wilcox realizes his potential hopefully we don't see a senior year from Wilcox. The only Husky who comes close to comparison to Wilcox to me is Simmons who I think Wilcox can be better than.

Remember Simmons we only saw as a junior and senior. We never saw Simmons as a freshman like we have with Wilcox. For a stretch of 11 games Wilcox was a no show lost out of the rotation. Well he is back now and when one guy gets injured that opens up time for another player. Scott Suggs was coming around but then he was injured which opened up playing time for Wilcox and allowed Wilcox to start.

Since Suggs injury Wilcox is averaging 13.4 points per game in five games(I'm counting the Arizona State game since Suggs played just three minutes) while shooting 22-46(47.8%) from the field including 14-34(41.1%) from three point range. Wilcox is also 9-10(90.0%) from the free throw line during that stretch. Wilcox overcame the last two games(his first two career starts) where he shot just 2-14 including 2-10 from three's to shoot 7-10 making 4-7 from three's today for a career high 24 points.

Another aspect that shouldn't go unnoticed is the improved play of Wilcox defense. Wilcox has five blocks and three steals during that five game stretch while grabbing 3.8 rebounds a game. Wilcox has developed into a nice all around player recently which will only help him earn more playing time. Wilcox has made at least one three pointer in 10 consecutive games which including four games where he made four three pointers. Wilcox began his Husky career making at least one three pointer in nine consecutive games. For the year Wilcox has nailed 50 three pointers on the year while shooting 41.0% in the process. He's going to be first team all pac-10 someday for the Huskies. If he somehow really improves his shooting he could eventually be an all-american even. The sky is the limit on Wilcox who is 6'5" and might be the Huskies be three point shooter they've ever had.

- Big win for Lorenzo Romar. Funny how the Huskies can beat the Bruins and Arizona Wildcats but can't beat the Cougars. Romar has a winning record against Ben Howland who has taken his Bruins teams to three straight finals fours(2006-08). Romar all-time against Howland improves to 9-5 all-time against Howland. Overall Romar is 10-9 against the Bruins in his nine years as head coach. Considering the Huskies history against the Bruins that is pretty much amazing and the fact the Huskies went 4-2 against the Bruins when they went to three straight final fours shows the Huskies have their number especially at Hec Ed.

This win was important as this was win #20 on the year for the Huskies. This is the fifth time in the Romar era the Huskies have won 20+ games while in two other seasons the Huskies won 19 games. Put things in perspective the Huskies previous legendary coach Marv Harshman had just four seasons where the team won 20+ games in 14 seasons. Romar has definately brought the Huskies program to great heights.

Now the question is will Romar be the guy who can take them even further. The team played well today when they had to but remember the Huskies were picked to run away with conference this year. The Huskies weren't supposed to be in this situation two years in a row where they have to win the last week or their NCAA tournament hopes are dashed. Romar did show faith in a freshman when the game was on the line with under three minutes to go. Most coaches would have tried to feature their stars instead Romar rode the hot hand. I guess that is why the majority of Pac-10 players called him the coach they would most want to play for. Hopefully between now and NCAA tournament Romar can figure out how to defeat that tough zone defense. Having a streaky shooter like Wilcox going off will make him look smarter against the zone that is for sure.

Overall, the Huskies feel better about their NCAA tournament hopes than they did on Sunday or even this time last year for that matter. The Huskies beat the Trojans on Senior night while winning a single Pac-10 tournament game they will wake up on Sunday feeling good about themselves. This Huskies team is very capable of winning against the Trojans then winning the Pac-10 tournament. Just like last year this team is inconsistent just like I can see this team laying an egg against the Trojans and going one and done in the Pac-10 tournament. The Huskies will have to get better play from their big three if they wish to advance to second week of the NCAA tournament. The Huskies received a huge performance from their X-Factor today in Wilcox now the Huskies will have to have their stars carry them home. Role players are nice to have but they aren't to be counted on. You only go as far as your stars will take you. The good news for the Huskies is on senior night games Romar is 7-1 including wins over #8 Arizona Wildcats in 2005 and #1 Stanford Cardinals in 2004 and #2 UCLA Bruins in 2007. The Huskies win by an average score of 75.9-66.4. The Huskies have always struggled against the Trojans since 2007 going 4-5 against the Trojans. The Huskies aren't in the clear quite yet but this win thanks to Wilcox sure helps. The Huskies are now back in position to make the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in eight years.

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