Monday, January 30, 2012

Huskies win thriller over Arizona 69-67; first win at Arizona since 2006

By Kshell

With the game on the line the game came down to two five star recruit guards as Josiah Turner of the Arizona Wildcats(14-8,5-4) drove past C.J.Wilcox for the game tying bucket only to see fell five star recruit Tony Wroten of the Washington Huskies(14-7,7-2) block his shot as time expired. That block by Wroten put the Huskies in first place and also clinched their first win at Arizona since 2006. For the Huskies who had blown an 11 point lead due to poor free throw shooting down the stretch this was by far their biggest win of the season. The Huskies-Wildcat rivalry just continues to produce great games as the last three games have been decided by just five points. In front of ESPN gameday and a whiteout by the Wildcats  crowd these young Huskies won a game which saw plenty of momentum changing runs by both teams. This is the type of win that can carry a team throughout the season and even into March Madness. As Lorenzo Romar told reporters after the game "this is a game we lose by 15-20 points just a month ago" meaning this team has grown up right in front of his eyes. This Huskies team overcame bad calls, overcame poor free throw shooting and overcame blowing a large lead to getting the win. Wroten who didn't have his best offensive game still made a difference when his team needed him most.

In the first half featured plenty of runs by both teams. The Huskies began the game up 14-7 as Aziz N'Diaye had scored six points for the Huskies. The Wildcats responded to that with a 10-0 run going up 17-14 as Darnell Gant had a tip in for the Huskies which stopped that run and sparked a run. The Huskies had gone on a 11-3 run to lead 25-20 before the Wildcats ended the half on a 9-2 run to lead 32-29 as Kevin Parron got away with offensive goaltending with a tip dunk at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a three point lead. The Wildcats shot 12-28(42.9%) from the field, three for seven(42.9%) from three point range and made five of eight(62.5%) free throws as they outrebounded the Huskies 19-15. They were led by Junior Solomon Hill who scored nine points on four for five shooting including a three pointer and five rebounds. Parrom scored seven points on two for three shooting but suffered an injury so he didn't return to the game and is out for the season. Freshman guard Joshiah Turner scored eight points on three for four shooting with three rebounds.

For the Huskies they shot 12-30(40.0%) from the field, three for six(50.0%) from three point range but made just two for five(40.0%) on free throws. They were led by N'Diaye scoring eight points on four for six shooting with three rebounds. Tony Wroten scored five points on just one for five shooting but did make a three pointer and both free throws. Terrence Ross scored five points on two for six shooting with a three pointer and four rebounds. The Huskies once again struggled scoring in the first half of a game but were right in it with the Wildcats in a hostile environment.

Despite the momentum shift at the end of the half it was the Huskies who came out in the second half on fire. The Huskies went on a 10-4 run to start the second half takeing a 39-36 lead. After the Huskies already leading 45-42 they went on a 8-2 run which saw C.J. Wilcox hit a three pointer to go up 50-44 and then with two seconds on the shot clock Wroten launched up a desperation three pointer to give the Huskies a 53-44 lead. The Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to cut it to 53-48 which the Huskeis then responded with a 7-1 run going up 60-49 which saw Terrence Ross hit a crucial three pointer. The Huskies would then be up 64-56 with a little over two minutes left in the game. The Wildcats due to the Huskies fouling and missing free throws would go on an 6-0 run to cut the lead to 64-62. Ross would hit a jumper to give the Huskies a 66-62 lead with 45 seconds left. After a Wildcats miss Wroten would make one of two free throws to go up 67-62. After a Wildcats bucket pulled them within 67-64 they fouled Wilcox who was a 91% free throw shooter. Wilcox shooting the one and one missed the front end so the Wildcats took over. Solomon Hill who was red hot all game was somehow open for a three pointer as he drilled the three tying the game at 67-67 as the Wildcats had just gone on a 11-3 run to tie the game. Josiah Turner went for the charge on Wilcox who was inbounded the ball instead was called for the blocking foul sending Wilcox back to the line. This time Wilcox made both free throws giving the Huskies a 69-67 lead with 5.4 seconds left. As Turner took the ball up court the Huskies switched on the screen as Turner blew by Wilcox for the game tying field goal but Wroten blocked his shot. Nick Johnson dunk the block shot as the ball landed to him but it was after the buzzer had clearly sounded as the Huskies won 69-67 due to Wroten's block shot at the end.

For the Wildcats this is the second straight game they have lost to the Huskies at the buzzer. The Wildcats shot 21-50(42.0%) from the field, 4-13(30.8%) from three point range and 21-29(72.4%) from the free throw line. They were led by Solomon Hill who scored a game high 28 points on 9-10 shooting including hitting both three pointers while also making eight for nine at the free throw line. He also grabbed 11 rebounds as well. Senior Jesse Perry scored 13 points on just 3-14 shooting but made 7-10 at the foul line while grabbing a game high 12 rebounds. Josiah Turner scored eight points on three for nine shooting but had the costly foul then had his shot blocked by Wroten. Senior Kyle Fogg scored seven points on two for four shooting all three pointers. Parrom also scored seven points but was lost for the season. For the Wildcats this was the third loss in the Pac-12 by two points or less as they are showing they can't close games down the stretch. This is the first loss for the Wildcats at home to the Huskies since 2006 when Brandon Roy was a senior.

For the Huskies facing an incredible environment this win shows just how far they have matured. The Huskies shot well making 28-63(44.4%) from the field, 6-14(42.9%) from three point range but the game became interesting due to 7-16(43.8%) free throw shooting. The Huskies were led by Tony Wroten who scored 17 points on 5-18 shooting including two for four from three pointers and five for seven on free throws. Wroten also added five rebounds, four assists, a steal and the game saving block. Terrence Ross stepped up with 16 points on 7-12 shooting with two three pointers, seven rebounds, three steals and three block shots. C.J.Wilcox looked fully healthy in scoring 15 points on 6-10 shooting including a three pointer and five rebounds plus the game winning free throws. Aziz N'Diaye scored 12 points on 6-11 shooting with eight rebounds including five offensive. Abdul Gaddy added just two points but did dish out five assists. Desmond Simmons scored three points with four rebounds. Darnell Gant added just two points and four rebounds. While football star Austin Seferian-Jenkins scored just two points with three rebounds in limited action. For the second straight game all eight Husky players who played scored.

This team has came along ways in the past month. This team who started off 0-5 away from home has now won three games in a row on the road. This team just won a close game in a hostile environment when everyone had picked them to lose. There was no panic for the Huskies this game everytime the Wildcats made a run the Huskies would answer right back. For the second straight year at halfway point the Huskies find themselves 7-2 and tied for first place in the conference. The Huskies will return home to host the UCLA Bruins a team they have beaten three straight games and seven in a row at home. Then they take on the USC Trojans a team who is in last place in the conference so the Huskies winners of three in a row and six of their last seven games could go on a run. This young group with only one senior is finally starting to come around. The rest of the Pac-12 had their chance to put the struggling Huskies away but now the Huskies are emerging as the best team in the conference.


- This was a really strange game for Tony Wroten who normally shoots such a high percentage. This game he didn't shoot well making just 5-18 shots. Considering he is a poor three point shooter he actually shot well making two for four and he is also a poor free throw shooter yet made five of seven. Wroten despite shooting poorly still scoring 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and had four assists. He did turn the ball over five times which is what he'll do. He did however make the play of the game with the block on Turner to prevent overtime. Wroten despite his struggles appeared to have embraced the environment much like he did earlier in the year at Madison Square Garden.

Wroten just like Isaiah Thomas loves the big moments. This isn't going to be a freshman who struggles in the Pac-12 tournament or hopefully NCAA tournament because of stage fright. Wroten has a chance to be freshman all-american first team and should run away with Pac-12 freshman of the year joining Thomas who did that in 2008-09 season. Wroten for the year is averaging 17.1 ppg, 4.6 RPG, and 3.3 APG. He is also averaging 2.0 steals per game as he currently leads all freshman in scoring amongst the super six conferences. Wroten at this rate is in contention for Pac-12 player of the year as he is putting this program on his back.

- With the win over Arizona down in Arizona there was a little bit of history to be made. Darnell Gant and Abdul Gaddy became the first players to win a road game at every Pac-10 arena(lost to Colorado on the road who is Pac-12 but only played them once) since Jon Brockman, Artem Wallace and Justin Dentmon. Even though neither player had a particulary good game this is still quite a huge accomplishment for the Huskies upperclassman to achieve. With a road win over Oregon State, Washington State this year and Stanford next year Terrence Ross, Aziz N'Diaye and C.J.Wilcox can join them. With a win over Arizona next year Scott Suggs will be able to join that group as well.

- Sometimes in sports you hear the phrase "he is better than what the box score shows" well in this case regarding tight end now basketball player Austin Seferian-Jenkins that is the case. The Huskies are now 3-0 since he has been playing in the games. Seferian-Jenkins is a big strong physical body who racks up hard fouls while rebounding tough. Seferian-Jenkins against Arizona played a season low six minutes while scoring just two points. He did grab three rebounds and had two hard fouls. He was also more productive than four star recruit Angelo Chol who chose Arizona over Washington and many other schools. For the year Seferian-Jenkins in 12.7 minutes per game is averaging just 2.0 PPG but 5.0 RPG. He is also averaging 4.0 fouls a game and makes the other team earn their buckets. He does the little things that doesn't show up like when the Wildcats were going for a dunk he fouled the man hard. The Wildcats player made just one of two free throws which saved the Huskies a point which proved to be pretty big. Seferian-Jenkins also brings a toughness attitude to this team that they were lacking earlier in the year and also allows Lorenzo Romar to play eight quality players instead of throwing a stiff out there. Seferian-Jenkins has made a huge difference on this team even if the numbers say otherwise.

- In big games you need big time performances by your stars. Wroten shined at times but mainly Terrence Ross carried the Huskies once again down the stretch. Ross scored 16 points on 7-12 shooting with two three pointers. He also added seven rebounds with three steals and three blocks. Ross also hit some tough shots in the second half whenever the Wildcats started to take back momentum Ross would give momentum right to the Huskies. Ross minus the Washington State Cougars game has yet to really explode but he is consistently scoring double figures having scored in double figures in every game this year but one. On the other hand in 21 games this year he has scored over 20 points just twice.

For the year Ross is averaging 15.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG with 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He is shooting well making 44.5% of his field goals, 38.3% of his three pointers while making two full three pointers a game and shooting 72.4% at the free throw line. Ross is having a first team all Pac-12 season just with his talent you feel like he should be doing more. One these days hopefully soon Ross will start doing just more instead of showing you these flashes which he tends to do every game. Ross is the closer though on this team down the stretch there is no doubt about it.

- Lorenzo Romar has had a tough year this year with the expectations of the team while having to replace his three best players from last year and a fourth player who was a key part of the team as well. As I've stated in the last few weeks Romar has had to take a bigger leadership role on this team than he'd like.

 Romar has also handled the addition of football star Seferian-Jenkins into his rotation terrific like he did with Nate Robinson. Unlike Bob Bender who didn't really embrace the football players tyring to play basketball(Charles Frederick was a 4 star recruit in basketball and never left the bench) Romar plays the best guys. The one knock on Romar is his loyalty to older guys and this game really showed that. When Abdul Gaddy picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench the Huskies went on a run. When Gaddy returned the lead had disappeared. Going forward Romar has to sit Gaddy and start Wilcox. Your best five is Wroten at the point, Wilcox at the two, Ross at the three, Simmons at powerforward and N'Diaye at center. Romar now in his 10th year at Washington improves to 12-10(3-0 on neutral, 6-3 at home, 3-7 on road) against the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona has been the dominant team in this conference for a while and really dominated the Huskies. The fact the Huskies have a winning record against them in a 10 year stretch shows how much the Huskies have improved as a program.

This win was huge and especially for Romar. He has seen a team that was young, undisciplined, and at times appeared to care more about twitter than the game they are playing in. Every tournament team in the Romar era has had that gutcheck moment and this team just achieved that. Even the loss to Cal when they really only had six guys the effort was there. The Huskies have three big time players in Wroten, Ross and Wilcox probably the best three man trio they've had since Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy and Will Conroy. When you factor in they also have great big man play in N'Diaye, Simmons, Gant and now Seferian-Jenkins this team can make some noise in the tournament. This win right here will go along ways towards playing in March Madness for the seventh time in the last nine years. For coach Romar this win was huge for his program as he is seeing his team mature right in front of him which should all be credited to his leadership he has shown throughout the season.

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