Friday, February 17, 2012

Huskies use big first half to defeat Sun Devils 77-69

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(18-8,11-3) remain tied for first place with a 77-69 win over the struggling Arizona State Sun Devils(8-18, 4-10). The Huskies saw four guys score in double figures as they used a 17-2 run towards the end of the first half to build a 44-26 lead over the Sun Devils. In the second half the Huskies simply coasted to the victory as they remain tied for first place in the Pac-12. The Huskies were led once again by Terrence Ross scoring 18 points and Tony Wroten recording six steals for the Huskies. The Huskies this Saturday take on the Arizona Wildcats as they go for the first season sweep of the state of Arizona since 2004(5-0 against that state). The Huskies have just one home game left after defeating the Sun Devils once again.

In the first half the game started off as a shootout as Ross hit his first two shots but Jonathan Gilling of the Sun Devils hit two three pointers to give the Sun Devils a 6-5 lead. The Huskies would go on a 6-0 run to lead 11-6. After the Sun Devils tied the game up at 13 the Huskies would go on a 10-3 run to lead 23-16. Leading 27-22 the Huskies would go on an 8-0 run to lead 35-22 which they continued that run to stretch it out to 17-2 leading 44-24 before the Sun Devils made a basket before halftime. The Huskies took a 44-26 lead into halftime over the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils had shot just 11-29(37.9%) from the field, 2-11(18.2%) from three point range. Their leading scorer was Jonathan Gilling who scored six points on two for five shooting all were three point shots.

For the Huskies they shot 19-32(59.4%) from the field, four for nine(44.4%) from three point range. They were led by senior Darnell Gant who scored nine points off the bench on three for five shooting including a three pointer while also grabbing five rebounds. C.J.Wilcox off the bench scored nine points on four for five shooting making a three pointer while having two assists. Tony Wroten scored eight points on four for six shooting with three rebounds. Terrence Ross scored seven points on three for nine shooting including a three pointer. Aziz N'Diaye scored six points on three for five shooting. Abdul Gaddy scored three points making his only shot which was a three but had five assists. The Huskies put the game away in the first half but would just cruise in the second half.

In the second half the Sun Devils had outscored the Huskies 43-33 as the Huskies coasted in the second half. The game was never in doubt. The Sun Devils had made the game interesting  going on a 13-2 run pulling within 56-45. The Huskies then put the game away with a 10-3 run to led 66-48. Lorenzo Romar emptied the bench and the Sun Devils scored some points at the end to make the game look closer than it was. For the Huskies this was a good win although the second half could have been better. The Huskies shot 29-59(49.2%) from the field, 8-25(32.0%) from three point range and 11-15(73.3%) on free throws. They were led by Ross who had another strong second half scoring 18 points on 7-13 shooting including four for eight from three point range. Ross also grabbed five rebounds and a steal. C.J. Wilcox scored 14 points off the bench on 6-11 shooting with two three pointers. He also had three assists, a steal and a block.  Tony Wroten scored 13 points on four for eight shooting from the field and five for eight from the free throw line. Wroten also added four rebounds, four assists and six steals. Aziz N'Diaye scored 12 points on five for nine shooting and was two for three on free throws. He also added four rebounds with a steal. Darnell Gant scored nine points on three for six shooting including a three pointer with five rebounds. Shawn Kemp Jr. scored six points on two for three shooting and swishing both free throws. He also added a block shot as well in 11 minutes. Abdul Gaddy scored three points on one for two shooting with a three pointer but added eight assists and a steal. Desmond Simmons scored two points on one for four shooting but had six rebounds including a block shot. The Huskies bench provided the boost as their bench outscored the Sun Devils 29-21 which was the difference in the score.

The Huskies took care of business on their home court which is what teams do who are looking to win a Pac-12 championship. Now comes the big test as they take on the Arizona Wildcats at home this Saturday in the final home game for Darnell Gant and possibly Terrence Ross and/or Tony Wroten. The atmosphere will be incredible for that game as the Huskies have defeated the Wildcats four straight years at home. The Huskies have now defeated the Sun Devils eight out of nine years at home with the lone Sun Devils win coming in 2008. The Huskies have dominated the Sun Devils in the Lorenzo Romar era. The second half was played sloppy and I'm sure Romar will get on his guys about that. Overall this was a great team victory as the Huskies are trying their best to keep pace with the California Golden Bears.


- Last year when Matthew Bryan-Amaning graduated there was great concern about the Huskies post play. Many figured Darnell Gant would emerge but he hasn't as most of his points come from the outside. Insead Aziz N'Diaye has emerged into that guy. Once again scoring in double figures as he scored 12 points against the Sun Devils on five for nine shooting. N'Diaye has scored in double figures in 10 games this year out of 24. He has grabbed double figures in rebounds in six games. He's also had 13 games with at least one block shot. For the year N'Diaye is averaging 8.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 53.8% from the field. His production has almost doubled from last year despite only playing six more minutes a game. N'Diaye has been a big reason for the Huskies success this year inside and he still has one more year left with the Huskies program which is huge.

- The Huskies defense was terrific against the Sun Devils holding them to under 40.0% shooting in the first half and less than 20.0% on three point shots. Tony Wroten led the defensive charge with six steals as the Huskies had 10 steals and three blocks during the game. For Wroten he is now averaging 2.1 steals per game as he broke Justin Dentmon's record for most steals in a season for a freshman with 54. He still has four more regular season games plus one Pac-12 tournament game as well.

Another bright spot on the defense is the play of two freshman big men in Desmond Simmons and Shawn Kemp Jr. Simmons who has started 11 games(9-2 in those games) is averaging 5.0 PPG but 5.7 RPG in only 20.1 minutes not to mention 0.9 steals. As for Kemp Jr. he is averaging only 2.0 PPG, 0.8 RPG and 0.7 blocks per game but in just 7.3 minutes. In his last five games Kemp Jr. is averaging 5.0 PPG in only 10.6 minutes per game. These guys are showing a flash of their future with the Huskies. Both guys aren't lighting up the scorboard like Wroten does or like Ross or Wilcox did last year but they are providing defense which the Huskies need. Along with N'Diaye who has always been a factor in the paint the Huskies aren't as weak inside as people may think.

- Nice to see C.J. Wilcox get going last night shooting wise. Since returning from his injury Wilcox has shot over 40.0% in just two of his seven games back. In fact he is only averaging 10.0 PPG during that stretch. Wilcox against the Sun Devils though scored 14 points on 6-11 shooting from the field. Last year he had slumped from three point range for a long time then snapped out of it which the Huskies are hoping will happen soon. Since returning from his injury Wilcox is only 7-28(25.0%) from three point range. For the year Wilcox is still having a nice season scoring 13.8 points in 28.4 minutes shooting 41.6% from the field and making 2.2 three pointers a game. Wilcox has yet to hit a red hot streak like he did at the end of last season. Wilcox has shown in the past he can deliver in crunch time for the Huskies. If Wilcox can get going the Huskies can go very far in the tournament. Hopefully Wilcox starts his hot streak this Saturday against the Wildcats.

- Lorenzo Romar continues his dominance over the Sun Devils improving to 18-5 all-time against them since becoming the Huskies head coach. The Huskies are 8-2 at home against the Sun Devils, 8-2 on the road and 2-1 in the Pac-10 tournament. During Romar's first year the Sun Devils swept the Huskies since then the Huskies have won 18 out of 21 games against the Sun Devils. Unless the Huskies collapse they should finish in the top three of the conference for the seventh time in the last nine years under Romar. This team isn't your typical Romar team as they don't have that three point fire power or that intensity on defense every possession like years past. Where they make up for it is talent as Romar has never had a more talented 1-2 combo than he has now with Ross and Wroten. The next four teams the Huskies face though Romar hasn't dominated like he has the Sun Devils and Beavers the last two teams they've face. Should be interesting where the Huskies go from here.

The Huskies improve to 18-8 now which makes that 5-5 start seem like a different season ago. Nice to see the Huskies keep playing well as they strive to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season for the first time in program history. If the Huskies can accomplish that feat that would be a huge moment for Romar and this program. The Huskies are tied for first place in the conference with four games to go including Arizona the big one this Saturday at home. Should the Huskies win they can make some noise although ending the season with three on the road is tough. This was a good win for the Huskies taking care of business against an inferior opponent. Hopefully the Huskies clean up their second half play this Saturday against Arizona. With four games to go the Huskies are tied for first place which at the start of the year we all would have accepted.

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