Friday, February 3, 2012

Ross explodes in second half comeback as Huskies win 8th straight at home vs Bruins 71-69!

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(15-7, 8-2) found themselves trailing at home by 10 points to the UCLA Bruins(12-10, 5-5) who were looking to win for the first time in Seattle since 2004. That is when Terrence Ross carried the Huskies down the stretch as the Huskies outscored the Bruins 16-4 to end the game. Ross scoring 10 of those points to score a team high 22 points for the Huskies to extend their streak over the Bruins. More importantly for Lorenzo Romar's team is the fact his Huskies are in first place after winning back to back games on ESPN at the buzzer. Both times his team came up with a huge defensive stop to prevent overtime as the Huskies have now won four games in a row and seven of their last eight games. This game the Huskies overcame the injury to Tony Wroten and foul trouble to Aziz N'Diaye. This team is starting to come around and finally play like a team who will be dancing come March.

In the first half the Huskies got off to a nice start up 6-2 led by Aziz N'Diaye scoring the first four points for the Huskies. The Bruins responded by going on a 12-3 run to lead 14-9. Which the Huskies would then respond with a 10-2 run to go up 19-16. Later in the half the Huskies would go on a 7-0 run to lead 28-24. Trailing 34-33 right before halftime Terrence Ross hit an impossible shot to give the Huskies a 35-34 lead at halftime.  The Bruins made only 15-36(41.7%) of their field goals while missing all three three point attempts. They were kept in the game by Kentwood High School star Joshua Smith who scored 14 points off the bench on five for six shooting while making four of five free throws. The Wear twins stepped up as well as David Wear scored eight on four for seven shooting with four rebounds while Travis Wear had six points on 3-10 shooting with seven rebounds.

For the Huskies they shot well in the first half making 15-30(50.0%) from the field and two for four on three pointers. The Huskies were killed by 10 turnovers giving the Bruins too many chances. They were led by senior Darnell Gant who scored 10 points on four for five shooting including two three pointers. Abdul Gaddy scored six points on two for four shooting making two three point plays the old fasion way. Tony Wroten scored five points on two for five shooting making his lone free throw. He also added three rebounds and two assists but had four turnovers. Aziz N'Diaye scored four points on two for three shooting while grabbing five rebounds but had two quick fouls. That allowed Shawn Kemp Jr to earn some minutes as he scored four points on two dunks that reminded fans of his father Shawn Kemp plus he also grabbed two rebounds. Terrence Ross like he has in the past struggled in the first half scored just four points on two for four shooting. Like he has all season long he saved his best for the second half.

The second half was a game of runs as the Bruins led 54-47 as the Huskies went on a mini 4-0 run to pull within 54-51. The Bruins would go on a 9-2 run at that point as Lazeric Jones would drill three straight three pointers to give the Bruins a 63-53 lead as Hec Ed was quiet.  Trailing 65-55 the Huskies started to attack the Bruins by going to the free throw line as C.J. Wilcox hit four straight free throws as well as Terrence Ross. The Huskies had gone on a 6-0 run with just free throws pulling within 65-61 as Romar pulled the hurting Wroten who was too hurt to continue. Ross went down and drilled a three pointer as the Huskies pulled within 65-64. Ross would hit a reverse layup to give the Huskies a 66-65 lead over the Bruins. The Huskies then forced a steal as Gant finished the play off with a dunk as the Huskies lead 68-65 capping a 13-0 run. The Bruins finally scored to pull within 68-67 that is when Ross hit a three pointer with a man on him to give the Huskies a 71-67 lead as the Huskies had just gone on a 16-2 run. After a Bruins bucket the Huskies put the ball in Ross hands once more and for the first time all second half he missed after making his first seven shots in the second half. The Bruins had the ball with less than 20 seconds left with one timeout elected to play it out. Norman Powell who had scored just two points up until then tried a floater with three seconds to go on the baseline but the ball rimmed out as Smith tried to put it back in Ross poked the ball out of his hands in mid air as the Huskies held on for the 71-69 victory.

The Bruins lost the game despite a career game from sophomore Joshua Smith who scored 24 points on 9-13 shooting while making 6-10 free throws with nine rebounds. Lazeric Jones scored 11 points on 3-12 shooting but made 3-5 on three pointers. David Wear finished with 10 points on five for six shooting with four rebounds while his brother Travis scored eight points on just 4-15 shooting with eight rebounds.

For the Huskies they were led by Ross who scored 22 points on 9-12 shooting with two three pointers, four rebounds, a steal and two blocks. Ross scored 18 in the second half on seven for eight shooting. Tony Wroten who played hurt all game scored 13 points on 4-11 shooting but was a perfect five for five on free throws. Wroten also added five rebounds, two assists and a steal but had five turnovers. Darnell Gant off the bench scored 12 points on five for nine shooting with two three pointers with two steals and a block. Aziz N'Diaye who fought foul trouble all game long scored seven points on three for four shooting with 11 rebounds. Abdul Gaddy scored seven points on two for five shooting while making three of four free throws. He also had five assists but had four turnovers as well. C.J. Wilcox scored six points on one for four shooting but was perfect on four free throw attempts. Shawn Kemp Jr. off the bench scored four points on two for three shooting in 11 minutes. The Huskies as a team shot 26-50(52.0%) from the field, 4-10(40.0%) on three pointers but made 15-20(75.0%) on free throws which proved to be the difference.

This was a big win for the Huskies as they continued their dominance over the Bruins .The Huskies have now won eight straight at home against the Bruins(three final four teams in that stretch) and four games overall in a row against the Bruins. Since 1997 the Huskies are 13-3 at home against the Bruins as well as Seattle is becoming a giant thorn to the Bruins. This is two years in a row where the Bruins had the Huskies beat until someone caught on fire for the Huskies in the second half. Last year that was Wilcox this year it was Ross who had done the same thing against the Washington State Cougars. This team is now winning these close games and winning it with defense as their defense prevailed at  the buzzer against the two best programs in the conferece on ESPN both games. This was a huge win for Romar's team who now sits in first place all by themselves.


- Aziz N'Diaye really had to battle this game not only against a motivated five-star talent in Josh Smith but more importantly foul trouble. N'Diaye began the game with four quick points but finished with only seven points. N'Diaye did record 11 rebounds and I noticed when he was in there Smith wasn't running wild. When N'Diaye had to site Smith was going off on Gant, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Desmond Simmons and Kemp Jr as well. N'Diaye is a tough defender and this year on offense can score around the basket unlike last year.

This year N'Diaye is averaging 8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 1.3 blocks per game with 0.5 steals per game. N'Diaye is also shooting 53.8% from the floor as well. His free throw shooting has been horrid lately making only 3-22 from the foul line. N'Diaye who isn't a good free throw shooter is better than that. The Huskies need him to at least be halfway decent so they can throw him the ball more. This year with those 11 rebounds that is the sixth time this year N'Diaye has grabbed double digit rebounds. So far in Pac-12 play N'Diaye is averaging 8.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 0.7 blocks per game. With N'Diaye in the middle the Huskies have a guy who can change the game defensively in the paint which they've never had in the Romar era.

-  Senior Darnell Gant who grew up in Bruins country this has to feel extra sweet for him. Gant in the first half carried the Huskies scoring 10 of 12 points including two three pointers as the offense struggled. Gant stretches the floor well his shooting ability and does set good screens. One major flaw in Gant's game is his rebounding and this game he had just one rebound. Gant has to become a better rebounder going forward. Gant has never been one of the best players on the Huskies but is a nice glue guy for the program. He is looking to become the first every Husky to have played in the NCAA tournament all four years. So far Gant has played in seven NCAA tournament games and eight Pac-10 tournament games in his career. He is one of the few guys on this roster who has been battle tested.

For the season now Gant is averaging career highs in points and rebounds. He is averaging 7.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 35.6% on three pointers making 0.7 per game. In Pac-12 play Gant is averaging 6.6 PPG and 3.9 RPG which he needs to step it up. Gant is the lone senior and the only guy who is battle tested on this roster. The Huskies will need more from him going forward if they wish to make him the first ever player to have played in four NCAA tournaments with the Huskies.

- This was a great game for the Tony Wroten haters as Romar pulled him and the Huskies went on to win with Wroten sitting on the bench. Wroten also played hurt and still scored 13 points in this game including making all five of his free throw attempts. In fact Wroten has made 10-12 from the free throw line in the last two games so hopefully the Pac-12's leader in free throw attempts is starting to improve a little bit on making them. Wroten is still having a productive season that should earn him first team all conference at the end of the year. Wroten is averaging 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 47.7% from the field. In Pac-12 play Wroten is averaging 17.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.1 APG and 2.2 steals per game. As you can see in conference play he has stepped his game up in every statistical category. If Wroten can shoot his free throws like he has the last two games he could be unstoppable.

- From a pure talent standpoint Terrence Ross might be the most talented player Romar has ever had including Brandon Roy. Ross can drive to the hole, blow by you for an alley oop dunk, record key blocks and has a really nice shot. Ross this year has been an enigma at times in that he disappears in the first half almost every game. Yet in that same game he seems to catch fire in the second half. Ross is averaging 18.0 PPG in his last four home the second half alone. This game was no different after scoring just four points on two for four shooting Ross scored 18 points on seven for eight shooting with two three pointers in the second half. Ross really bailed the Huskies out this game with Wilcox having an off night and Wroten hurt that left it up to Ross who took over down the stretch. During that 16-2 run Ross scored 10 points for the Huskies to lead them to this crucial win.

For the season now Ross is averaging 15.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 steals per game and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 45.8% from the field, 39.4% on three pointers making 2.0 three pointers a game and 72.1% on free throws. Ross is having a first team all conference type of season but he is capable of being first team All-American if he just would play like he does in the second half for an entire game. In Pac-12 play Ross is averaging 16.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks. He is also making 2.2 three pointers a game. Like Wroten in conference play he has stepped up his game. With Ross, Wroten and Wilcox the Huskies have three guys who are capable of going off on you at any moment.

- For Lorenzo Romar the former UCLA assistent this has to be a very satisfying win. This was his 500th career game as a head coach in his college career. Romar also improves to 11-9 all-time against the Bruins and considering he lost his four games to them that is really impressive. The Bruins are a basketball powerhouse while the Huskies simply aren't. During that stretch the Bruins went to three straight final fours and yet Romar has the upperhand. The past two games had to be satisfying for Romar to see his young team finally get it together to beat two elite programs in Arizona and UCLA on ESPN. These were big time wins for this Huskies program and both wins were close wins as well for the Huskies a team who typically struggles in the close games. The Huskies are now 3-3 in games decided by five points or less after winning these last two games.

For the Huskies who now sit atop the conference at 8-2 with all the hostile road trips out of the way the Huskies team who is on a run can continue this run. This season reminds me a mixture of the 2003-04 season and 2009-2010 season where it took a while for this team to get going but once it did they didn't look back at all. Romar has a very talented squad and he has them playing at the level that his tournament teams always tend to play. For Romar to be at Washington for 10 years and to have a winning record against both Arizona and UCLA is incredible and unthinkable before his arrival to Montlake.

The Huskies season has turned around as Romar is finally allowing his stars to take over games. This game was a great example of that as Ross was the only guy to shoot final three minutes minutes Gant's breakaway dunk. The Huskies basketball program has accomplished a lot but they have never reached the NCAA tournament four years in a row. With wins over Arizona and UCLA this team is inching closer towards that goal. For these young Huskies to overcome blowing a huge lead against Arizona to win and now make a huge comeback to defeat the Bruins is a confidence builder for sure. For Ross who saved the day hopefully he can finally play a complete game so this team can become unbeatable especially in this conference. For the Huskies this is now four wins in a row and four wins in a row against mighty UCLA as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment