Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ross & Wroten help Huskies sweep Wildcats 79-70; win fifth straight at home against Wildcats

By Kshell

On senior night Terrence Ross who also might be playing in his final game at home scored a game high 25 points as the Washington Huskies(19-8,12-3) swept the regular season series of the Arizona Wildcats(19-9,10-5) for the first time since 2004. The Huskies have defeated the Wildcats four of five the last two years and have won five years in a row at home against the Wildcats. This was easily the most complete game the Huskies have played all season where their offense at times resembled an NBA all-star game with all the high flying dunks while their defense was stingy. The Huskies controlled the paint, controlled the glass and played smart basketball for a full 40 minutes. Lorenzo Romar improves to 8-2 on senior night home games as Darnell Gant ended his Husky career with a home victory. In the four seasons Gant has been a member of the Huskies they are 64-7(90.1%) at home including 8-0 against the normal powerhouses of the conference Arizona and UCLA. This win also has the Huskies still remain tied for first place but now they are two games up on Oregon and Arizona who are both in fourth place. In the Pac-12 tournament top four seeds get a bye which is so important. Due to Ross scoring 25 and Wroten's 22 the Huskies once again defeated the Wildcats to earn the season sweep.

In the first half the Huskies featured a new starting lineup with this being senior night. Darnell Gant who has started in the past before started in front of redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons. The shocker was Romar rewarded Brendan Sherrer the walk-on over Aziz N'Diaye. The Huskies quickly fell behind to the Wildcats 7-2. After trailing 14-12 the Huskies would go on a 9-0 run highlighted by Aziz N'Diaye getting the steal at mid-court and going down for the jam take a 21-14 lead. On that play Sean Miller received a technical foul which Wilcox sank both free throws. Wroten later on in the half had an alley-oop pass to Ross for the dunk to extend the Huskies lead to 31-20. Solomon Hill would drain a three pointer to pull within 35-30 as the Wildcats were on a 10-4 run. Brendan Lavender would hit a three pointer to pull within 38-35. The Huskies would lead 39-37 as the Wildcats practically erased that 11 point lead ending the half on a 12-4 run.

The Wildcats were fortunate to be trailing by just two points at halftime after falling behind by 11 points. The Wildcats shot 11-30(36.7%) from the field but made four for eight(50.0%) from three pointers and 11-17(64.7%) on free throws. They were led by Kyle Fogg who scored nine points on three for six shooting including a three pointer. Solomon Hill scored seven points on just one for six shooting but had a three pointer with five rebounds. Nick Johnson scored six points on one for three shooting. Brendan Lavender had six points making two of three three pointers. Jessey Perry had six points on three for six shooting. The Huskies meanwhile shot 15-43(34.9%) from the field, 1-12(8.3%) on three pointers and 8-12(66.7%) on free throws. They did outrebound the Wildcats 16-13 with eight offensive rebounds. They were led by Terrence Ross who scored 15 points on 7-13 shooting but was just one for seven on three pointers. Tony Wroten had 10 points on just 3-16 shooting but made four of six free throws. He also had four offensive rebounds. Abdul Gaddy provided six points on two for six shooting including four assists. Aziz N'Diaye scored six points off the bench on three for seven shooting with five rebounds. The Wildcats had survived the Huskies best shot and had all the momentum heading into the second half then Wroten took over.

In the second half after the Wildcats had tied it at 39 the Huskies went on a 6-0 run led by Wroten scoring four points. The Huskies would maintain that six point edge most of the half. The Wildcats had pulled within 56-52 when senior Darnell Gant missed a three pointer but Ross was there for the tip in to extend the lead to 58-52. Leading 60-54 after a Wildcats miss Wroten got the rebound as he headed up court he had a two on one fast break. The defense had closed in on Ross so Wroten put his head down and drove harder going for the dunk and then finally gave Angelo Chol(who chose the Wildcats over the Huskies then smacked talk Wroten on twitter) a facial as he dunked on Chol to give the Huskies a 62-54 lead. The crowd went from going crazy to a nervous silence as Terrence Ross picked up his fourth foul as the Huskies led 62-56. That is when C.J.Wilcox who hadn't attempted a field goal until nine minutes left in the game finally came to the party. Wilcox hit a three pointer to give the Huskies a 66-57 lead. Wilcox again would hit a three pointer to 70-61. After a missed layup Wilcox would tip it in to give the Huskies a 72-61 lead. The Huskies would then cruise to the 79-70 win over the Wildcats making sure the seniors would end their career properly.

The Huskies won 79-70 over the Wildcats. The Wildcats shot 22-56(39.3%) from the field, 6-21(28.6%) from three point range and 20-29(69.0%) on free throws. The Wildcats were led by Nick Johnson who scored 20 points on 6-14 shooting with two three pointers and four assists. Solomon Hill who torched the Huskies last time had just 13 points on 2-7 shooting but made 8-13 free throws and collected 10 rebounds.

For the Huskies they shot 28-67(41.8%) from the field, 3-18(16.7%) from three pointers and 20-30(66.7%) from free throws. The Huskies out rebounded the Wildcats 40-35 with 16 offensive rebounds. The Huskies also had seven blocks to the Wildcats four, eight steals to the Wildcats zero and just seven turnovers to the Wildcats 13. This was a total team effort led by Terrence Ross who scored 25 points on 11-19 shooting with a three pointer. Ross also added five rebounds, a block shot and five steals in possibly his final home game as a Husky. Tony Wroten scored 22 points on 8-22 shooting including six for nine on free throws. Wroten added two assists but nine rebounds including five offensive. C.J. Wilcox scored 11 points on three for five shooting including two three pointers and was three for four at the free throw line. Abdul Gaddy scored nine points on two for eight shooting but was five for six at the free throw line. Gaddy also had six assists to zero turnovers. Aziz N'Diaye making the rare appearance off the bench scored eight points on three for eight shooting but grabbed 12 rebounds. He also had four block shots and a steal as he dominated the paint. Darnell Gant playing his final home game scored just three points on one for five shooting but had four rebounds. He also had a steal and two block shots. This was a huge win from Romar's team over the Wildcats.

This was a big win for the Huskies who have won more conference games than they have the last two years with their 12th conference win. This is also the eighth time in the last nine years the Huskies have won at least 19 games in a season. Heading into the year this team had so much hype and promise despite losing their top three leading scorers along with another key player. The Huskies have really grown up from that 5-5 start that saw them drop four out of five games. Since that terrible the stretch the Huskies are 16-3 playing like the team everyone had hoped for. The home schedule is over as the Huskies went 15-2 this year at home meaning this is the seventh season in the last eight years the Huskies have lost two or fewer home games. The Huskies have a true home court advantage like no other in the Pac-12. The Huskies have now swept the season series from the Oregon State Beavers, Arizona State Sun Devils and now the Arizona Wildcats. The Huskies won a crucial game which keeps them tied for first place in the conference as they try to raise their fourth straight conference championship banner.


- Tony Wroten is a special talent and like Ross might have played his final home game for the Huskies. I think Wroten should come back but my opinion much like everyone else doesn't matter. Wroten finished the game with 22 points and nine rebounds on 8-22 shooting. Don't be fooled by Wroten's poor shooting line as most of his misses he follows up with the put-back. Wroten is probably the best guard I've ever seen at following up his own miss with the put-back. Wroten proved who the best point guard on the court was this game and that wasn't Nick Johnson or Josiah Turner who he got the best of in both matchups. Wroten had the game saving block shot down in Tucson and this game had the terrific dunk on Angelo Chol proving that you shouldn't smack talk Wroten on twitter.

Wroten should run away with Pac-12 freshman of the year as well as be selected on the first team Pac-12 team. He should also be first-team all-american all-freshman team as well. Wroten is averaging 16.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 3.5 APG. He is also averaging 2.0 steals per game while shooting 46.5% from the field. He's scored in double figures in 25 of the 27 games he's played in this year. Wroten has surpassed Isaiah Thomas 2008-09 season as best freshman season ever at Washington. Wroten is having a terrific year and if not for teammate Terrence Ross he'd be a strong candidate(still is actually) for Pac-12 player of the year.

- Winning is fun and no team has more fun than the Washington Huskies. The building has a great atmosphere that only the Wildcats can match in this conference. For the second straight game the bench provided the lift for the Huskies outscoring the Wildcats bench 20-10. The Wildcats played just seven guys while the Huskies played 10 guys. As the game wore on the Huskies appeared to be getting stronger as the Huskies simply had more weapons than the Wildcats did. You need stars to carry you throughout the game but every title contending team as a quality bench they can rely on. The Huskies have that as they always have an ace up their sleeve in sixth man C.J. Wilcox who appeared to have broken out of his slump this game.

- This was a weird game for Wilcox as he was passive for the first time in his career. Wilcox normally the gunslinger that he is won't be so passive but he didn't attempt a single field goal until nine minutes left in the game which he missed badly. With the Huskies up only six and Ross sitting on the bench with four fouls someone had to step up. That is when Wilcox took over as he passed up a mid range shot passed to Gaddy who immediately passed to Wilcox in the corner for a wide open three pointer which he drilled. Soon after Wilcox hit another three pointer in the opposite corner. After a missed shot Wilcox tip the ball in to score eight straight points for the Huskies. He would finish with 11 points on three for five shooting while going two for three from three point range.

Wilcox had a long stretch last season where he slumped but snapped out it late in the year. The Huskies are hoping Wilcox can repeat that once again this year. This is the second straight game he has shot over 50.0% which has to make Husky fans happy. After making just one three pointer in the first four games back from injury Wilcox has now made at least two three pointers in four straight games. For the year Wilcox is averaging 13.7 PPG while making 2.2 three pointers a game at a 40.5% clip. Wilcox is capable of more and I think he is about to breakout for a big game anytime now.

- One thing all Romar NCAA tournament teams have in common is they play good defense to great defense. This team early on was terrible defensively and at times acted like they wanted no part of that. Well that mindset has changed in conference play and that was evidence by the Arizona game this Saturday. The Huskies held the Wildcats to 39.3% shooting from the field and 28.6% from three point range. In the second half the Wildcats shot 2-13(15.3%) from three point range. The Huskies outscored the Wildcats 40-33 in the second half as well.

The Huskies out rebounded the Wildcats 40-35 including 16 offensive rebounds. The Huskies also had eight steals to the Wildcats zero and had seven block shots highlighted by four by N'Diaye. N'Diaye was the difference maker on defense in the win with 12 rebounds and four block shots. Solomon Hill who killed the Huskies last game with 28 points and 14 rebounds made just two for seven from field goals. Kyle Fogg was 4-12 shooting including one for six in the second half. The Pac-12's leading three point shooter Brendan Lavender was just two for six from three point range including missing all three in the second half. The defensive intensity for the Huskies was the difference in this game which was led by N'Diaye.

- Aziz N'Diaye who came off the bench so senior Sherrer could start  on senior night. N'Diaye played terrific scoring eight points with a thunderous dunk in the first half. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and had four block shots. For N'Diaye he has improved a lot from last season. I think many rival fans who mocked N'Diaye last year forgot he was only a sophomore coming off major knee surgery where he had to miss the entire previous season. N'Diaye is fully healthy now and it shows. Last year in 35 games N'Diaye scored in double figures just three times all were non conference games. He grabbed double figures rebounds in just six games. He averaged 4.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 1.1 blocks in 17.4 minutes per game.

This year in only 25 games so far he has scored in double figures in 10 games(five in conference play). He has grabbed double digit rebounds in seven games. He is averaging 8.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 1.2 blocks in 23.7 minutes per game. As you can see N'Diaye is a vastly improved player from last season which is huge for the Huskies. No other team in conference has a seven footer so that is an advantage the Huskies have over every team this season and should have for next season as well.

- There was chants of  "One more year" for Terrence Ross and with good reason. Ross if he did indeed play in his final home game went out with a bang scoring 25 points with five rebounds and five steals. We had always wandered what would happen if Ross finally had a good first half? Well he did this game scoring 15 points on 7-13 shooting. Ross fills up the stat sheet now, is freakishly athletic, can shoot with the best of them and really has no weakness in his game. I stated I felt Wroten should come back well I see no reason for Ross to come back. Ross has showed the scouts more than enough this year to be a lottery pick and a future NBA All-Star.

For the year Ross who will be named first team all Pac-12 has a chance to be the conference player of the year. Ross is averaging 15.6 PPG, 6.8 rebounds per game. He is also averaging 1.2 steals and a full block per game. He is shooting 45.3% from the field, making 1.8 three pointers a game on 35.8% shooting from beyond the arc and making 74.7% from free throws. Ross when he came to Washington was the "other" Terrence as Terrence Jones and him were supposed to both go to Washington. Instead looking back it was the Huskies who got the better Terrence as Jones might have to come back another season. Ross had a great game against the Wildcats as he is averaging 20.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG. He is averaging four steals and two blocks as well. Ross has finally emerged as the go to guy for the Huskies and has embraced that role. If this was his final home game what a way to go out.

- The home career of fifth year senior Darnell Gant is finally over. During Gant's four years at Washington the Huskies went 64-7(90.1%) at home. Gant didn't have a strong game as he scored just three points but he did have good defense with four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. So far in Gant's four years the Huskies are 95-38(.714) which includes a Pac-10 regular season championship, two Pac-10 tournament championships and so far the Huskies are tied for the regular season crown once again. Gant is looking to become the first ever player in this entire University of Washington basketball program to play in four straight NCAA tournaments. Gant has played in 132 out of 133 possible games in his career at Washington. He has started 71 games in his career including three NCAA tournament games and two Pac-10 tournament games. Not bad for a guy who has only scored in double figures in his career 11 times. This season Gant is averaging 7.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG. His career hasn't been flashy but the thing fans will remember most about Gant is when he was part of this team this team won a ton of games.

- For Romar his dominance over the conference continues. Romar improves to 13-10(7-3 at home, 3-7 on road, 3-0 in Pac-10 tournament) all-time against the powerhouse Arizona Wildcats. He is also 11-9 against the UCLA Bruins the other powerhouse in the conference. Romar in his career at Washington is 107-70(.629). You take away his first year where he went just 5-13 in conference play and Romar in the last nine seasons at Washington is 102-57(.641) in conference play. That also doesn't include his 13-5(.722) record in the Pac-10 tournament which is of course against fellow Pac-10 teams. Romar has a winning record against everyone in conference play but the California Golden Bears(10-11 all-time against them). Romar's dominance of the conference is the main defense for the Romar defenders as it should be. He has also pumped up the talent pool at Washington with having seven guys drafted into the NBA including four in the first round. That list will be growing soon with Ross and Wroten as both are destined to be first round picks. That isn't up for date that is just a matter of when. The Huskies have a winning record over Arizona and UCLA during a 10 year stretch which prior to 10 years ago would have been laughed at. That is how much times have changed at the University of Washington.

This was a huge win for the Huskies and what made it bigger is the fact the Huskies defeated the Wildcats and there was no surprise. The Huskies have defeated the Bruins eight straight years at home and now the Wildcats five straight years at home. The Huskies have also won four of their last five against the Wildcats while also winning four in a row against the Bruins. The Huskies taking care of the two traditional powers in the conference has paved their way into proving they are a program that isn't going away anytime soon. The Washington-Arizona rivalry is the best in the conference in my opinion as they have produced the best games during this past decade. This game provided a ton of highlight reel dunks by the Huskies as they took care of business. The Huskies win over Arizona and with California defeating the Oregon Ducks means the Pac-12 race went from five teams going for a title to just three with Washington, California and Colorado. Unfortunately for the Huskies both those teams have defeated the Huskies and there will be no rematch either not in the regular season that is. The Huskies now go on the road to finish out their season as they are just 4-6 on the road but have won four out of five on the road since starting off 0-5. The Huskies sent Gant out with a win now it's time for the Huskies to take care of business on the road. Winners take care of business at home while champions win on the road. We'll find out soon if the Huskies are champions. One thing that we do know is that they are definitely winners as this has been the greatest four year stretch in Huskies basketball history.

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