Saturday, March 10, 2012

9th seeded Beavers stun top seeded Huskies 86-84; NCAA tournament in jeopardy

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(21-10,14-4) despite winning the Pac-12 regular season championship needed a win in the 2012 Pac-12 tournament to clinch an NCAA tournament berth. Instead after being stunned by the Oregon State Beavers(19-13,7-11) 86-84 they could be the answer to a trivia. No BCS conference champion has ever missed the NCAA tournament but the Huskies are in danger of becoming the first ever team. After fighting back from 15 down to take an eight point lead the Huskies choked the game away at the free throw line. The Huskies as a team shot 12-26(46.2%) from the free throw line. With the game on the line Pac-12 coach of the year Lorenzo Romar put the ball in his future NBA players hands Tony Wroten who was red hot scoring a career high 29 points. Instead Wroten missed four free throws in the final 15 seconds as the Huskies trailed by only one point. Despite dominating the Beavers in the Romar era and dominating the Pac-10 now Pac-12 tournament the Huskies are done. The Huskies fate will now rest on the selection committee on Sunday which will make for the most nervous Sunday in the Romar era.

The first half was dominated by the Beavers. After the Huskies went on a 6-0 run to take a 21-19 lead the Beavers responded with a 12-3 run to lead 31-24. The lead kept growing for the Beavers as they led 46-33 at halftime. The Beavers went on a 27-12 run on the Huskies. The Beavers shot 18-37(48.6%) for the half, three for five(60.0%) on three pointers and 7-11(63.6%) on free throws. The Beavers outrebounded the Huskies 21-18. They were led by first-team all pac-12 guard Jared Cunningham who scored 10 points on 4-10 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Devon Collier scored 10 points on four for nine shooting with three rebounds. Ahmad Starks scored 11 points on four for six shooting including hitting all three three point attemps. Joe Burton filled up the stat sheet for the Beavers scoring eight points on three for six shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists. Eric Moreland scored seven points on three for five shooting with three rebounds and three block shots. The Beavers for the second straight day had built up a large lead over a school that had swept them in the regular season.

For the Huskies they played terrible shooting only 13-33(39.4%) from the field, 4-13(30.8%) from three point range and only three for five(60.0%) on free throws.  They were led by freshman Tony Wroten playing in his first career Pac-12 tournament game scoring 10 points on four for eight shooting making two for three free throws. Wroten had two rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He also had four turnovers as the Huskies turned the ball over 10 times. Terrence Ross scored seven points on three for nine shooting including a three pointer with two rebounds and a block shot. C.J. Wilcox scored eight points off the bench on three for six shooting including two three pointers with a steal. Abdul Gaddy had a rough first half scoring five points on two for seven shooting including one for five from three point range with just one assist. Darnell Gant was held scoreless but did grab six rebounds, dish out three assists, record a steal while fighting with three fouls. The Huskies dug themselves a huge hole in the first half that they had to erase or they could be headed towards the NIT.

The Huskies found themselves trailing 48-33 when they went on a huge run sparked by Gaddy and Gant. Gaddy scored eight straight points including back to back three pointers as the Huskies went on a 11-3 run to trail 51-44. Wilcox then hit a three pointer to tie the game up at 54-54 as the Huskies were on a 17-3 run.  The Huskies continued this run as they led 59-54 going on a 22-3 run. The run finally ended with the Huskies leading now 66-58 having gone on a 33-10 run with over eight minutes left in the game. The Huskies had totally taken momentum back from the Beavers who for the second straight day saw themselves blow a 15 point lead to a team who had swept them. For the two-time defending conference tournament champions and current Pac-12 regular season champions this game appeared over. The Huskies had taken back all the momentum as the Beavers couldn't hit a shot while the Huskies were scoring easy buckets on transition defense. Instead the Beavers like they did the previous game showed they still have fight in them and didn't quit. After not committing a single turnover the entire second half Abdul Gaddy tripped in the backcourt to give up the easy bucket which made it a two point game. The Huskies had been missing free throws leading up to that point having made 2-10 as a team outside of Wroten who sank seven free throws in a row as he had made 9-11 from the foul line. The Huskies were clinging to a 83-79 lead over the Beavers with less than a minute and a half to go in the game.

With the shot clock winding down Ahmad Starks who hadn't hit a shot the entire second half pulled up and hit a long range three pointer to pull the game to within 83-82. Unlike the UCLA disaster Romar this time put the game in the hands of his two best players Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten. Unfortunately for Romar both his studs would let him down. The Huskies cleared out for Terrence Ross and he blew by Burton instead of settling for the wide open mid range jumper he decided to plow through the Beavers defender getting the offensive foul. Jared Cunningham the Beavers first team all conference player attacked Gaddy to get the bucket and the foul putting the Beavers up 84-83 with 31.8 seconds left. That would set off the free throw missing contest as Cunningham missed the free throw meaning if the Huskies scored a basket they would win. Wroten attacked the rim and received the foul call with 15 seconds left in the game. Wroten who had swished seven free throws in a row went to the line and missed both free throws. The Huskies were forced to foul Cunningham who missed the front end of a one and one. Wroten had the ball again and Cunningham fouled him with 8.6 seconds left. Once again Wroten missed both free throws. This time Cunningham sank  both free throws giving the Beavers an 86-83 lead with 2.4 seconds left. Craig Robinson decided to foul Terrence Ross before he could hoist up a three pointer. Ross made the first free throw but the second free throw didn't hit the rim as the Beavers had the possession. Wroten then stole the ball but dropped the ball out of bounds as the game ended the Beavers became the first ever 9th seed to defeat the #1 seed in Pac-10/12 history. The Huskies tournament hopes are now on life support.

This was easily the biggest win in the Craig Robinson era. The Beavers for the second straight game blew a 15 point lead but still won. The Beavers shot well from the field making 32-64(50.0%) of their shots. Beavers made 5-11(45.5%) of their three points and made 17-32(53.1%) on free throws. The Beavers were led by their first teamer Jared Cunningham who scored 18 points on 6-15 shooting and 6-12 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out eight assists and had two steals while playing the entire game. Devon Collier led the Beavers in scoring with 19 points on 8-15 shooting with seven rebounds including five offensive. Ahmad Starks scored 14 points on 5-12 shooting with four three pointers. Joe Burton was big off the bench scoring 14 points on five for eight shooting making all four of his free throws. He had 10 rebounds and six assists. Eric Moreland scored 13 points on five for eight shooting with six rebounds and four block shots. Angus Brandt scored all eight of his points in the second half on three for six shooting with a three pointer. The Beavers basically only played six guys but all six guys scored over eight points. The Beavers pulled off the shocking upset of the Huskies which puts the Huskies tournament hopes in doubt. For the Huskies the wait until Sunday will be excruciating for a team who couldn't close the deal and now put the hands of their season to a bunch of guys who have never played the game.

The Huskies didn't play like a conference champion at all. They allowed an inferior team to build a 15 point lead then after coming back blew an eight point lead. The Huskies shot  well making 32-64(50.0%) of their shots. They did shoot poorly from three point range making 8-21(38.1%) and shot terribly from the free throw line making only 12-26(46.2%). Despite winning the rebounding war 40-35 the Huskies still lost the game because they missed 14 free throws. Despite his struggles in the final minute the Huskies were led by Tony Wroten who scored a career high and Huskies freshman record 29 points on 10-19 shooting while making 9-15 free throws. Wroten had seven rebounds including five offensive  with three assists, a steal and two block shots. C.J. Wilcox off the bench scored 16 points on 6-12 shooting including three for seven on three point shots but only one for three on free throws. Wilcox also had four rebounds and a steal. Terrence Ross scored only 15 points on 6-14 shooting including two three pointers but two for five on free throws. He did add five rebounds, three assists and a block shot. Abdul Gaddy scored 13 points on 5-12 shooting including three three pointers. He also had six assists and three rebounds. Darnell Gant scored six points on three for four shooting with 10 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Aziz N'Diaye fouled out scoring only four points making both shots with seven rebounds in only 22 minutes. The Huskies poor free throws is why they are in the mess that they find themselves in right now.

After playing so well the Huskies reverted back to their old ways which is losing close games. Had the Huskies closed out either the UCLA game or this Oregon State game there would be no nervous feelings on Sunday. Now the Huskies will have the most nervous day in the Romar era as there is no guarantee the Huskies are in the tournament. In Romar's previous six trips to the NCAA tournament on selection Sunday the Huskies woke up knowing they were going to the NCAA tournament. The only nervous tension was where they were headed. This Sunday the Huskies will gladly accept the pigtail game to Dayton on a Tuesday. The Huskies dug their own grave and now have no further choice but to sleep in it.


- Terrence Ross who was recently named first-team all pac-12 was also snubbed on the first team. I felt like Ross was very quiet for the Huskies scoring only 15 points. He didn't take over the game down the stretch like he normally does. If the Huskies end up in the NIT and Ross leaves to the NBA this isn't the lasting image at Washington that will make him a legend. Instead this will be going out much like Spencer Hawes did when he left the Huskies after one season. Ross had an up and down season full of passive play at times mixed with greatness.

Ross had a chance to put the game away by pulling up for the mid range jumper instead he recorded a costly offensive foul. Ross played 34 minutes and only attempted 14 field goals. Ross shot well too making 6-14 from the field and one for three on three pointers. Ross had to play big too since N'Diaye was in foul trouble and Desmond Simmons is playing with no confidence as of late. Meaning for the second straight game Romar went with the four guard lineup the entire second half. Seeing how the Huskies lost both games there is probably a reason why Romar hasn't done that more this season. Now for Ross hopefully he and his teammates receive second life in the NCAA tournament and he takes advantage of that opportunity. One thing is for sure Ross won't be making the all-tournament team this time around.

- C.J. Wilcox had another strong performance scoring 16 points off the bench on 6-12 shooting including three three pointers. Wilcox like last game against UCLA played great but missed a critical moment to put the game away. With the Huskies leading late Wilcox who is normally a good free throw shooter went one for three at the line including missing the front end of a one and one which led to an Oregon State three pointer.

Still if the Huskies can somehow make the NCAA tournament they do have Wilcox playing well at the right time. In his last eight games Wilcox is averaging 14.3 ppg while making 19-47(40.4%) of his three pointers for 2.38 three pointers a game. With Wilcox playing well the Huskies are a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament if they can manage to somehow make the big dance. Wilcox might have to be the guy next year if both Ross and Wroten decide to leave for the NBA. Wilcox last year played great in the Pac-12 tournament and it was looking like he was going to do the same this year had the Huskies advanced. Be a shame if the Huskies don't make the NCAA tournament because Wilcox is clearly healthy now and has found his outside stroke which has been nice for the Huskies.

- The Huskies were down by 13 points at halftime due to poor play in the paint. The Beavers had outscored the Huskies 30-18 in the paint. The Huskies have great guards who drive the hole in Wroten and Ross while having a great defender in the paint in N'Diaye. There was no excuse for the Huskies poor play in the paint. N'Diaye was in foul trouble as was Gant which hurt the Huskies. Shawn Kemp Jr, Desmond Simmons and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were quite ineffective in their Pac-12 tournament debutes.

The Huskies eventually won the rebounding war but in the first half they were dominated in the paint. That first half being behind by 13 points set the tone. Despite the Huskies outscoring the Beavers 33-10 at one point in the second half, the fact they had to overcome such a large margain came back to bite them in the end. That started in the paint where the Huskies started the year off so weak yet became a strength as they won the Pac-12 regular season championship. Just like the beginning of the year the interior defense of the Huskies let them down. The paint was dominated by the Beavers which set the tone in the first half. The Huskies were behind by 13 points because they were being dominated in the paint. The Beavers outscored the Huskies by 12 points in the paint in the first half as they led by 13 points.

- This was looking more and more like a storybook ending for Darnell Gant. He was supposed to come home to L.A. to clinch his fourth NCAA tournament trip in his hometown. Instead this has turned into a nightmare as he missed the potential winning shot against the Bruins. Now the Huskies lost to the Beavers. For Gant he is trying to become the first ever Husky to play in the NCAA tournament four times. Gant has had an up and down year but has improved on his rebounding. In tying the Huskies record for most games played Gant had another 10 rebound effort. For the year Gant is averaging 7.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG. In his last three games Gant is averaging 7.3 PPG and 9.7 RPG which is impressive considering he has never been a good rebounder. Hopefully selection Sunday can fulfill Gant's dream of becoming the first ever Husky to play in the NCAA tournament all four years.

- Abdul Gaddy continues to improve as the season grows but due to the amount of minutes Romar gives him is still hurting the team. Gaddy was a big part of the big hole in the first half as he shot poorly while dishing out one assist. Gaddy was also the spark plug to the comeback scoring eight straight points. Gaddy finished with 13 points making three three pointers and dishing out six assists. In the second half Romar had Wroten run the point and had Gaddy play the wing. Meaning Gaddy was in a position to catch and shoot or make the quick pass. Gaddy was no longer asked to make athletic plays which he has proven he is incapable of. This is something Romar should think about doing in the future hopefully in the NCAA tournament and next year if Wroten decides to return.

For the year Gaddy is now averaging 8.1 PPG and 5.0 APG.  In his last seven games Gaddy is averaging 8.6 PPG and 6.4 assists per game. Maybe the injury truly did affect him more than I wanted to give credit. Gaddy needs to continue to play well and possibly have him play the wing more with Wroten handiling the ball like the Huskies did in the second half.

- A few weeks ago we were all laughing at WSU making only 6-20 from the free throw line to gift wrap the win to the Huskies. Well nobody is laughing now as the Huskies made only 12-26 free throws. The focus will be on Wroten's misses but he was 9-15 meaning the rest of the team was 3-11. Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox were a combined 2-6 from the free throw line. Throw in Gaddy who is pretty decent that is 2-7. That isn't counting Ross intentional miss that didn't even hit the rim. Free throws have been a big issue in the Romar era for the past five seasons. Has cost the Huskies NCAA tournament games, big non conference games, conference games and now possibly a chance at the NCAA tournament. Perhaps Romar should put more of an emphasis on free throw shooting in the future.

- Tony Wroten played a great game. Wroten scored 29 points and was even making his free throws having made 9 of 11. Wroten scored 19 points in the second half carrying the Huskies to the lead and down the stretch. Wroten set the Huskies freshman record for most points scored with 29 as he was hitting one clutch free throw after another. Instead this game will be remembered as Wroten choking the game away and perhaps the season away. Down by one point Wroten had four free throw attempts and couldn't connect on a single free throw dooming the Huskies game.

Wroten's Pac-12 tournament game is a metaphor for the Huskies season. Started off with a ton of hype but struggled early on(Wroten scores 10 points but had 4 turnovers. Huskies start off 7-5). Then Wroten had a huge comeback the rest of the game getting his team in a comfortable position(Huskies leading by 8 as Wroten scores 19 second half. Huskies having a 21-8 record feeling comfortable for NCAA tournament). Suddenly Wroten choked down the stretch missing the last four free throws and the lasting image of this game is of Wroten choking(Much like the Huskies losing the final two games. Everyone has forgot about the Pac-12 title and focusing on those two bad losses). The freshman of the year Wroten averaged 16.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.6 APG with 1.9 steals per game. Wroten had a great year at Washington and I hope for his sake A) Huskies make the NCAA tournament and B) he comes back so this isn't the lasting image we have of him.

- Has the door slammed shut on the Huskies season? Like this picture shows the door is open for the Huskies but it's a dark situation. The door appears to have been shutting. How many more times can Romar fail to deliver with big time talent before the Huskies get labeled as "that" program. The Huskies are turning into Gonzaga basketball. A good solid program who produces good kids but never seems to win anything important ever. Would be a huge shame to have a team with Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and of course Tony Wroten play in the NIT. Romar won the Pac-12 coach of the year award this year which could end up being a hilarious award given the Huskies might not even play in the NCAA tournament. The season which looked so bright a week ago is looking downright ugly now.

- Romar has accomplished quite a bit at Washington. He has led the Huskies to five conference championships and six NCAA tournament berths. He has won coach of the year three times and is now 13-6 in the Pac-10/12 tournament. Romar can't seem to shake off the label of "underachieving" and this choke job doesn't help his reputation. This program has had the talent to break the door down but there is always an excuse. Time for Romar to look in the mirror and take accountability for these losses. The players keep changing yet these losses keep happening over and over again. Romar is an alum, turned Washington basketball around and is a great guy. He also seems to have plateaued as a program which is okay if you're a final four contender. After reaching back to back sweet 16's in 2005 and 2006 Romar has reached the sweet 16 just once. The lack of free throw shooting and not being ready for their opponent should fall on Romar's shoulders since this has been going on for several seasons. Playing like crap in nonconference has been a Romar theme last five seasons as well.

The Huskies will be raising a Pac-12 championship banner but what does it mean if they are hosting NIT games? It means nothing and shouldn't. This is too talented of a squad to be even in this situation as they should have ran both UCLA and Oregon State out of the gym. That's the problem with the Romar Huskies they play to the level of their competition. This program has plateaued and if you can't win with future NBA stars like Ross and Wroten then when are you going to win? The Huskies blew their season and can only hope they are bailed out on Selection Sunday. If the Huskies are bailed out they can make an elite 8 run as they have the talent. Sad thing is I'm thinking the Huskies played their last meaningful game of the season.

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