Two days ago I talked about a storybook ending for Darnell Gant winning an outright Pac-12 championship in his hometown against the team who didn't recruit him. There is a reason why those are called storybook endings and not reality. With the Huskies trailing 71-69 Lorenzo Romar drew up a play for his senior captain to knock down the game winning three pointer. Instead Gant's three like most of his shots that evening came up short and the Huskies momentarily lost out on a chance to win the outright Pac-12 title. The UCLA Bruins(18-13,11-7) earned the season split by defeating the Washington Huskies(21-9,14-4) 75-69 after trailing by as many as nine points in the first half. The Bruins who had have plenty of controversy this week responded by sweeping the Washington schools. The Huskies after scoring 47 points in the first half scored just 22 in the second half as the Bruins dictated the pace. This was another tough loss on the road in the Romar era where once again his best players didn't decide the game. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten didn't touch the ball on the final possession despite all three having productive games. Now the Huskies must wait and see how the California Golden Bears-Stanford Cardinal game goes to see if they are just co-champions or outright champions. Either way the Huskies blew a big time opportunity to punch their ticket into the NCAA tournament.
For the Huskies they shot extremely well too making 18-35(51.4%) on field goals, 6-12(50.0%) on three pointers and five for nine(55.5%) on free throws. They were led by Terrence Ross who was looking to clinch Pac-12 player of the year scoring 13 points on 5-10 shooting including making three three pointers. He also had three rebounds and four steals in the first half. C.J. Wilcox off the bench scored 15 points on six for seven shooting including making all three three point attempts. Tony Wroten scored 11 points on five for six shooting with three assists and two rebounds including a block shot. The trio of Wroten, Wilcox and Ross scored the Huskies first 23 points of the game as well. Abdul Gaddy scored only two points but had nine assists at halftime. The pace of the game was favoring the Huskies which in the second half Howland made an adjustment.
For the Huskies they shot 27-62(43.5%) from the field, 9-22(40.9%) on three pointers and a woeful 6-11(54.5%) on free throws. The Huskies were led by C.J. Wilcox scoring 22 points off the bench on 9-12 shooting including four three pointers. He also had five rebounds as well. Terrence Ross scored 18 points on 7-16 shooting also made four three pointers but for the third straight game failed to shoot a free throw. Ross had four rebounds and four steals. Tony Wroten scored 14 points on 6-12 shooting as he slumped in the second half. Wroten also added three rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. Aziz N'Diaye scored seven points on three for five shooting as he battled foul trouble all game. N'Diaye also grabbed six rebounds and a steal. Abdul Gaddy scored only five points on one for seven shooting including a three pointer. He did however dish out 12 assists with three steals. Darnell Gant scored only two points on one for seven shooting as well including the final miss. Gant tied a career high with 10 rebounds. This is a loss that could haunt the Huskies for a while as they were the better team and let this one slip away.
The Huskies have no other choice but to wait and see what happens between Stanford-California today. For the Huskies they must be more agressive and attack the rim as they were falling in love with the three point shot too much. The Huskies choked this game away and must rebound next week in Los Angeles as they look to defend their back to back conference tournament championship. This Huskies team is resiliant and have proven in the past in the Romar era they can bounce back from tough losses. This ranks up their as one of the toughest regular season losses in the Romar era without a doubt. The Huskies failed to punch their ticket into the big dance and now must take care of business next week to make sure they're going to be dancing.
- C.J. Wilcox is healthy and has shown that in the last few games. Today Wilcox came out in the first half and continued that throughout the game. Wilcox scored 22 points on 9-12 shooting including four three pointers. Wilcox had two crucial wide open three point misses but the game shouldn't even be on his shoulders as he carried the Huskies. I would have liked to have seen Wilcox take the final game winning shot. Wilcox who has hit pressure shots before as he drilled a three pointer to force overtime last year in the Pac-10 championship game against Arizona.
Wilcox in his last seven games is averaging 14.0 PPG and 3.3 RPG. He is also shooting better making 34-71(47.8%) from the field, 16-40(40.0%) from three point range averaging 2.3 three pointers made a game. He has also made 14-19(73.6%) on free throws during that stretch. For the season Wilcox is averaging 13.9 PPG, 3.3 rebounds per game. He is shooting 43.3% from the field, 41.2% on three pointers making 2.3 a game and 85.7% on free throws. He is also filling up the stat sheet averaging 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. That injury kind of derailed Wilcox for a while but he has bounced back the last seven games. He is back to being that instant offense for the Huskies off the bench. Depending on what Ross and Wroten do in the offseason Wilcox's role on the team might have to expand a lot next season.
This year Wroten is averaging 16.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 3.7 APG. He is also averaging 2.0 steals per game while shooting 45.0% from the field. Those numbers are why Wroten will be first team all conference and in talks of player of the year award. These numbers 18.4% on three pointers on 1.6 attempts per game, 57.5% on free throws on 7.6 attempts and 3.9 turnovers is why Wroten should come back. Even if Ross leaves if Wroten comes back the Huskies will be the favorites to win the conference along with Arizona Wildcats in my opinion. If both Wroten and Ross leave the Huskies are looking at the NIT at best next season.
For the year Gaddy is averaging 33.6 minutes per game, 7.9 PPG and 4.9 APG. He is shooting 39.5% from the field and 31.4% on three pointers on 2.3 attempts per game. Hopefully next year Gaddy will have improved on his shooting since Romar is in love with him. I have no problem with Gaddy as he does have value. The problem is Romar plays him like he is a superstar when he should be a role player coming off the bench instead. Anyways if Gaddy keeps producing those 6.5 assists per game like he has the last six games I won't be complaining.
For the year Ross is averaging 15.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks. He is shooting 45.4% from the field, 36.2% on three pointers making 1.8 a game and 74.7% on free throws. Ross can drive to the hole, he can shoot a three point shot and mid range jumper. He rebounds very well for a guard and although at times he is bad defensively due to his athletic ability can be a good defender in the NBA. When he came to Washington, Romar called him the best athlete he's ever coached. Ross who broke out last year during the Pac-10 tournament when he was named first team all tournament team has a chance to repeat that honor. Ross I still think should win the player of the year award but you never know. One thing I do know is that this is Ross final season at Washington. I'm glad I'm taking the time to appreciate his greatness.
On the final possession of the game he put the ball in his second and worst players on the court. Gaddy had the clock wind down then kicked to Gant who was 1-6 prior to that miss and hadn't made a big shot in his entire career at Washington. While Wroten, Wilcox and Ross didn't touch the ball. I'd rather seen Wroten have the ball there since the Huskies are down just two so they would have to respect Wroten driving to the rim and probably collapse. Meaning either Ross or Wilcox who both made four three pointers would be left open. Just like last year when Isaiah Thomas did that to the Arizona Wildcats to find open Ross and then Wilcox to tie up the game.
- Romar has accomplished a lot in his career with the Huskies. If the Huskies go to the tournament this year that will be the 7th time in 10 years. Romar has won some sort of conference championship five times while with the Huskies. This loss drops him to 11-10 all-time against the Bruins meaning he still has a winning record against the Bruins and Arizona Wildcats the two powerhouse programs. Romar was Pac-12 coach of the year for the first 17 games in the conference but this loss I think cost him the Pac-10 coaching of the year award. A team that was picked to finish fourth(were they on crack?) will either tie for the conference title or win it outright today. Still I just can't get over the final play where Romar had his three best players not touch the ball. Where Gant and Gaddy who were a combined 2-14 played the most minutes as well. Romar loves veterans which is why the Huskies always seem to lose these type of games much like last year against UNC in the NCAA tournament.
When Romar adapts to college basketball 2012 style and realizes talent is greater than experience the Huskies can make some real noise. Until then sadly they are a sweet 16 ceiling with him as head coach. Romar is a wonderful person and a good coach. He does have his flaws which as a person aren't bad since his main flaw is loyalty. Romar needs a cold hearted assistent to whisper in his ear so games are no longer decided by upperclassman who aren't ready for the moment.
This loss will sting with the Huskies for a while but they have a chance to three-peat as conference tournament champions which hasn't been done since the Arizona Wildcats did it in the late 1980's/early 90's. This group still won a share of a conference title keeping that streak alive as well. The Huskies hopefully build from this tough loss as ultimately the regular season doesn't matter in college basketball. It's what you do in March Madness. Nobody cares that UCONN last year finished 9th place in their conference or that VCU didn't belong in the NCAA tournament. Romar who is 13-5 all-time in the conference tournament will have his team prepared this week. This is when the Huskies start to build momentum heading into the NCAA tournament as Romar has won at least one tournament game in five of his six previous appearances. This loss will sting for the Huskies but look for them to bounce back even stronger from this tough defeat.