Friday, March 2, 2012

Huskies clinch at least a share of Pac-12 title with 80-58 blowout win over USC!

By Kshell

Playing down in L.A. where Darnell Gant grew up the senior has a great opportunity to clinch his fourth conference championship in four years. Gant provided a big game scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds as the Washington Huskies(21-8,14-3) blew out the USC Trojans(6-24,1-16) 80-58 clinching at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title. For Gant that means he has won a Pac-10 regular season title as a freshman(2009) and won back to back conference tournament championships(2010 and 2011). Now he has won at least a co-regular season championship this year and with a win over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday will have won an outright conference title. The Huskies took care of business against the Trojans outrebounding them 47-20 as they knew exactly what was at stake.

The Huskies knew this game was important and treated it as such. They began the game on a 13-4 run. After the Trojans went on a mini 7-3 run to pull within 16-11 the Huskies went on an 8-0 run lead to 24-11. From there the Huskies cruised into halftime with a 40-26 lead. The Huskies shot 16-37(43.2%) from the field, three for eight on three pointers(37.5%) but just 5-12(41.7%) on free throws. They out-rebounded the Trojans 29-10 including 14-1 in offensive rebounds. The Trojans shot 11-26(42.3%) on field goals, two for five(40.0%) on three pointers and two for three(66.7%) on free throws. The Trojans were led by Garrett Jackson scoring 10 points on five for seven shooting with five rebounds. Byron Wesley scored eight points on three for nine shooting including two free throws.

For the Huskies they were led by Terrence Ross scoring 11 points poin five for nine shooting including a three pointer with three rebounds. Senior captain Darnell Gant scored seven points on three for four shooting including a three pointer while pulling down six rebounds. Tony Wroten scored six points on two for nine shooting and just two for five on free throws. He did however grab seven rebounds including four offensive while dishing out four assists. Abdul Gaddy scored six points while making both his shots including a three pointer and free throw. Desmond Simmons scored five points on two for five shooting with four rebounds including three offensive. The Huskies dominated the half and looked to continue that in the second half.

After starting the second half on a 4-0 run to take a 44-28 lead the Trojans fought back. The Trojans went on a 14-5 run pulling to within 49-40. Terrence Ross then hit a three pointer for the Huskies as the Huskies went on a 7-0 run to lead 56-40 as the game wasn't close again. The game ended with Wroten throwing an alley-oop pass to Martin Bruening for the dunk as the Huskies won 80-58 outscoring the Trojans 40-32 in the second half. The Trojans shot 23-51(45.1%) from the field, 3-10(30.0%) on three pointers and 9-16(56.2%) on free throws. They were led by Byron Wesley scoring 23 points on 10-18 shooting with five rebounds. Garrett Jackson finished with 14 points on six for nine shooting.

For the Huskies they shot 31-67(46.3%) from the field, 6-13(46.3%) from three point range and 12-23(52.2%) from free throws. The Huskies dominated the glass with 47 rebounds to the Trojans 20 including 18-3 advantage on offensive rebounds. They were led by Terrence Ross who scored 18 points on 8-13 shooting including two for three on three pointers. Ross pulled down seven rebounds with a steal. Darnell Gant playing in his second to last regular season game scored 14 points on six for eight shooting while making two of three three pointers. He also grabbed nine rebounds including three offensive. Abdul Gaddy scored 12 points on four for six shooting including making his only three point shot and three for four on free throws. Gaddy also had five assists. Aziz N'Diaye scored eight points on three for six shooting with seven rebounds and a block shot. C.J. Wilcox scored eight points as well on 3-10 shooting with a block shot. Tony Wroten scored seven points on 2-13 shooting and three for seven at the foul line. He did grab eight rebounds including four offensive with six assists, two steals and a block shot. Desmond Simmons scored five points on two for five shooting with seven rebounds including three offensive and two steals.  Martin Bruenig scored five points  and grabbed two rebounds in only four minutes of playing time. He also made both shots including a three pointer. The Huskies saw 12 guys play with 10 guys scoring at least one point. While the Trojans had just eight guys play and only six score. The Huskies defeated an opponent who is down and they took advantage of that.

After the Huskies won against the Trojans there was no celebration as Lorenzo Romar made sure his team knew there was still unfinished business. The goal for the Huskies this week wasn't to win a share of the conference title but to instead win the conference title outright. Prior to 2009 the Huskies hadn't won the conference title outright since 1953 and now they have a chance to do that for the second time in four years. This Huskies team who graduated three key seniors last year, lost Isaiah Thomas to the draft and Scott Suggs has a chance to do something the two previous teams couldn't do which is win a regular season conference title. Something the Brandon Roy/Nate Robinson teams couldn't even do. This team who lost some terrible games in December has a chance to make some history at Montlake as only one team(1984) has ever won 15 conference games in a season as well. This team has accomplished quite a bit and now they have a chance to finish the job at UCLA this Saturday.


- In front of NBA scouts Tony Wroten had an off game. He kept missing layups and was 2-13 while shooting just three for seven on free throws. He also had four turnovers. With that said Wroten still showed his value grabbing eight rebounds(four offensive) and dishing out six assists with two steals and a block shot. Wroten will run away with the freshman player of the year and with a big game against UCLA on Saturday could win player of the year in the conference as well.

For the season now Wroten is averaging 16.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.6 APG. He is shooting 44.8% from the field and averaging 2.0 steals per game. Wroten tends to play big in big games and this game was never in doubt. Look for Wroten to have a big performance against UCLA and in the Pac-12 tournament. Depending on what he does in the NCAA tournament will determine if he comes back or not. If Wroten returns back to the program the Huskies could be the favorites to win the conference title.

- Darnell Gant has had an up and down career with the Huskies. He came to Washington as the highest rated power forward in the country. He was forced to redshirt his first year at Washington then as a redshirt freshman started 34 out of 35 games for the Huskies who won the regular season Pac-10 title. As a sophomore he was a starter but was quickly benched and rarely played. As a junior he made some starts but was a key guy off the bench. This season Gant started the first 14 games before being benched. He has now started the last three games and has played well the last two games. Gant in the last two games is averaging 8.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG while shooting 7-11(63.6%) from the field.

Gant's leadership and play will determine just how far the Huskies will go. So far this year Gant is averaging 7.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 23.2 minutes per game with 17 starts. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 34.4% on three pointers making 0.7 a game. Gant who is from LA. has a chance for the fourth straight year to receive a  conference championship ring in his hometown. This would be the type of storybook ending all Husky fans would love. The Huskies have won 97 games in the four years Gant has been at UW meaning no other four year stretch in Huskies history has seen more wins. If the Huskies reach the NCAA tournament no player will have played in four NCAA tournaments with the Huskies or have played in eight games which Gant will do. His career is almost over but Gant is hoping to prolong that career as long as possible.

- The big reason the Huskies won this game is the domination on the rebounding. The Huskies won the rebounding battle 47-20 including a 18-3 edge in offensive rebounding. They outrebounded the Trojans 29-10 at halftime with a 14-1 edge in offensive rebounding. The Huskies didn't shoot well from the field, three point range or free throws. The Huskies defense at times was lacking but one thing that was consistent was the rebounding. This was big since last game against the Cougars the Huskies were out rebounded by a team who ranks 248th in the nation in rebounding while the Huskies are top 10 in the nation. The Huskies get the job done as a team on rebounding as Aziz N'Diaye leads the team at 7.6 rebounds per game, then Terrence Ross who is a guard is next at 6.7 per game. Desmond Simmons is third at 5.4 per game in only 19 minutes. While Tony Wroten the point guard is fourth at 5.0 then Darnell Gant averages 4.8 per game. The Huskies have several guys including guards who can crash the boards which has been the key to success all season long.

- Terrence Ross rebounded nicely from his two point performance and fouling out against the Washington State Cougars. This game Ross started off early scoring 11 of his team high 18 points. When the Trojans pulled to within single digits at 49-40 it was Ross who hit a three pointer to start a run for the Huskies to finally put the Trojans away. Ross had a good game scoring 18 points on 8-13 shooting including two for three from three point range. He also grabbed seven rebounds in the process. The three point shooting was key because prior to that Ross had been 1-11(9.1%) from three point range last two games and 6-31(19.4%) in his last six games. Ross also hasn't attempted a free throw in two straight games and four out of six games. Ross needs to be more agressive going forward. Ross like his teammate Tony Wroten can win the conference player of the year award with a big performance on Saturday against the Bruins. Ross will make the first team all conference team as well as play in the NBA eventually.

For the year Ross is averaging 15.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is shooting 45.5% from the field, 35.7% on three pointers making 1.8 a game and 74.7% on free throws. Depending on how well Ross plays throughout the season will determine how far the Huskies go in the NCAA tournament if Ross will leave. If Ross and Wroten both leave the Huskies will be in a transition year. I think if Wroten comes back the Huskies can survive Ross leaving and still make the NCAA's. If both Wroten and Ross come back the Huskies could be talking preseason final four and find themselves ranked in the top 15 heading into next year. These next few weeks are critical for Ross and Wroten's future at this program.

- Lorenzo Romar for the fifth time in his coaching career at Washington will have won some sort of conference championship. In 10 seasons at Washington Romar has produced eight winning seasons and has won 19 games or more eight times. He has won 20 games or more six times. Romar has a chance to win his second outright regular season conference title with a win against a team he was an assistent for so many years(including winning a national championship). With that win that would basically clinch Romar going to the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in the last nine years at Washington. He also improves to 13-7 all-time against the Trojans who had defeated the Huskies three out of four and five out of eight. This was a program the Huskies had struggled with and the Huskies won both games by over 20 points. Romar the veteran coach just like that has been down this road before and will remind his team to keep calm. In 2005 the Huskies were in the same position but lost to Stanford on the road while in 2009 they finished the deal defeating the Washington State Cougars to clinch the title. Like every year Romar is at Washington his team has improved as the season has gone on which is the sign of a good coach. Can this finally be the year Romar moves past the sweet 16? We'll find out in a few weeks.

Now this long season comes down to one regular season game for the Huskies. The Huskies have a chance to have their banner read "2011-12 Pac-12 regular season champions" rather than "2011-12 Pac-12 co-champions". Both banners would look nice but obviously the banner that doesn't include the words "Co" would look better. The Huskies took care of business in the conference through the first 17 games winning 14 of them and hopefully they can finish the deal this Saturday at UCLA. This has been a great ride which will remind most fans of the 2003-04 team which featured a young roster who finally matured and went on a winning streak. The Huskies will take on a Bruins team they have defeated four times in a row. The Huskies did their job against the Trojans and now they know there is just one game left. As Romar told his team the Huskies goal wasn't to share it was to win the conference outright. Beating the Trojans was nice but the celebration won't happen until the Huskies defeat the Bruins.

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