Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ross leads Huskies to NIT first round win over Mavericks 82-72

By Kshell

Terrence Ross who might be playing in his final games as a Husky made sure this season would still be alive. Ross lead the Washington Huskies(22-10,14-4) with 23 points as the Huskies knocked off the UT-Arlington Mavericks(24-9,15-1) 82-72 in the first round of the NIT. The Huskies shot well during the game and after trailing 59-58 the Huskies went on a 19-6 run to put the game away. Led by Ross who prolonged his Husky career for at least one more game scoring 23 points and Darnell Gant who scored 13 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. For Gant these are for sure his last games in a Husky uniform as he is a senior. Lorenzo Romar did a good job making sure his team was ready even though early on it appeared that the Huskies didn't want to be there as the Mavericks dominated the glass. The Huskies who became the first ever major conference champions to be snubbed from the NCAA tournament now have to make due with their situation. They can't worry about the past and this game showed the Huskies got their first win of the NIT out of the way. From here on out each NIT game will seem more and more like a real game rather than an exhibition which is what this game felt like. For the 2012 Pac-12 champion Huskies this was a chance to move on and gain some more playing experience.

In the first half after a back forth game by both teams Ross started to go off for the Huskies. Ross scored 11 straight points for the Huskies as they led 32-24. Leading 34-26 over the Mavericks is when the Huskies got lazy on defense mainly on rebounding.  The Mavericks closed the half on an 11-3 run including a tip in at the buzzer to tie the score up at 37. The Mavericks shot 12-33(36.4%) from the field, were just one for nine(11.1%) from three point range and 12-15(80.0%) on free throws. They outrebounded the Huskies 23-11 including 11-3 on the offensive glass. They were led by LaMarcus Reed III scoring 10 points on one for six shooting making only one three pointer but was seven for eight on free throws. Bo Ingram scored nine points on three for eight shooting but made three of four at the free throw line with four rebounds.

The Huskies shot well making 14-28(50.0%) from the field, 4-12(33.3%) from three point range and five for seven(71.4%) from free throws. They were led by Ross who scored 11 points on five for nine shooting with a three pointer. He pulled down three rebounds with a steal and a block shot. Tony Wroten scored five points on two for four shooting making one for two free throws with four assists and a steal. Darnell Gant the senior scored five points on two for four shooting with a three pointer and five rebounds. Abdul Gaddy also scored five points on two for three shooting with a three pointer with four assists. The Huskies were tied at halftime and once again were seeing the end of their season in 20 minutes if things didn't turn around mainly rebounding.

In the second half the Huskies defense picked up as they outscored the Mavericks 45-35. The Huskies also won the rebounding war 12-10 in the second half. Trailing 59-58 the Huskies went on a 19-6 run capped by a Gant three pointer to lead 77-65 with under four minutes left in the game. The Huskies then cruised to an 82-72 win over the Mavericks advancing to the NIT sweet 16 against the Northwestern Wildcats. The Mavericks for the game shot 25-62(40.3%) from the field, 5-21(23.8%) from three pointers, and 17-22(77.3%) from the free throw line. They were led by Reed III who scored 20 points but made just 4-14 from the field but was 10-12 from the free throw line. Ingram scored 17 points but was only 6-17 shooting including 1-10 from three point range.

For the Huskies who move on they shot well making 27-47(57.4%) from the field, 8-22(36.4%) from three point range, 20-31(64.5%) from the free throw line. They were led by Terrence Ross who scored 23 points on 9-15 shooting including three three pointers. Ross also added five rebounds, a steal and two block shots. C.J. Wilcox off the bench scored 15 points on three for eight shooting with a three pointer but was 8-10 from the free throw line. Wilcox added four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Darnell Gant scored 13 points on five for nine shooting with two three pointers while grabbing 10 rebounds. Tony Wroten scored only nine points on three for five shooting and made three for four free throws. He also tied a career high with eight assists while having two steals and a block shot. Abdul Gaddy continued his fine play as of late scored 10 points on four for five shooting with two three pointers. He dished out six assists to only one turnover. Aziz N'Diaye scored seven points on one for two shooting making 5-11 from the free throw line. N'Diaye also added a block shot as he fought foul trouble all game. The Huskies really only had production from six players which has been a troubling trend for them lately.

The Huskies are playing in a tournament they don't want to be in and it showed in the first half. In the second half pride kicked in as the Huskies started to resemble that Pac-12 championship team who played so well for two straight months. Ross and Gant are extending their Husky careers while Wroten proved he can be a point guard who can help his teammates get better. This NIT serves as a chance for Gaddy to continue to grow as a point guard as well. The Huskies have to make the best of this situation and show the NCAA selection committee when it's all said and done that they made a mistake on this Huskies team who I felt should be playing in the NCAA tournament.


- Darnell Gant is playing his final days as a Husky. This game was significant for Gant as he played in his 137th game as a Husky meaning no other Husky has played in more games than Gant. In his Husky career the Huskies have now won 98 games which is pretty incredible and four conference championships.  Gant was denied a chance to become the first ever Husky to play in four NCAA tournaments but is still making the most of it.

Gant in the last four games has been rebounding like crazy. After recording 10 rebounds just once in his career in 134 games he has grabbed 10 rebounds the last three games. In the last four games Gant is averaging 8.8 PPG and 9.8 RPG during that stretch. He is also shooting 15-28(53.5%) from the field and 4-10(40.0%) from three pointers during that stretch. Gant is playing his heart out as he knows his days at Washington are about numbered. Too bad he didn't make the NCAA tournament as he is playing his best ball of his career.

- Tony Wroten had a strange game for him. In this game he only shot the ball five times and only scored nine points as he made three for five from the field and three for four on free throws. What made this game unique was Wroten tying a career high in assists with eight. Wroten made his teammates better and showed NBA scouts that he is capable of doing that.

Wroten who has played great all season long in his last six games is averaging 17.0 PPG, 4.8 APG and 5.7 RPG during that stretch. Hopefully Wroten comes back as the Huskies should make the NCAA tournament if he comes back. If these are indeed his last games in a Huskies uniform he is certainly making the best of his situation.

- Terrence Ross showed why he is most likely playing his final days as a Husky. In the first half he scored 11 straight points for the Huskies then in the second half scored 12 points leading the Huskies to the win. Ross since his disaster in Pullman has shot extremely well the last four games. Ross is averaging 18.5 PPG and 5.3 RPG. He is also chipping in with 1.5 steals per game and 0.75 blocks per game. During that stretch he is shooting well making 30-58(51.7%) from the field and 11-25(44.0%) from three point range. Ross is making 2.8 three pointers a game during that stretch. Showing once again he is a terrific athlete who can shoot well from the outside.

Ross was first team all Pac-12 on the season is now averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. Ross will have a fine NBA career as he has no weaknesses in his game other than consistency. If Ross can manage to bring his plus game every night he should have an easy transition at the next level. For Ross though having a big game means he'll get to play at least one more game in front of the hometown fans. The Huskies are hoping for a miracle with Ross coming back but that looks doubtful.

- You can't tell Lorenzo Romar this game meant nothing. Romar coached this game like it was an NCAA tournament game. He had a tight rotation as only six guys really contributed. Shawn Kemp Jr, Desmond Simmons and Austin Seferian-Jenkins played little. That was only due to N'Diaye being in foul trouble. Romar is trying hard to win this tournament so his team can have something to build on for next season. The Huskies season didn't end the way they wanted but instead of rolling over right now they can build on this season with more wins in this tournament.

This NIT I feel will help Gaddy, N'Diaye and the freshman the most. Those guys have a chance to grow as players as the Huskies will be leaning on them even more next season. Which is why Romar is treating this NIT like the NCAA tournament to give the kids pressure pack experience. This game still has meaning to some people in the program and especially Romar. Romar is treating this tournament like a big deal showing that coaches will always coach their heart out no matter what.

The Huskies won the first round of the NIT and will still continue their season this Friday against the Northwestern Wildcats. The Huskies have a chance to show they are more talented than the field as they continue to strive to play for New York City. This program isn't excited about playing in the NIT but they have a job to do which is win. In sports if there is a running scoreboard the goal is to win which is what the Huskies goal should be this NIT. This isn't the kind of wins we wanted in March but NIT wins are still better than NIT losses. The Huskies are hoping they can still continue to grow as a team as they are getting prepared for next season. In the meantime the Huskies are hoping to send out Darnell Gant with a bang.

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