Feb. 2, 2013
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Now THAT, for one of the few times all season, was Husky Basketball.
Racing. Relentless. Resourceful. Revitalizing.
With leading scorer C.J. Wilcox shot-less for much of the night, let alone scoreless, Andrew Andrews continually drove at the rim for daring scores. Shawn Kemp, Jr. made cat-like moves in the low post past stunned Sun Devils, then stepped back and even swished 17-foot jumpers.
And Aziz N'Diaye did everything else.
N'Diaye had 16 points, 10 rebounds, a huge offensive rebound and put-back score with 24 seconds to put UW up by three -- then blocked Arizona State's wondrous Jahii Carson at the rim with the Huskies leading by two in the final seconds. Wilcox added the clinching free throws with 3 seconds left and the Huskies ended a four-game losing streak with a wild, breakneck 96-92 victory Saturday night before 8,417 screaming folks at Alaska Airlines Arena.
"The big man in the middle was huge tonight," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said, also highlighting N'Diaye's 7-for-8 field goals and the 42-percent foul shooter making both of his free throws.
N'Diaye and Kemp - "Shawn Kemp. Wow!" Romar gushed over his new starter at power forward -- were the reasons Washington had a whopping 50-34 edge in points in the paint. It was 16 more points than UW (13-9, 5-4 Pac-12) had scored inside in any of its previous 21 games.
To think: N'Diaye did all that after getting three stitches sewn into the brow above his left eye, the result of ASU Carrick Felix's knee inadvertently bonking the 7-footer in the face 90 seconds into the game.
He looked like a prizefighter playing with a bandage above that cut left eye - then, in character, delivered the late knockout.
"When I got hit, I was a little dizzy. I saw the doctor and they put some anesthesia (on the wound) and I got some stitches," N'Diaye said, sounding as if it was a mere annoyance rather than a setback that kept him on the bench for 4 minutes.
"After that I was fine."
He was waaaaay more than fine.
ASU coach Herb Sendek was succinct - and accurate - thinking of N'Diaye.
"We got crushed inside," Sendek said.
Andrews, the redshirt freshman with an edge, had a career best 20 points. Kemp had a career-high 18, with six rebounds. And Scott Suggs scored 14 for Washington, which ran more than it had all season then held on against an ASU team off to its best start since 1981.
The run-and-gun show with the thrilling finish was one of the wilder games in the conference this season.
"I tell you, our plan every game is to run. But we play a lot of teams that play deliberate basketball," Romar said. "Tonight, those were two teams that want to push the ball. That's what we practice. That's how we play.
"I think we have to do a better job defensively against a team that wants to push it like that," Romar added, lamenting Arizona State shooting 64 percent. "That's how we practice, that's how we play, that's what we talk about all the time. Teams do a good job at getting back on us, and defensively if we can't impose our will and create turnovers we don't get in transition as much."
They sure did Saturday night, from the jump. With first Abdul Gaddy and then Andrews stuck in overdrive and into the center of the Sun Devils (17-3, 6-3), the Huskies never trailed.
Washington's lead grew to 15, at 63-48, with 16:40 left on an offensive rebound and 3-point play by N'Diaye. But Carson would not let the Sun Devils die. The fantastic guard finished with 32 points, second most by a freshman in ASU history. Led by Carson and Jonathan Gilling (22 points, 6 for 8 on 3's), the visitors got within a point twice, with 3:12 and then 1:57 to go.
But then UW's Desmond Simmons, who has yielded his starting spot to Kemp but not his signature, scrappy mentality, hit a jumper while being knocked down by Gilling. Simmons' 3-point play made it 87-83 with 93 seconds left.
Carson coldly swished a 3 from the wing to make it a one-point game again with 1:27 remaining. A long 2 by Suggs then a 3-pointer from ASU's Gilling tied the game for the fourth time. Then N'Diaye beat Sun Devils 7-footer Jordan Bachynski to a backside rebound of a miss by Suggs with 35 seconds to go. N'Diaye spun his put-back shot off the glass so quickly all the stunned Bachynski could do was slap N'Diaye's wrist a second too late.
Instead of ASU having the ball with a chance to win the game with a final shot, Aziz's swished his ensuing free throw to put the Huskies ahead 92-89. That drew one of the loudest of many roars from the frenzied crowd.
It was the biggest play of the game. Until N'Diaye's next one.
The undaunted Carson made another 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go to cut UW's lead to 94-92. After a timeout, Gaddy missed two open Huskies breaking for his inbounds pass. He held onto the ball too long for a five-second violation and potentially devastating turnover.
Arizona State's last chance to tie was Carson, of course, driving from the top of the key down the right side of the lane. Suggs stayed with his man, and N'Diaye moved over to right of the rim as the freshman let go over a runner from about 5 feet out. N'Diaye's hand swiped the shot into the backboard and into the mitts of UW's Wilcox below.
Wilcox made the final two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining for the final points.
"It was just a matter of time. We hadn't been playing well offensively, but we knew it was coming," said Wilcox, who finished with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting. "We knew what we were capable of tonight."
These renewed, runnin' Dawgs put up the most points the Sun Devils had allowed in seven seasons under Sendek, who has turned ASU into a more up-tempo team this season. Wilcox didn't take a shot until 4:45 remained in the opening half, and it was an airballed jumper far off to the right of the rim. The Pac-12's leading scorer with 18.9 points per game in league play coming in was 0 for 3 in the opening half but was diving all over the floor for loose balls and had a career-high seven assists. Who'd have thunk UW was capable of scoring 52 points, a season high for first-half scoring, with Wilcox having none of those?
Well, Andrews, for one. The redshirt freshman went off for 15 points in the first half, two short of his career high for a game set last month against Utah when Wilcox was similarly shut down. He did it the way the redshirt freshman loves to play: by relentlessly attacking the rim.
"I was just doing what the coaches were telling me to do. Just trying to push the ball, trying to get people open, taking what the defense gives me," he said. So after scoring just 53 points in a crushing, four-point loss Thursday after leading No. 8 Arizona late, the Huskies are again revitalized. They are two games behind Pac-12 co-leaders Oregon (which lost again Saturday at California) and Arizona, which won at Washington State. UW is one game behind runners-up Arizona State and UCLA.
They have resume-shaping games remaining against all four - including Thursday night at UCLA (16-6, 6-3).
"It hurt (losing to Arizona), because we could have won that game," said Kemp, who is finally fully healthy and utilized after a torn patella tendon in November. "But that game definitely made us stronger."
Not to mention faster.