Jan. 23, 2013
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
CORVALLIS, Ore. - For too long at too many key moments, they were the Awgs again.
Certainly at the beginning, when the Dawgs created an almost unfathomable 20-point hole for themselves just 15 minutes into Wednesday night's game at Oregon State. And not after the Huskies rallied gamely all the way back to within one point early in the second half behind C.J. Wilcox's shooting.
More defensive lapses resulted in open Beavers shooters and ultimately a 74-66 loss for the UW at half-empty Gill Coliseum.
Wilcox rallied from a 3-for-9 start to finish with 23 points, four above his season average, and Abdul Gaddy had 14 in one of the more aggressive games of his struggling month for Washington (12-7, 4-2 Pac-12).
But the inconsistency on defense - Oregon State (11-8, 1-5) spent much of the opening half shooting 60 percent, the same figure Utah (then also 0-5 in the league) shot in beating UW last weekend - plus the Huskies' own offensive inefficiency with 15 turnovers that became 17 Oregon State points prevented Washington from the fourth 5-1 conference start in coach Lorenzo Romar's 11 seasons at UW.
Asked in a hallway beneath this old barn if his previously soaring Huskies - just five days ago 4-0 in the league for only the fourth time in 35 years were angry or embarrassed, Wilcox said: "Both."
"Definitely embarrassed to drop two games to the teams that had the worst record in the league," Wilcox said.
UW's smooth leading scorer at more than 19 points per game in this a wondrous junior season added this is "definitely" a tipping point in this Huskies season.
"If we can get this done (Saturday afternoon) at Oregon it can shoot us in the right direction.
"If not, who knows what will happen?"
Right now, no one knows what will happen with this team on any given night.
Which Huskies will show up? The ones that throttled Washington State, California and Stanford defensively in succession on the road and then Colorado at home to begin this schizophrenic month? Or the ones that continually and inexcusably tried to go under (on the basket side) of screens Oregon State set for Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson Wednesday - even though Romar had drilled them for days not to defend the Beavers' top shooters that way.
"You can't go under the screens against Starks and Nelson. It was mind boggling that we would do that," Romar said. "You come out like that and they are going to burn you."
They did, to the tune of 34-14 Beavers with 4:33 left in the first half. Huskies were standing around watching Oregon State take open shots. They were late getting to rebounds, standing when Beavers were diving to the floor for loose balls. They had difficulty merely getting inbounds passes and balls out to the wing in halfcourt sets against the length of Oregon State.
The Huskies had won three consecutive road games and were 5-2 this season away from Alaska Airlines Arena - before the baffling start to this one.
"If we don't play with energy we are not very good," Romar said.
"It's a matter of being determined to do the right thing. It's a matter of doing what we've already done before, playing the right way."
The Huskies were seemingly asleep for the late, 8:36 p.m. start. Every hustle play early was executed by Oregon State. The Huskies committed nine early turnovers, and often had trouble with mere inbounds passes and passes to the wings in halfcourt sets. The baffling errors and lack of a pulse -- let alone energy - handed the Beavers with a 12-2 early in points off turnovers.
It was 37-20 Oregon State with 1:44 left in the half when the Beavers began settling for long 3-pointers against the zone Romar felt compelled to retreat into defensively. When Oregon State finally cooled off its 60-percent shooting early, Wilcox made a deft bounce pass inside for a basket by Aziz N'Diaye, who had his 13th career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Scott Suggs (11 points on 4-for-11 shooting) made a jumper from the right side off a pump fake. Gaddy (6 for 12, no assists, three turnovers) was left alone at the foul line and made a jumper.
After another missed 3 by Oregon State, Gaddy took the ball with 5 seconds left, dribbled across the midcourt line and let fly from midcourt. He pumped his fist as it went it, and Suggs ran over to share a leaping chest bump with him.
It was a celebration of life.
Somehow, the Huskies trailed by just 39-29 at the end of their mostly dreadful first half.
"I thought that was going to give us the momentum to get over the hump," Gaddy said.
Wilcox missed six of his nine shots in the first half but made three of his first five after the break. His 3 pointer from the top left of the key had UW down 53-52 with 11:55 left.
After a steal by Jernard Jarreau, who gave the Huskies a spark off the bench for the third consecutive game, Wilcox was open on the left wing in front of Romar and the UW bench. His 3 was on line and looked true, but banged out off the inside of the back of the rim.
"Yeah, I was really surprised that didn't go in," Wilcox said.
But instead of leading for the first time, by two, the Huskies left Eric Moreland open for a layup and dunk inside. Nelson was wide open when he made a 3 from the wing. So was Starks. His 3 put Oregon State back up by seven. With 5:11 left, Oregon State was up nine because of a 13-5 run. UW didn't have another comeback left after that.
"There's no secret. We just have to do it. We just have to guard a lot better," Gaddy said. "We just didn't make them take many tough shots."
It's the same thing that doomed the Huskies against Utah, and has doomed the flying start to Pac-12 play for Washington.
"Man, we are trying to figure it out," Wilcox said. "I wish we would come out with more intensity at the start of games."