Feb. 10, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
LOS ANGELES - Blocks away from where the Grammy Awards were being simultaneously handed out, the Huskies were a no-show at the start. And at the end.
In between, Scott Suggs scored all 16 of his points in the second half as UW rallied from a baffling, 19-point deficit early to USC to within six points. But the Huskies never got closer than that, committing turnovers on their final four possessions with the game on the line.
That plus 14 turnovers that gave USC 20 points and a 4-for-14 performance from the foul line sealed Washington's galling, 71-60 loss to the imminently beatable Trojans Sunday night at the Galen Center.
"Oh, it's frustrating, yeah," coach Lorenzo Romar said following his Huskies (13-11, 5-6 Pac-12) losing for the sixth time in seven games since the fourth 4-0 league start in 35 years.
Asked if we has shocked his team, playing for their postseason lives, fell behind so far so fast, Romar shook his head.
"Yeah," the coach said. "I wasn't expecting that."
Aziz N'Diaye took the Pac-12 lead with his 11th double-double, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
But leading scorer C.J. Wilcox scored just eight points, didn't take a shot in the first 13 minutes of the game and did not score in the second half.
The leading scorer in conference play at 18.9 points per game entering Sunday has been playing for the last month while managing the early signs of a stress fracture in his left foot. But he said that was no factor in this one.
"No, it's fine," Wilcox said on his way out of Galen Center. "No different than before."
USC (11-13, 6-5) shot just 33 percent after halftime and turned the ball over 18 times, playing as if it wanted to hand the lead to the Huskies. But UW missed seven chances to get the lead down within six points, either by missing field goals or free throws or turning the ball by dribbling the ball off a thigh, too much into traffic, or while stepping on the sidelines during a fastbreak -- to specify three of the Huskies' more crushing errors late.
"We're capable of doing it. We just have to do it," Suggs said. "I mean, it has to start, like, tonight.
"We can't give away any more games. We're beating ourselves. It's not like we are not capable or not talented enough to win these games."
There is still time for the Huskies to rally as they did in 2004 and 2010, the two other times they were 5-5 in the league and still made the NCAA tournament. The former of those teams were 5-6 in the conference and still made it in.
But that time is running out.
"We have to hurry, though," Romar said. "We have to start come Wednesday.
"We should have started tonight."
This season's baffling habit of coasting through the starts of games continued at the 40-percent filled Galen Center. The Huskies were flat footed on defense, consistently allowing USC to drive past them into the lane for shots from close range. Offensively, UW committed seven early turnovers which resulted in 10 gift points to the Trojans.
Plus, Washington was 3 for 8 from the free-throw line in the first half and Wilcox didn't take his first shot until 13:30 into the game while being face guarded by Jio Fontan. That is how the Huskies found themselves down 35-16 just 15 minutes into the game.
Romar called timeout. The coach then pulled his Huskies from their bench onto the floor for a short, terse, hear-to-heart talk.
Wilcox responded by scoring eight points in about as much time as it took for Romar to get his point across. In what seemed like a last resort from Romar, UW went to a zone defense. USC's shooting turned as cold as this unusual SoCal weekend outside. And the Huskies went on a 13-5 to close the half and the 40-29 deficit at the break didn't look insurmountable.
"We battled back, started getting stops. Going to the zone helped us," N'Diaye said.
When Abdul Gaddy, who finished with 12 points, scored on a lay-in 5 minutes after halftime UW was within 10 for the first time since the first 4:37 of the game. But while USC stayed cold against the Huskies' zone, the Dawgs continually misfired at the line or threw the ball away when it counted most, never getting within six points.
The Huskies were on their way home for a scheduled 2:15 a.m. arrival Monday night in Seattle. They are off Monday then have one practice day before hosting Oregon (18-5, 7-3) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The urgency they felt entering Sunday has only intensified.
"Me, Aziz, Gaddy, our games our coming to an end," Suggs said. "But I just for the state of our team, for the freshmen and everybody, we want to be in the NCAA tournament."