March 19, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
PROVO, Utah -- Abdul Gaddy buried his face into the same coach's shoulder that has supported him for the last four, uneven seasons - none rockier than this one.
Moments after Gaddy's last play as a Husky -- a head-first dive onto the floor to seize a loose ball in the final seconds -- fellow seniors Scott Suggs and Aziz N'Diaye walked glumly off the floor with him. Off into their post-UW lives.
Tyler Haws and racing Brigham Young made sure this was their end.
C.J. Wilcox was hugging teammates, coaches, plus 50 friends and family members after he came home to Utah and had 20 points for Washington. But Haws lit it up the slow-to-get-back Huskies for 37 points - a season high against UW this season - and the Dawgs' season ended with a thudding, 90-79 loss to BYU in the first round of the 76th National Invitation Tournament Tuesday night.
"Our number-one key we talked about to give us a chance to win this game was getting back on defense in transition," Romar said.
"Second was to not let Tyler Haws catch the ball.
"The third key was to take care of the ball."
Well, Washington did finish with just 10 turnovers.
"One out of three is not good enough to beat Brigham Young on their home floor," Romar said.
Shawn Kemp Jr. had 15 points and career-high 11 rebounds - which was even more impressive considering he was vomiting before the game. That foreshadowed what could be his breakout junior season in 2013-14.
This inconsistent and maddening one for Washington ends at 18-16, and one and done in a tournament in which the Huskies won three games last year to advance to the NIT semifinals in New York.
Gaddy, who upon losing to Oregon in overtime in the second round of last week's Pac-12 tournament said he "prayed" UW would get into this NIT to extend his Huskies career, finished with nine points, nine assists and two turnovers.
Suggs, so good recently, shot just 1 for 9 for five points. He was the one Husky most often chasing and lunging at Haws in vain.
Asked to summarize it, Gaddy looked up and said: "Up and down. We could not just ever get it all together."
Tuesday, the offense attacked the basket with consistency and efficiency in one of its better nights all season. But defense and rebounding doomed the Huskies.
BYU, used to playing at 4,550 feet of elevation, repeatedly beat the slowing, dragging Dawgs down the floor for easy scores. Wilcox didn't take his first shot until 13 minutes into the game. Yet when he swished a 3-pointer just before halftime Washington led 35-33, even with Wilcox and Suggs starting 3 for 14.
Wilcox reiterated after the game what he told GoHuskies.com last week, that he is "50-50" on whether he will return to UW as a fifth-year senior or opt for the NBA. He will know go talk to his family and NBA personnel to assess his stock in this summer's draft. Per league rules he needs to decide by next month.
"We had to get back in transition," Wilcox said. "It was kind of a dagger when we would score and then they'd score right back."
Haws, Wilcox's old high school rival in the Salt Lake City suburbs and AAU teammate from sixth through 12th grades, and Brandon Davies (22 points) took advantage of UW's slow defense the most. The Huskies also left Matt Carlino open outside, a flaw that was also opposite Romar's game plan. The transfer from UCLA scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, 12 of them from 3-point range.
His killer 3 came after Gaddy's drive and score had UW within 66-63 with 7 minutes to go. Carlino then stepped back well behind the top of the key, took a back pass and drained a 3-pointer from about 2 feet beyond what would have been the NBA bonus arc. BYU led 69-63.
Washington never got closer after that because the Cougars ended up 21 of 23 from the foul line.
Haws was unstoppable at times. He blew past Suggs and every other guy in purple or pull up suddenly in front of them while making 13 of his first 20 shots. He had 31 points midway through the second half, when the Huskies trailed 60-50.
So ends what Romar calls his most "unique" season of his 11 at Washington, one that ends four straight years of the Dawgs winning either a Pac-12 regular-season or tournament title.
The same Huskies that lost at home to Albany hung with No. 4 Ohio State in November's championship game of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tipoff tournament. UW started 4-0 in league play for just the fourth time in 35 years, then lost seven of eight conference games.
The Huskies lost at eventual Pac-12 regular-season champion UCLA at the buzzer, then got blown out at middling USC three days later. They had a chance to beat Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas that the Ducks would win two nights later, but they flubbed the last chance in regulation and lost in overtime.
Tuesday they trailed by nine early, came back to lead at halftime and then twice in the second half. They fell back behind by 11, got within three - but ultimately had their season end in unusual setting. This 20,900-seat arena doesn't have a permanently displayed U.S. flag. And the home team played the UW fight song four different times during the game, one peculiar time after Wilcox's rousing 3 sent the Huskies into halftime with momentum and the short-lived lead.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Romar said.
"I thought it was consistent with our season."
Gaddy finished second all-time at UW with 469 assists; Will Conroy's 515 from 2002-05 remains the school record. Gaddy also became the first Husky with 150 assists in two different seasons.
He had one final, public goodbye for his team after this last game.
"I had fun with my teammates. They will always be my brothers," Gaddy said. "My coaches, I love those guys."