Feb. 20, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
TUCSON, Ariz. - Lorenzo Romar screamed so loudly during a second-half timeout, he could be heard clearly over the 14,545 at McKale Center that were roaring over Arizona's sudden, 20-point lead.
Romar slammed his dress shoes into the floor. Then he took the clipboard on which he was trying to show better defense and slammed it down so hard it bounced. It was as irate as the veteran coach has been in years. It happened amid a torrent of turnovers, Arizona run-out scores and lack of Washington defense against shooters more open than the desert between here and Phoenix.
"No one tries to miss shots. I always talk to our team about, 'Control what we can control,'" Romar explained later, after he had spent a pensive moment starting down a hallway outside UW's locker room while leaning onto a stationary bike. "In the second half I didn't think we controlled what we can control. We took a step back. I just hadn't seen our team do that in a long time.
"I was trying to get their attention, to make sure they understand the urgency.
"In the second half, we played with a lack of pride."
You can guess how this ended up.
Washington shot 30.8 percent, missing 20 of its first 26 shots in the second half, and No. 12 Arizona rolled from down five early in the game to a 70-52 win over the stunned Huskies Wednesday night at sold-out, raucous-as-always McKale.
The Huskies (14-13, 6-8 Pac-12) set a season-low in points scored and never got within 14 of running, grinning Arizona following Romar's outburst. They allowed an Arizona team that shot 36 percent in the first half and scored its season low of 57 points Jan. 31 in Seattle to make its first five shots after halftime Wednesday. All were in the paint. Two were layups and one was a dunk on breakaways following UW turnovers.
Asked if he could think of any reason his mostly veteran team would play without pride, without intensity, at a pivotal point in a nationally televised game against one of the nation's top dozen teams, Romar said flatly: "No."
He said he was surprised, given that effort has been the one constant he felt his team has given him through all the inconsistent results of this baffling season.
"I felt his frustration," said Desmond Simmons, who had seven points while Aziz N'Diaye was hampered with four fouls. "I was frustrated. If anybody could have thrown a clipboard, everybody would have thrown a clipboard at that point.
"This was embarrassing. We got handled. ... In the second half we didn't play with pride. We didn't play with intensity.
C.J. Wilcox each scored 15 and Abdul Gaddy added 12 for Washington, which was denied winning in consecutive years at McKale Center since it won three in a row here from 1982-84. But Wilcox missed 11 of his 16 shots.
Only a few late scores by reserves kept UW from setting a season-low in field-goal percentage. It remains 29.7 percent in a December loss at Connecticut.
Wilcox, UW's leading scorer, went 9 for 31 (29 percent) in two regular-season games this season against Arizona (22-4, 10-4).
UW has now lost nine consecutive games against ranked teams. That included last month when the Huskies lost a late lead at home and ultimately the game to the Wildcats 57-53.
Seventeen turnovers that turned into 20 Arizona points and poor free-throw shooting (59 percent) doomed the Huskies that night. Wilcox made just four of 16 shots in the first meeting.
Wilcox broke out of a weeks-long slump by making 7 of 14 shots for 24 points in Saturday's home win over Oregon State. He made two of his first three Wednesday, as the Huskies took an early five-point lead. Arizona missed 12 of its first 15 shots and had more turnovers (four) than made baskets 12 minutes into the game.
But ominously, Washington's defense was slow getting out to Arizona's deep shooters. With so many open looks the Wildcats scored 22 points in the next 8 minutes to erase all of UW's early edge.
As Simmons said, "I feel like 80 percent of defense is that intensity and that desire to defend."
At one point after he called timeout, Romar got down into a defensive stance with knees bent to demand tighter defense from his Huskies.
Arizona led 30-25 with 50 seconds left in the half when N'Diaye got into a held-ball tie up with Kevin Parrom. After the whistle for joint possession, N'Diaye uncharacteristically shoved Parrom into the row of cameramen beyond the baseline. That drew a dead-ball technical foul, the 7-footer's third foul. The senior went to the Huskies' bench and was effectively inert for the rest of the game.
"That was a pivotal point, for the reason alone that it was his third foul," Romar said.
Solomon Hill made the technical free throws, and Arizona added another foul shot on the ensuing possession to take a 33-25 lead and all the momentum into the break.
The red swarm continued after halftime. Arizona scored the first six points of the second half. Then after N'Diaye went back to the bench with his fourth foul and 17:39 still to play, the Wildcats relentlessly challenged and beat the Huskies in the lane.
Romar, though, was in no mood to excuse his team's shoddy defensive effort.
"You have to get by somebody to get inside," the coach said.
Simmons summed up the game's turning point well.
"In the first 4 minutes of the second half they came out and punched us in the mouth," the rugged forward said. "That's hard."
Gaddy stepped on the sideline for one of the mental turnovers early in the second half. The senior co-captain highlighted how important those minutes were, the sequence of breakdowns and lackluster efforts that had Romar so steamed.
"We didn't scrap enough," Gaddy said. "They hit us to start the second half. They took their lead from eight to 14. We played even with them after that."
It was a stone quiet bus that took the Huskies 90 minutes up the freeway to Tempe early Thursday morning for Saturday night's game at Arizona State (20-7, 9-5). Romar and his staff watched game film on laptop computers past 1 a.m. They are trying to develop a plan to get this team playing right for more than one half or one night before the conference tournament starts March 13 in Las Vegas.
Simmons called this lost night in the desert "another wake-up call" akin to the 18-point home loss Washington took in its collective eye in November against Colorado State. But he refused to call this the low point in an maddeningly uneven season.
"I'd rather look at it as we dropped one," Simmons said, "and we've got to into Arizona State (Saturday) and get a win.
"We need to come out hungry. We just got knocked down bad, but we need to get back up. ... This was embarrassing but we can't point fingers. We need to keep our heads up, be men about it -- and take our frustration out on Arizona State."