March 6, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The Scott Suggs Senior Victory Tour continues.
More than coincidentally, so does Washington's late-season surge.
The revitalized, fifth-year veteran made shots when no other Husky could early - and kept making them from all angles late. Suggs made a career-high eight field goals in 13 tries for 18 points. Jernard Jarreau had a career-high 12 points and swished eight consecutive free throws when no other Dawg could make one. And Andrew Andrews threw himself at the rim for a career-best eight rebounds as the rising Huskies won again Wednesday night 65-57 over USC at Alaska Airlines Arena.
"That," pleased coach Lorenzo Romar said, "was a good team win."
Suggs has scored 57 points in his last three games. He had 12 points in four games combined before this reawakening.
C.J Wilcox was cold again, going 2 for 9 for 11 points, so instead he grabbed eight rebounds. That was one short of the junior's career high. Senior Aziz N'Diaye had 11 rebounds in his next-to-last home UW home game, as the Huskies (17-13, 9-8 Pac-12) manhandled the rugged Trojans inside with a gaping, 48-29 rebounding edge.
"That was the first stat we mentioned to our team after the game," Romar said.
UW rallied from five points down early and still trailed 41-39 with 11½ minutes left before Jarreau swished his third and fourth consecutive, sweetly high-arcing free throws. They were the cure for a team that began the night 1 for 6 from the line but finished by making its last 16. And those foul shots by Jarreau tied the game for the 11th and final time with 11:28 remaining.
From there, Suggs made a jumper in the lane, Jarreau made two more free throws, then Suggs stepped back over two Trojans and nailed a 3-pointer. Washington led 48-41, and USC never got closer than five points the rest of the night.
These three consecutive wins leave the Huskies with a chance Saturday to rise to finish in fifth place in the conference. That would mean an opening-round game against the last-place team next Wednesday afternoon to begin the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
These three wins also suggest the annual late-season push characteristic of Romar's UW teams may just be a few weeks late this season -- but perhaps just in time for the most meaningful games of the year.
"Yes we're definitely getting close to playing the way that we're supposed to play, especially at the right time," said Wilcox, who is getting more help around his cooled shooting with each game. "Our team usually does it, but we started a little late.
"It seems like we're starting to get (going)."
Washington improved to 15-4 since 2009 in the final four league games of a regular season. That's a large reason why UW has won the last four conference regular-season or league tournament titles.
"It's not as if we've got `it' now," Romar said, "but we are getting closer."
Jarreau is becoming a February-March revelation, much like his team. The 6-10 forward has been getting increased minutes lately after starting the first seven games of this season but sitting after looking jittery and like, well, a redshirt freshman.
Now, when he gets the ball at the high post coming off the bench, he takes advantage of space to swish 17-footers. He did that two more times against USC. His shot is smooth like a guard's, which figures since he was one until he grew eight inches in about a year while at McDonough 35 Senior High School in New Orleans.
And when defenses are coming out to contest those shots, as the Trojans did in the second half, Jarreau now bolts down the lane to the rim with undeniable force.
He was so good in so many areas Wednesday - perfect on free throws, swatting a USC shot into the cameras along the baseline, deflecting the ensuing inbounds pass away - Romar smiled to him after the game and said, "Man, should get some gumbo for that!"
When Romar replaced him for a stretch late in the game with UW leading, the home crowd gave Jarreau one of its largest exit ovations of the season. "Yeah, I heard it," he said, smiling. "I appreciate those fans."
USC big men Omar Oraby and Dewayne Dedmon tried to push around the lanky Jarreau during the second half, to try and move him away from scoring areas as much as to intimidate him. Jarreau just kept on driving, kept on getting fouled, and kept on making free throws to keep Washington in front.
"A lot of guys just think I'm slim and that they can handle me," Jarreau said. "Nah, that's not goin' to happen."
Another redshirt freshman, the fiery Andrews, was as determined and aggressive as he's been at UW. And it had nothing to do with scoring.
Three of his career high rebounds came on one possession in the second half. That started the decisive 7-0 run put on by Suggs and Jarreau.
"I just don't want to run 17's (a series of sprints in practice) for not rebounding," Andrews said, "so I just go to the boards."
USC (14-16, 9-8) built its early lead when every Husky not named Suggs could barely make a shot. And even by the end, take away Suggs and Washington made just 14 of 48 shots. That's 29 percent.
But now, in his last weeks as a Husky, suddenly no one is able to take away Suggs. More than his scoring, his body language has completely turned around in the last two weeks. Wednesday, he was again pumping his fists after his many made baskets, as he did while scoring 23 points Sunday while beating Washington State.
After Washington's energized defense forced a USC shot-clock violation late in the game, the usually reserved Suggs actually crouched and flexed in a muscle-man pose while yelling in celebration of the team showing strength on D.
Now, the fun part - at least far more fun than, say, that blowout loss at Arizona last month just before this win streak:
The Huskies need to beat UCLA - which lost at Washington State Thursday - plus a Colorado loss in Boulder to either first-place Oregon Thursday or 11th-place Oregon State Saturday. That would create at least a three-way tie for fifth place with UW, USC and Colorado. The tiebreaker then comes down to best records versus the teams that finish the regular season atop the league. Currently, Washington owns those tiebreakers.
If Colorado loses once this weekend, a Washington win over UCLA would mean the Huskies are the fifth seed. They would have a Wednesday afternoon game against the 12 seed to begin the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
"If we won five of our last six games, that's would be a good way to end the regular season," Romar said. "But it's going to be a long 40 minutes come 11 o'clock Saturday."