Fifth-year senior C.J. Wilcox scores a career-high 30 points, but the Huskies (2-3) falter all over on defense and lose 89-78 to end their empty week inside Madison Square Garden.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
NEW YORK – Lorenzo Romar didn’t have to leave Madison Square Garden to know droves of doubters back home are losing belief in his team, just two weeks into this season.
The coach also knows this: the most important believers are still with the program.
“I was impressed with their spirit,” Romar said of his players in back hallway of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” Friday afternoon, after breakdowns on defense left Boston College shooters as open as the George Washington Bridge at 3 a.m.
Those lapses trumped C.J. Wilcox’s career-high 30 points in a 89-78 loss to Boston College in the third-place game of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Wilcox scored 54 points in a span of 19 hours here at Madison Square Garden, but Washington (2-3) allowed a total of 191 points in losing to Indiana and to BC (2-4).
“Until the end of the game guys were in the huddles yelling, ‘This is not over!’” Romar said. “If this team is lost – as in, in a lost state – then guys would be turning their backs on each other. That isn’t happening.”
Ultimately, Wilcox couldn’t do it alone.
He sure tried.
The Huskies’ fifth-year senior drew aaaahs from the New York crowd with pull-up, rainbow jumpers. His shots at times seemed to scrape the top of the famous building’s iconic, flat roof. Once, he spun away from BC’s defense, faded away from the left side of the lane and swished an arcing 18 footer over two stunned Eagles.
He made 11 of 17 shots – his best shooting game since a 10-for-16 night against Stanford on Jan. 12 – to eclipse by two point his previous career best set last Nov. 24 against Colorado State. Wilcox was 20 for 37 from the field in the two games here.
“Really, at the end of the day it’s about the team,” the captain said, sounding like one. “I know none of us wanted to come out here and drop two games but I think we took away some good things. We saw what we need to work on and we did a really good job of sticking together through adversity.
“We had two guys out and we kept battling.”
The Dawgs – missing 6-foot-10 high post Jernard Jarreau for the year to reconstructive knee surgery he had Monday plus scrappy forward Desmond Simmons until mid-to-late December following arthroscopic knee surgery -- got off to yet another slow start. They trailed by 16 less than 13 minutes in. The defense left Boston College wide open for standstill 3-point shots, and the Eagles appreciated that by making eight of their first 11 out there.
“We have to defend,” Romar said. “We have to be a better defensive team. It’s that simple.
“We tell our players all the time how important team defense is. When one guy is out of position it looks like you are actually playing no defense – at all.”
Six-foot-five guard Mike Anderson got his first career start for UW, in place of slumping Shawn Kemp Jr. The junior-college transfer had 10 point and nine rebounds in the depleted Huskies’ four-guard set.
“I bring energy to the game,” Anderson said. “This time, I tried to bring energy from the start.”
It wasn’t enough. Wilcox’s own outside shooting – 3 for 4 from 3-point range in the half – kept UW from getting blown back out onto Seventh Avenue. The half’s ending epitomized the Huskies’ frustrating week here: Anderson was beaten on a backdoor cut for another easy basket for the Eagles; Nigel Williams-Goss failed to get off a shot before the shot-clock expired; then with 4.2 seconds left, Washington let BC’s Ryan Anderson dribble the length of the floor for an uncontested layup. Romar stood with his hands on his hips and with a disgusted look on his face.
“It’s unfortunate. Those are four points that could have been prevented,” Romar said. “We could have been in the locker room down eight – or down six – and then we’re feeling good about ourselves.”
Wilcox said the four guards interchanging spots is causing some confusion and missed assignments. The fact the Huskies have only one starter now taller than 6-5 – Blackwell, at 6-9 -- exacerbates the rebounding issue.
“We’re still trying to figure this whole thing out,” Wilcox said. “Our rotations on defense, when we leave one man open the whole defense looks bad.”
Washington flies home Saturday and next plays Nov. 26 against Montana at Alaska Airlines Arena.
There is a recent precedent for this 2-3 start. The 2008-09 Huskies had that record after losing to Portland, then to Florida and Kansas at a November tournament in Kansas City.
That team went on to win the Pac-10 regular-season championship before losing its second game of the NCAA tournament, to Purdue.
Not saying these Huskies, with five new faces, are those of veterans Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Quincy Pondexter. But if they start playing consistent defense, they could at least give themselves a better, fighting chance.
“Our guys hung together,” Romar said, “and have that attitude that this is disappointing -- but we are going to get through this.”