Wilcox scores 23 points, including the key swish from deep with 44 seconds left, and the Huskies (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) send the Ducks to their fifth consecutive loss, 80-76, at roaring Alaska Airlines Arena.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Once again, when the Huskies absolutely needed him, their senior turned into 3-J Wilcox.
With his Dawgs up 1 on dreaded Oregon and 44 seconds left, Washington’s leading scorer daringly, coolly swished a 3-pointer from far behind the arc, about 23 feet away, well beyond the top of the key – and with Duck Johnathan Loyd in his face.
"He had his hands down," the 6-foot-5 C.J. Wilcox simply said of his 5-8 defender.
That mistake -- set up by a perfectly timed double screen at the foul line called by coach Lorenzo Romar because he anticipated Loyd defense then exquisitely executed by Perris Blackwell -- was the signature moment of Wilcox’s 23 points.
And it was the splash point Thursday night that left the large Alaska Airlines Arena crowd roaring and the Ducks swamped.
Huskies 80, Oregon 76.
Asked if he expected to make his deeper-than-Romar-wanted 3 with Loyd harassing him and the game on the line, the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 and one of the nation's most dangerous sharpshooters smiled.
"I expect to make all my shots," Wilcox said, after admitting that when he let the shot go he didn't see the rim.
Romar expected Loyd to stand still and render moot Blackwell's first screen for Wilcox, a down one at the corner of the foul line, because it's a pick UW uses all the time. So the coach called for Blackwell to peel back and screen Loyd again. The little guard ran into the 6-9 forward as if he was a brick wall.
"We called the play for C.J.," Romar said. "We didn't call for him to take a 27 footer."
Setting the decisive double screen wasn't all Blackwell did. He had 15 points, 11 in the first 7 minutes after halftime to turn a 3-point deficit into a five-point lead after being a non-factor in a sloppy first half. And Washington (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) got its second consecutive, big home win, this one over an Oregon team (13-5, 1-5) that was the 10th-ranked team in the country a month ago.
Eleven days earlier these developing Dawgs beat No. 15 Colorado here – behind another lights-out performance (a career-high 31 points) from a wondrous Wilcox.
He is 12 for 18 from 3-point range and has scored 54 points in his last two home games.
Andrew Andrews had 17 points, 12 to keep UW afloat in the first half. His last point was the clinching free throw with 6 seconds left.
In between, Andrews stepped back and marveled from a few feet away as Wilcox doomed the Ducks.
"Every time he shoots, I think it's going to go in," the sophomore from Portland said. "Sometimes I get in trouble (for not rebounding) because I get mesmerized when he shoots. It's so smooth.
"That shot killed them. When he made it, everyone of them on the court and on the their bench, they put their heads down."
It was C.J.'s revenge, too, though he wasn't thinking about it when he let fly Thursday.
The last time these teams had met, last March in Las Vegas, Oregon denied Wilcox in the lane on a quest for a winning shot at the end of regulation. Then the Ducks won in overtime in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament they ultimately won for automatic entry into the NCAA tournament.
This time, the Ducks lost their fifth consecutive game.
"That was a huge win for us," Romar said.
Wilcox's most memorable play before the decisive 3 was with just under 10 minutes left and UW leading 55-52. He chased down a loose ball at half court and led a 2-on-1 break. He paused with the dribble and let Shawn Kemp Jr., emerging lately because of new medication after months of being slowed almost to a stop by Graves Disease in his thyroid, sprint into the lane. Wilcox's pass hit Kemp in stride, and the son of the former SuperSonics great soared and slammed with his left hand as thunderously as Pops did back in his 1990s Seattle heyday.
The crowd of 6,748 went wild over that, gasping and then roaring.
Blackwell erupted early in the second half to give Washington the lead, after attempting just one field goal and having scored just two free throws in the entire first half. The Huskies followed the halftime plan to get their lone starting big man the ball far more often in the low post against a porous Oregon defense that came in allowing a whopping 85.2 points per game in Pac-12 play.
Wilcox played the second half as if he sensed he needed to shoot more. Because that's exactly what Washington needed.
He attempted just four shots in the first 20 minutes, making two. He was 5 for 7 after halftime, and 5 for 6 overall from 3-point range.
"He was the best player on the floor," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "And he made us pay."
Both teams were running and gunning in the first half. Sometimes it was to nowhere.
The Huskies led by as many as five points early, re-tied the game at 33 with 75 seconds left in the half on a 3-pointer Wilcox, but trailed at halftime 35-33 because of turnovers, skittish rebounding and poor foul shooting.
The large crowd was ready to rock, but the on-and-off Huskies didn’t given them much of a chance to roar early
The two biggest issues of that first half for UW: Handling Oregon’s trap by its guards at half court; and Wilcox shooting more than four times over a 20-minute span.
Despite often having four guards on the floor, the Huskies — specifically Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrews and Wilcox — had trouble passing out of Oregon’s traps in the opening half, but handled it better after that. Four of Washington’s six turnovers in the first half came from Oregon’s traps.
Fortunately for the Huskies, Oregon had nine turnovers in the half. That and cold (30-ish percent) shooting early kept UW ahead.
Next up for the Huskies: Saturday at 2 p.m. at home versus Oregon State (11-7, 3-3).
Suddenly -- after knee surgeries for big men Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons, the transfer of guard Hikeem Stewart, the on-the-fly change in defensive systems in December to less denying of the wings and more packing of the lane, then four road games over the first six league contests -- 4-3 in the Pac-12 doesn't seem so bad.
Up next, another home game Saturday and then a short trip to Washington State (8-11, 1-6) next weekend.
"I mean, I'd love to be undefeated," Wilcox said. "But 4-3? We'll definitely take it, with all the adversity we've had to get through."