Perris Blackwell scores 17 points in his first time not starting in 26 games. But problems on defense and a cold night from leading scorer C.J. Wilcox send the Huskies (14-12, 6-8 Pac-12) to 2-8 on the road. Next: Saturday afternoon at Oregon State.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
EUGENE, Ore. –Even though he had started 25 consecutive games and this was his senior season, Perris Blackwell went to Lorenzo Romar and asked to not start.
“I just went to Coach and said I thought I could help the team and give them a spark off the bench,” Blackwell said.
Spark indeed. The power forward entered early for foul-prone fill-in starter Shawn Kemp Jr. and scored 17 points.
C.J. Wilcox, who had played 40 minutes four days earlier, looked injured and out of gas after banging his tailbone in the opening minutes.
“That affected him,” Romar said. “I didn’t think he could go on.”
Wilcox did, but the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 finished with just nine points on 2-for-8 shooting. He wasn’t as quick as he usually is on defense, the side of the court on which the Dawgs lost the Ducks at key times. And Oregon did just enough not to lose, adding up to Washington’s frustrating, 78-71 defeat at Matthew Knight Arena -- a game the Huskies certainly could have won.
“We had a lot of opportunities to make plays down the stretch,” Romar said, “and we didn’t.”
Blackwell finished with his most points since two days after Christmas. Andrew Andrews scored 15 points with seven rebounds, and fellow Oregonian Nigel Williams-Goss added 12 for Washington (14-13, 6-8 Pac-12), which lost for the fifth time in six games.
Andrews has revived his season. He has 36 points and 15 rebounds in two games since he played a season-low five minutes with no points in last week’s home win over Stanford.
That was one positive. Romar took another from how the Huskies willed themselves into position to win late, after Oregon led by five in a helter-skelter first half and by eight in the second. It was exactly what he and his staff had been looking for following games of lacking mental toughness to respond to adverse stretches, especially on the road.
“They got up and out on us early, but our guys weathered the storm,” Romar said. “While we’ve had other games on the road where we’ve folded, we didn’t fold tonight.”
Yet after this seventh consecutive road loss dropped Washington to 2-8 away from campus, the coach stood in his sharp gray suit stewing against a cinder-block wall in the wide hallway outside the visiting locker room. He paced some. He scanned a box score that showed Washington with four more made free throws, 12 more rebounds, two more assists and one fewer turnover than Oregon (17-8, 5-8).
But that sheet didn’t show: the dubious charging foul on Williams-Goss with 5:50 remaining and UW down by six, when Oregon’s small Johnathan Loyd moved under after the Huskies’ freshman had already taken flight from the right of the lane. Romar was incensed at that call, running out onto the floor at the official before stopping a foot or so in front of him with a thudding stomp.
“I thought that was a big, big play in the game,” the coach said, barely containing the steam still percolating inside of him from it. “It appeared to me that was called the way it had been called in years past. I thought that would be a block based on the way the game was called earlier – and the way it’s been called earlier in the season.”
The Huskies scored just six points in the final 5:50 – and just three in the final 4:47, after Blackwell’s score in the paint made it 73-68 – following the charging foul on Williams-Goss. Yet the leading freshman scorer in the Pac-12 coming in kept on driving, scoring in the lane on his favorite, running, right-handed shot in the lane to make it 73-70 with 2:34 to go. That was UW’s only field goal in the final 4:47.
But then with UW still down by three Blackwell had the ball stolen from him in the low post. That was after contact with a Ducks defender and no whistle, which Blackwell seemed to hesitate in waiting for.
After a matching turnover by Oregon’s Loyd, the Huskies had their last chance to tie. The Ducks double teamed Wilcox outside, and the Huskies found Desmond Simmons open inside. But Simmons, who had 12 points on 6 for 12 from the field, missed at the rim with a shot that clanged hard off the glass. Simmons then got called for his fifth foul despite allowing Oregon’s Mike Moser to drive completely free and untouched past him to avoid fouling out – which he did, anyway. Simmons stomped and threw his arms toward the fancy arena’s roof, howling mad over his disqualification.
Moser’s ensuing 3-point play with 91 seconds left made it 76-70.
“It was just about stops. They got a couple ‘and-ones’ and they got control of the game again,” said Andrews, who went to high school at Benson Tech in Portland up Interstate 5 from here.
“With us, it’s always about getting stops (on defense).”
Williams-Goss then missed a 3, Blackwell got the rebound and made one of two free throws; he and Wilcox were a combined 3 for 6 from the foul line late, part of those missed opportunities Romar mentioned.
After another Ducks turnover, with 31 seconds to go and UW down 76-71, Oregon doubled Wilcox again. Mike Anderson was free on the right wing instead. Anderson, who took just three shots all night, missed short off the rim on his 3-point shot, and that essentially ended it.
UW beat the Ducks 80-76 at Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 23. Wilcox had 23 points on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range in that one, the fifth consecutive time the Dawgs and Ducks decided a game by 10 points or fewer.
This time, Wilcox spent the first 28 minutes with just two points. He then briefly came alive to get the Huskies back to the game’s eighth and final tie. He made a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key and then two free throws to tie the game at 60 midway through the second half.
Kemp started at forward, his first start since Nov. 21 against Indiana in New York. It was the first time Blackwell hadn’t started since he missed the season opener against Seattle University Nov. 10 with a concussion.
Romar said before the game he was starting Kemp “to try to get him going,” much like he inserted Simmons into the lineup on the front line five games ago to jump start him. Kemp had zero points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of Saturday’s loss at home to California.
But the 6-foot-9 junior fouled out in just 7 scoreless minutes in this start.
The Huskies left immediately after the game for a charter flight back to Seattle and 1½ days at home before a return to the Willamette Valley on Friday evening for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Oregon State (13-11, 5-7).
Romar feels if his team plays with the resolve and poise it showed at Oregon – and with better execution on defense and offense late in a tight game – the Huskies are going to get that elusive win in their final road game before the Pac-12 tournament begins March 12 in Las Vegas.
“Tonight, we made progress,” the coach said, “there’s no doubt.”