Jan. 6, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - There is one good thing for the Huskies about this new life without Abdul Gaddy:
Life with this new Terrence Ross.
"We finally got him to stop cryin'," teammate Matthew Bryan-Amaning joked after Ross pushed his average to almost 17 points per game in Pac-10 play - about a dozen more than before, when Ross was envious of new guys doing more at other schools. "All non-conference season it was 'This freshman is doing this. This freshman is doing that ...'"
Now this Huskies freshman is doing wonders for Washington.
The multitalented arrival from Portland's Jefferson High School soared, swished and dunked for a career-high 25 points, junior star Isaiah Thomas had 20 points, nine assists - and his long-awaited, first career dunk - and the 23rd-ranked Huskies showed off their depth to break away late for an 87-69 victory over Oregon Thursday night.
"I wouldn't have told you he'd average about 17 during Pac-10 play. I don't know if we've had any freshman do that," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said of Ross.
UW's ninth-year coach then said Ross is as purely talented as Brandon Roy, the former UW superstar and current go-to man for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Huskies (11-3) proved the depth they've been crowing about for months while improving to 3-0 in the Pac-10 for the first time since January 2005 -- all in their first game without their coolly efficient point guard.
"Yeah, I definitely had a mindset to pick up the load - we all did," Ross said.
He just about took it all himself. He made 11 of 18 shots of all kinds, eclipsing his previous high of 18 points set eight days earlier in a coming-out party at USC.
Gaddy, a calming and efficient sophomore, was leading the Pac-10 with assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 3:1 before he found out Wednesday he was finished for the season. His left knee buckled while he pushed hard off the floor for a layup at the end of a practice scrimmage Tuesday.
Romar's answer against Oregon (7-8, 0-3) was starting senior defensive whiz Venoy Overton, usually the first Husky off the bench, to counter the Ducks' three-quarter court traps. Romar then shuttled through quicker substitutions than usual.
Eight of the nine available scholarship players, all except for recently hobbled C.J. Wilcox (staph infection in his hip), scored within the game's first 14 minutes.
But none scored more - and with more flash - than Ross, who dropped Oregon from his preferred list of colleges relatively early in the recruiting process.
He soared toward the arena's ceiling beams for an alley-ooop dunk off a perfectly lofted pass from Thomas midway through the second half, after Oregon had rallied to tie it.
"I thought that ball was going out of bounds. I thought it was too high," Thomas said. "But he went up and got it."
Then on the ensuing possession, Ross raced from behind to block a shot under the rim by Oregon's Joevan Catron - who kept his Ducks afloat with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Ross slammed Catron's shot into the purple-painted lane so hard, the ball's thud could be heard over the roars of 9,692 Huskies fans.
Then Ross banged his 6-foot-6 body into smaller Duck guards while having his way down low for the rest of the night.
Romar says it takes players new to his program perhaps half a season to hit their stride. That makes Ross' ascension like clockwork - even if it came after he longingly watched fellow freshmen such as high-school teammate Terrence Jones at Kentucky light it up early in the season for their new teams.
"What freshmen don't understand when they're being recruited and when they end up getting somewhere is that it's not just your ability to make shots. If you're going to play for a program that's going to be successful, you have to guard, you have to run certain things and get the ball to the right people in the right spots, you have to remember everything that you're doing offensively and defensively," Romar said. "Often times, it's entirely different conceptually than anything you've ever done.
"And when you're thinking, offense goes. There's no coincidence that we're seeing Terrence Ross' athleticism more (now). When you can go out and play without thinking, you have that ability and athleticism that comes out. ... He had to learn to play right."
Thomas scored 14 of his 20 points in the last 5 minutes. The best from the 5-foot-9 guard came off the left-handed slam he did on a breakaway with 1:39 left.
"Told you one of these times I was going to get one," said the junior who was named to the 30-man, midseason watch list for the Wooden Award as the national player of the year.
Asked if he's now done from dunking, Thomas smiled and joked, "No. Now that I've got confidence, I'm going to try to take off on everybody."
The Dawg Pack section of UW students back from Christmas break was packed from baseline to baseline for the first time this season, and included mocking Ducks signs such as "Go Auburn!" and "Donde esta Ernesto?"
The latter is the UW's kids' annual, comical reference to former Ducks coach Ernie Kent's past, um, snafus on business trips to Mexico.
Catron scored Oregon's first 11 points after halftime to give the Ducks their first lead, 42-41 with 17:57 left. But Ross kept darting, driving and scoring. He cut across the lane, dropped the ball to his waist to avoid a leaping defender, then scooped a shot in off the glass to keep the Huskies ahead.
"The coaches said we were taking too many contested threes and we needed to attack the basket. I think that's when I got my game going," Ross said. "I got to the basket and they just kind of played off me. Then I hit a couple and had the chance to go right back to the basket."
Sounds like a season-long problem for UW's opponents.
Ross played 27 minutes Thursday. He may have earned even more Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against Oregon State.
Romar didn't commit to Overton replacing Gaddy in the starting lineup again against the Beavers (7-7, 2-1), who lost by 14 at Washington State later Thursday.