Jan. 15, 2013
|COLORADO AT WASHINGTON
Wednesday, Jan. 16 | 8:30 pm (PT) | Alaska Airlines Arena
Live Stats | TV: Pac-12 Network | Radio: KJR 950 AM & 102.9 FM (Affiliates)
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - It was telling what C.J. Wilcox - and his Huskies - value most when the Pac-12's player of the week answered why he feels last weekend's win at Stanford was his best game in three seasons at UW.
The 6-foot-5 sharpshooting guard didn't talk about his 27 points last Saturday, one shy of his career high set in November. He didn't mention his career-best nine rebounds. Or the fact he leads the Pac-12 in scoring during conference games at 21 points per night.
"Holding my guy to the points that he had," Wilcox said Tuesday of Stanford's Chasson Randle scoring just three points on a mere four shots after halftime, when the taut game became Washington's 65-60 win.
"Usually when you guard the other team's best player he goes off a little bit, but I felt I did an OK job on the defensive end, as well. It may have been different last year, but I know they are depending on me to do a lot. That (defense) is one of the main things they want me to get a hang of, so that's what I am focused on."
Imagine what may happen once Wilcox gets focused again on offense.
Hey, football fans just turning to Huskies hoops now that the Seahawks' great season has abruptly ended, here's what you've missed:
*Surging Washington (11-5, 3-0 Pac-12), the defending conference regular-season champion, hosts defending Pac-12 tournament champ Colorado (11-5, 1-3) Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena. A Huskies win would create just their fourth 4-0 start to league play in 35 years.
*Dating to the 2011 Pac-10 tournament - which they won on Isaiah Thomas' "cold-blooded" shot at the buzzer that beat Arizona - the Huskies are 20-5 against conference teams.
*And, oh, yeah, Wilcox can do far more than just shoot.
It's that last point that, as much as any other, has UW's 2-3 start seeming eons ago rather than just in November.
"He's close to the top of the league in minutes played (third, at 35.2 minutes per game). ... Probably 32 minutes a game would be ideal," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "But when you have a guy that is knocking shots down like that, and he's defending, and he's rebounding, just kind of doing it all - leads your team in blocked shots, as a guard - it's hard to keep guys like that out of the game."
The traits that make Wilcox a lethal scorer both from outside and, more this season, on slashes into the lane and curls off high-post screens are the same ones that have turned him into a lock-down defender assigned to the opponent's top guard each night: his length and quickness.
"C.J., what is very underappreciated about his game is his quickness," Romar said. "The scouting report, I'm sure C.J.'s name is huge up there on their board, and they keep talking about, `If you let this guy shoot the ball you are coming out of the game.' I'm sure there is a lot of pressure. But yet he somehow finds a way to get open looks.
"It has a lot to do with his ability to separate, because he is so quick. ... Well, he uses those same quick feet and that athleticism on the defensive end that he can close out the shooter so fast."
Last week at Cal, Wilcox bamboozled Bears' leading scorer Allen Crabbe. Crabbe entered the night averaging 21.4 points per game. He ended it with nine points on 3-for-12 shooting in UW's 62-47 win. It was the first time in 20 games Crabbe failed to score in double figures.
Three nights later at Stanford, Chasson Randle scored 13 points in the first half, going 7 for 11 from the field. At halftime, Wilcox dedicated himself to ending that. Randle was 1 for 4 for three points in the second half.
He finished with two of his team-leading 22 blocked shots this season. Yes, that's one more than 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye has.
"I'd like to beat Aziz this season in blocked shots," Wilcox said with a grin. "He's always talking trash about it. He says he's going to catch me."
Unlike his scoring, which he honed in countless shooting sessions with his father Craig, a former player at Brigham Young, standout defense is new to Wilcox.
He said he didn't begin to really play defense the way Romar requires until last season, as a UW sophomore.
How different is this defensive system than what he did at Pleasant Grove High School outside Salt Lake City?
"I didn't play defense in high school," he said, smiling again. "I was just worried about putting the ball in the net."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Washington has started 4-0 in the conference one time in Romar's 11 seasons, 2011. The other times in the last 35 years: 1982 and '84. The 2011 team won one game in the NCAA tournament. The '84 team won two in the NCAAs. The '82 team won once in the National Invitation Tournament. ... Asked to assess the health of his team, Romar raised both fists triumphantly. He said senior co-captain Scott Suggs still has nagging knee soreness from a practice injury from last week but that it again won't keep him from playing. ... UW was 10th in the conference allowing 67.6 points per game during the non-conference play. Now, the Huskies are leading the Pac-12 in allowing 56.7 points per league game. ... Since a lost, 0-for-3 night at Connecticut Dec. 29 - Washington's only defeat in its last eight games - N'Diaye is 18 for 23 (78.3 percent) from the field. He leads the league at 64.6% overall. That would be the fifth-best shooting season in UW history. Todd MacCulloch owns the Huskies' four most accurate seasons, starting with the best at 67.6 percent in 1997.