Dec. 15, 2012
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - It wasn't the consistency of a second consecutive complete game that the Huskies had been seeking.
But it was a victory. In the strict definition of the word, anyway.
C.J. Wilcox had all of his three makes from 3-point range in the second half to finish with 21 points, Scott Suggs had 17 and the Dawgs won for the second time in three nights, 75-67 over winless Jackson State Saturday at quiet Alaska Airlines Arena.
"A win is a win. We're going to take it -- especially right now," Wilcox said, alluding to his team's rocky non-conference season.
"But we know that we played pretty poorly. ... I wouldn't say it's a step back because a win right now is a pretty big deal. But it's not a step forward."
Aziz N'Diaye had 12 points and nine rebounds and Abdul Gaddy added 12 points and four assists for Washington (6-4), which blew out to a 16-point lead early -- then blew all but two points of that bulge before halftime.
The Huskies made just 12 of 26 free throws and reverted to early season issues of missed assignments in rebounding and defense to keep Jackson State (0-8) in the game. UW was coming off what coach Lorenzo Romar called its most complete games of the season in an early runaway from Seattle University two nights earlier.
Romar said he had to look multiple times at the scoreboard at game's end to believe his scuffling team did indeed win.
"We won. I looked at the score several times when the horn sounded. I saw the score, so we won," the coach said in full deadpan mode.
This however was not deadpan:
"I don't know how many positives we'll take out of this game," Romar said, shaking his head. "There are not a whole lot of positives to take ... and I am usually a glass-half-full guy."
The Huskies led 27-11 10 minutes in and 51-37 after a one of Suggs' three made 3s in five tries with 16 minutes to go.
Suggs has had a career high of 19, another career best of 24 in Thursday night's 87-74 win at Seattle U. and now 17 points in his three games back from three weeks out with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
But UW missed six of their first 10 free throws in the second half. That and a barrage of 3 pointers from Jackson State as Huskies were late closing out on shooters kept the UW lead within five points into the final 3 minutes.
The Huskies raced out to a 16-point lead in the first 10 minutes by beating Jackson State's zone defense with dribble drives then kick-out and interior passes.
It was the second time in three nights Washington had so large a lead so early, suggesting this developing team was finally beginning to find some consistency.
But Jackson State got that lead all the way down to 2 with 3:36 remaining in the half. Romar called timeout and brought in Shawn Kemp Jr., Hikeem Stewart and Martin Breunig in search of better on-ball and help defense.
Kemp had to leave with his third foul of the half, but that group - along with starters Suggs and Wilcox - were able to stabilize the game. N'Diaye's put-back basket ended the grinding, ugly half with UW ahead 40-34.
Romar gave his players a pointed lecture at the break about playing with more pride -- not to mention with more defensive intensity and more boxing out for rebounds.
"He said we were just being negligent," said Gaddy. "We were turning the ball over. Guys (were) not boxing out. Just little things like that. Stuff that ticks coaches off.
"He was just like `If you all can't turn it around I don't have much to say. Go out there and play with pride.'"
Romar was pleased that his team started with the same fire it had throughout Thursday's win against pressing Seattle U. But then that intensity vanished out the doors of ol' Hec Ed and into the dark, cold, Seattle winter night.
"You were on a high the other night -- forget the score, forget that we won -- but you were on a high with how your team played. Then all of a sudden it just switched," Romar said.
He noted 19 of Jackson State's 34 points in the ragged opening half came off UW turnovers or JSU second chances because of Huskies' mistakes in rebounding. "We have to be mentally tougher," the 11th-year coach said.
The Huskies next host Cal Poly, which won at UCLA last month, on Thursday night. And the four-time defending Pac-12 regular-season or tournament champions know they still have so much work to do before that.
"(We're) just really inconsistent," Wilcox said. "Once we got up 16 we need to push it to 24.
"We haven't learned it yet. I think we are getting the coming out strong, jumping out early (part). We just have to put teams away."
INSIDE THE HUSKIES: Wilcox was 9 for 19 from the field but made just three of a career-high 11 attempts from 3-point range. His eight were the most misfires from deep of the sharpshooting junior's career. He came into the week second in the Pac-12 averaging more than 19 points per game. Undaunted, Wilcox had four assists, tying his career high set in the 2010 Maui Invitational against Virginia. Some of those were deft entry passes to the 7-foot N'Diaye, who owned a big height advantage down low. "I take a lot of pride, especially when my shots don't go in, (in) being a veteran," Wilcox said. "You have to do things in the game to help your team win." ... Romar thinks Andrew Andrews may return perhaps as soon as Thursday's game. The redshirt freshman back up to Gaddy at point guard has missed the last three games because of an ankle he sprained in practice last week. His return would mark the first time all season UW would be at full strength - provided no one else gets injured in practice this week, of course.