Feb. 23, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
TEMPE, Ariz. - With a season's worth of popular opinion howling against him, Arizona State's unusually filled arena roaring at him plus defender Jahii Carson trying to hound him, Abdul Gaddy stood as tall and exquisitely as he has in four years as a Husky.
"One of the better games I've had," Gaddy characteristically understated later, though allowing himself a small grin.
In 32 commanding minutes, the senior co-captain made six of nine shots for 13 points. He had seven assists. He had five rebounds. He had zero turnovers. And he was the primary defender on Jahii Carson, holding the Sun Devils' freshman sensation to 10 points - 22 fewer than Carson had dropped on UW three weeks ago in Seattle.
With leading scorer C.J. Wilcox shooting just 2 for 12, the Huskies needed every bit of all that from Gaddy.
ASU entered Saturday one game out of first place in the Pac-12 and had ripped off a 9-0 run to turn UW's 13-point lead into a tense finish. The Huskies were clinging to a 59-56 lead with 2 minutes left when Gaddy definitively cut from the wing, freed himself inside the top of key and swished an 18-footer. That kept Washington ahead by 5.
"I just shot it with confidence, knowing I could knock it down," he said.
Then after Carson answered with a layup, Gaddy again broke down the Sun Devils' defense into ash with 30 seconds left. He then found Scott Suggs alone in the right corner. Suggs' 3-point splash were the last of his 16 points, and it ensured the Huskies' revitalizing, 68-59 victory over stunned Arizona State.
"Our season isn't over yet," Gaddy said of UW (15-12, 7-7 Pac-12), which was buried by 18 points at Arizona Wednesday but now have the final three games of the regular season at home.
"I've never lost faith, and our team has never lost faith. Our coach always says you can be one or two weekends from being right back in it."
That coach doesn't know which Huskies team will show up on a given night.
The resilient, determined, prideful one did here Saturday.
With their pride challenged by Lorenzo Romar three nights earlier in Tucson, the Huskies flashed as much grit as this state has sand.
There were six ties. But ASU never led after the game's first 24 seconds. The Huskies led for all of the final 23:10.
Previously silent Suggs scored 10 flash-bang points in the first half then played through a bruised hip sustained in a fall just before halftime to equal his high-point game in conference play. Suggs had scored 12 points in the previous three games combined. He even had four rebounds this time after none in 29 minutes during Wednesday debacle at Arizona.
"I'm glad he did it tonight," Romar said. "Let's go from here."
Andrew Andrews had 13 points and four rebounds, including a huge offensive rebound late, part of a 35-22 want-to edge on the boards. That kept the Huskies from giving up a 13-point lead in the second half.
Yes, this seventh consecutive victory over Arizona State (20-8, 9-6) wiped away much of the bitterness the Huskies carried with them up Interstate 10 from Wednesday, when Romar said his team lacked pride in the second half of a 70-52 loss at No. 12 U of A.
"It's great. It's great," Romar said of Saturday night's answer. "Our guys played with poise. Tonight we played like an experienced team."
Far more like the one that began conference play 4-0 for just the fourth time in 35 years, including three wins on the road.
"You know, we've stubbed our toe a lot of times this year," Romar said, thinking of the winnable games squandered: against Utah, Oregon State, Arizona; at Oregon, at UCLA, and at USC. "To see us have that type of performance - I mean that team was one game out of first place ...
"To come out and play against a team like that, that's having a good year, on their Senior Night -- and they were really coming at us - it's very gratifying."
This bounce back kept alive UW's chance of finishing fourth in the conference, at 10-8. The top four teams in the final regular-season standings get first-round byes at the Pac-12 tournament March 13-16 in Las Vegas.
"I haven't mentioned that to them," Romar said. "We talk more about, `Keep getting better.'"
Washington hosts Washington State (11-17, 2-13) next Sunday, March 3, then finishes the regular season at home against USC (12-14, 7-6) and UCLA (19-7, 9-4).
This was Romar's 20th victory over ASU in 25 games over 11 seasons at UW. That's his most wins against opponent.
This one it left many from Arizona State wondering if the Devils can ever beat the Dawgs.
ASU had its second-largest home crowd of the season, 10,004, inside 10,734-seat Wells Fargo Arena. But it didn't have the same Carson who scored 32 early this month in UW's 96-92 race past the Sun Devils in Seattle.
With 35 seconds left and UW leading 61-58, Carson got free for one of the only times on the night, in the right corner for a 3-point shot that was so open it looked like a game of H-O-R-S-E. But Carson missed the attempt to tie. Gaddy then set up Suggs at the other end for the dagger 3.
"I used my size to my advantage against him," the 6-foot-3 Gaddy said of ASU's 5-10 freshman.
Romar said the difference this time for the Huskies against Carson was they did a better job defending the ball screen. Instead of going under the screen - "that's a no-no," Romar said - they often determinedly plowed through it.
"We fought better," their coach said.
In more ways than one.
After ASU got to within 57-56 on that 9-0 spurt with 3:32 to go, Andrews made two free throws. Then after Carson and Carrick Felix missed open 3-pointers on the same possession, Shawn Kemp Jr.'s turnaround hook shot was long for Washington.
A Sun Devil was there to get the rebound which would have given ASU another chance to tie the game with 2:11 left. But the 6-2 Andrews, a redshirt freshman, made a huge, veteran play. He cut in from the opposite, right wing and soared to snare the offensive rebound on the backside of the rim.
That was the play that set up Gaddy's clutch 18-footer, restoring the Huskies' lead to 61-56 with 1:44 remaining.
"It's about our chemistry; we are all close knit," Andrews said. "Whenever we go through something like (Tucson) we talk about it as a team.
"I was just disappointed in myself. I could have had a better showing (at Arizona). I feel like if I am not helping the team I am hurting it. So I just wanted to come out tonight and help us."
Gaddy said he and his Dawgs focused on belief in talks over the three days since the Tucson trip-up.
Those were worthwhile chats, eh?
"We kept faith," Gaddy said. "We've been talking to each other. We know what we are capable of."