Nov. 13, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Way back on Day One of this Huskies season, even before they went to Europe for a six-game exhibition tour in August, Lorenzo Romar told his players if they didn't play defense better this would be a long year.
The second game of the regular season reinforced that lesson - and left the teacher taking full blame while describing himself as "very disappointed. Very disappointed."
"I take full responsibility for what just happened," Washington 11th-year coach said Tuesday night moments after defensive lapses throughout - especially on Mike Black's winning drive and score with 3.7 seconds left -- ensured the defending Pac-12 champions' 63-62 loss to Albany of the America East Conference.
"We needed to do a better job defending them, especially down the stretch. And we didn't. And that's my responsibility to have them better prepared against the offense they were going to run.
"It's on me. ... You can place the blame on me," Romar said, after imploring his guys to not stay on double teams so long to prevent easy baskets at the rim. "You haven't taught until they've learned. They didn't learn it, so that goes back on the teacher."
The Dawgs' senior swooped into the lane to seize a rebound off Aziz N'Diaye's missed free throw and scored inside with 18 seconds left to put UW (1-1) in front 62-61. That was after a frenetic stretch of pressure defense on the ball turned a three-point deficit into a seven-point lead early in the second half.
Albany took the ball up court after Gaddy heroics and eventually called time outs with 12 and then 8 seconds remaining. Its last play isolated Black, who had been running an effective high pick-and-roll most of the second half with Great Danes big man John Puk, against C.J. Wilcox at the top of the lane. Black drove down the left side of the lane past Wilcox and put in his shot high off the glass for his last of a game-high 22 points.
The 7-foot N'Diaye wasn't at the rim to contest Black's shot because Romar had replaced him with guard Hikeem Stewart in a switching defense and in correct anticipation one of Albany's two scoring guards would take the last shot.
Plus, N'Diaye had repeatedly been left standing away from the rim in failed double teams throughout the second half on the high pick-and-rolls plays Albany kept running with Black.
With no time outs after UW used consecutive ones to set up its previous, go-ahead possession, Gaddy got the ball to about 25 feet from the basket. His shot on the run missed off the right side of the rim to seal the Huskies' second regular-season, nonconference loss since the 2007-08 season.
Wilcox said the Dawgs were expecting Black or Albany guard Jacob Iati, who had 20 points, to take the final shot.
"I still should have done a better job on defense on that last play," said Wilcox, whom Romar says is his second-best defensive player.
"We are definitely stunned, because of the way we came out in the second half we thought we would beat them."
From the first minutes of the game, the Huskies found themselves in what at times resembled an MMA cage match.
Senior co-captain Scott Suggs went out with a head injury that may be concussion in the first 90 seconds after taking an elbow to the face from Black 20 feet from the basket as Black was trying to get free for a shot. While still down on both knees, Suggs got a knee to the back of his head when officials let play continue and players ran down to the other end of the court.
UW plays Seton Hall next on Saturday in Uncasville, Conn., as this Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament continues. The winner of that plays on Sunday there against the winner of Ohio State and Rhode Island.
"He doesn't have a major headache. We don't know if he has a concussion or not," Romar said of Suggs, who knows exactly how Romar wants defense played in this his fifth year playing for him.
Suggs was slowly shuffling out of the arena well after the game ended.
Romar said even without Suggs "we still should have been in better shape than we were" Tuesday night.
A few minutes after Suggs was helped off the floor and into the training room with a trainer and a team doctor on either side of him, Desmond Simmons got hit above his right eye. He left to join Suggs for a while, got stitches, then came back with a bandage over his right eye as if a boxing cornerback had just worked on him.
Jernard Jarreau, the 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman, sat for most of the first 25 minutes while in foul trouble. UW committed six turnovers in the first 8 minutes. Wilcox missed his first six shots, and the Huskies missed 16 of their first 22 attempts.
With all that, it was almost a wonder how Washington was down by only 31-27 at halftime.
"It's not that the last play made the game. In the first half we were slow," N'Diaye said after he had his second double-double in three nights with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "If we would have started the right way, it would have been different in the second half."
Romar demanded his Huskies turn up the pressure on the ball at the start of the second half. Simmons, Wilcox, N'Diaye, Gaddy, and Andrew Andrews responded by swarming the Great Danes any time one touched the ball. Albany committed four turnovers in a hurry and Washington went from down 35-32 to up 45-38 in 4 lightning-like minutes.
It looked like the lesson was finally learned. The teacher had indeed taught.
Yet the Huskies relented their grip on the game. N'Diaye repeatedly lingered too long outside on the double teams with his guards against Black's outside pick-and-roll game. That left either the 6-10 Puk open for three easy scores at the rim, or Black to drive past N'Diaye from outside for more scores. Albany got the lead back at 54-53 with 2:31 to go, setting up the tense and ultimately frustrating finish.
It could haunt UW all season - if they don't learn.
Or, as Romar says, truly get taught.
"If we let this into two or three (losses), yes it will," haunt us," Romar said. "If we can go from here and not stub our toe like this again then lesson learned early in the year.
"But if this is a recurring theme, it will certainly be a big blow to us."