By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
NEW YORK – Though depleted, the Huskies returned to The Garden set on bouncing back onto a giant, national stage.
But they did not rebound.
Indiana bolted to leads of 9-0 early and then by 20 in the second half, thanks to a string of second chances at the rim. C.J. Wilcox’s outside shooting briefly brought UW back within 11 with 3 minutes to go. But the deep hole, lack of rebounding and foul trouble almost from tipoff sealed Washington’s 102-84 loss to the bigger, faster, aggressive Hoosiers Thursday night in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project at Madison Square Garden.
"The main story of the game: They got a lot of second shots, offensive rebounds and fouls by us,” said Wilcox, who finished with 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting but was just 2-for-10 from 3-point range for Washington (2-2).
“I mean, size helps. But we had guards leaking out (out of defense too early) expecting (lone big man) Perris Blackwell to get every rebound. We didn’t have five guys going to the boards. They did.”
Blackwell was the Huskies’ only big man on the floor for most of the game. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds for UW, which has a short turnaround before its next game. The Huskies play here Friday at 2 p.m. Seattle-time against Boston College (1-4) in the tournament’s consolation game. The Eagles lost 72-71 to Connecticut in Thursday's first semifinal.
Taller, deeper, healthier and more aggressive Indiana (5-0) out-rebounded UW 50-29. Shawn Kemp Jr. started inside for the Huskies but had just one rebound and did not score before he fouled out. Wilcox and starting guard Andrew Andrews each had two fouls in the game's first minutes and had to sit out.
"We got in a lot of foul trouble, and with our lack of bigs it was just tough to block off all the length (of Indiana)," Blackwell said.
"We are just going to have to play better."
Especially with 6-foot-10 forward Jernard Jarreau out for the season (he had reconstructive knee surgery on Monday), and scrappy, 6-7 rebounder Desmond Simmons out until mid-to-late December following arthroscopic knee surgery.
If Kemp -- 10 rebounds total in four starts this season -- can't produce more and stay on the floor longer, it's going to take Herculean rebounding from the four-guard lineup to keep the Huskies in games against bigger teams.
"We knew Indiana was a really good offensive-rebounding team," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "But what they did was just dominate the game on the boards. They were like Dobermans on the boards.
"We were going uphill the rest of the night after that."
Andrews said the guards were caught watching the ball in flight instead of finding Hoosiers on many of Indiana's 66 shots.
"We have five people in the area to rebound, but when the shot went up we were too focused on the shot instead of boxing out," said Andrews, who had one rebound in 31 minutes.
Junior-college transfer Mike Anderson also fouled out after 11 points and four rebounds in another solid game off the Huskies’ bench.
The Huskies trailed 58-40 with 17 minutes left before going on a 9-0 run sparked by more aggressiveness by Wilcox, Andrews (14 points) and Nigel Williams-Goss (13 points, four assists) on dribble drives -- plus Indiana going cold shooting and throwing the ball away against UW's changing defenses.
Indiana got the lead back up to 22 with 7 minutes left, but Wilcox would not let the Huskies get run out of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” The fifth-year senior swished two straight shots, one from 3-point range deep on the left wing in front of Romar’s wife Leona sitting courtside. Then Andrews drove down the lane for a layup, and the Huskies trailed 90-79 with 3 minutes to go thanks to a reviving, 16-5 run.
But the Huskies then turned cold, and Indiana closed out the win going away in the teams’ first meeting since 1978 and third all-time.
UW lost its sixth consecutive game over a six-year span at Madison Square Garden, dating to the NIT Season Tip-off Finals in November 2007.
Andrews acknowledged that darting to the rim from the game's opening possession may be the way to go offensively in this young season, one that remains full of fouls as officials clamp down on contact by defenders.
"Yeah, definitely, for me it's just picking my spots and being more on ball screens," he said. "Just have to pick my spots with these new rules on all the foul calls."
Andrews doesn't think the Huskies' quick span between games -- this one ended around midnight New York time, and the players got back to their hotel early Friday morning -- will be a factor against Boston College.
"It's going to be a good thing we all played AAU ball," he said. "We are used to coming back and bouncing back, win or lose, the next day."
Rebounding. That's something these depleted, under-sized Huskies could use more of.