What road losing streak? The Huskies (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12) score almost at will inside and out to dismantle the host Beavers (14-12, 6-8), behind 23 points from C.J. Wilcox and 10 assists from Nigel Williams-Goss -- the most by a UW freshman in 20 years. Next: Friday at home against Washington State.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Asked on his way out of the locker room postgame if what he had just seen was refreshing, Lorenzo Romar smiled and exhaled.
The Huskies’ coach didn’t need to say anything more than that about this reassuring Saturday in the Willamette Valley.
Nigel Williams-Goss was exquisite, a Beavers dam buster inside, furthering his candidacy for Pac-12 freshman of the year. The poised, preeminent point guard scored 10 points right away to seize this game, and added 14 points in all. He had a career-high 10 assists, the most by a Husky freshman in a game in 20 years. It was the first Husky points-assist double-double in two years.
C.J. Wilcox didn’t score for the first 11 minutes – then poured in 23 points, sparking a decisive, 25-8 run and passing Jon Brockman for second on UW’s career scoring list. Six of the seven Dawgs who scored did so in double figures. Desmond Simmons had 10 points and 11 rebounds. At times it seemed like everyone but Romar was scoring.
It was indeed an overdue, Eureka!-day. After five losses in six games Washington looked like a reborn team, playing its best game in a more than a month to dismantle Oregon State 86-62 at Gill Coliseum.
Andrew Andrews had eight points in 5 minutes of the spurt from being down 25-19. He finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Huskies (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12), who joined California and Coppin State as the only teams to beat Oregon State (14-12, 6-8) at home in 14 games this season.
The Dawgs had not won away from home since the day after New Year’s, at Arizona State.
Three days after it played well for much, but not enough of, a 78-71 loss at Oregon, Washington scored its most points in 12 games away from Seattle this season. The margin of victory was the biggest road romp for UW since March 1, 2012, when it won at USC 80-58 en route to 14-4 in the league and the Pac-12 regular-season championship.
“For our guys to come out there and have a 20-point and a 20-rebound (43-23) lead against that team, I thought was pretty special. We had 20 assists; I thought that was special,” Romar said of this especially special end to a seven-game road losing streak in the final true road game of the season.
“Having lost on the road and having lost the games we’d lost lately, you know, doubt can set in. For us to finish the road with a win like this, a convincing win, I think that really does wonders for the mental aspect of our team right now, for us to remember that the next time we play we remember what we did.
“It’s something we can look at and draw from, how we went about our business – and certainly when we go on the road again in the Pac-12 tournament.”
With Williams-Goss seizing control of the game with dribble drives past every Beaver the president’s brother-in-law coach tried to have guard him, the Huskies relentlessly pounded taller Oregon State in the lane with quickness and superb passing. Washington’s 52 points in the paint, at least two dozen of which came off Williams-Goss’ maestro-like plays, tied for the most inside this season. UW also scored 52 in the paint in beating Mississippi Valley State and Oregon State, the latter an 87-81 win last month.
The last Husky freshman to have as many assists in a game? Michael McLain had 10 on March 3, 1994, at Arizona.
Asked if he gets more pleasure from the scoring, including a Huskies freshman-record 32 he had the last time facing the Beavers, or the assists, Williams-Goss smiled.
“I get pleasure out of winning,” the beyond-his-years 19-year-old said.
“My main thing was to be aggressive. And being aggressive doesn’t mean shoot. Being aggressive means attack.”
Playing in front of “a ton” of friends from the nearby Portland area – he estimated 30 -- he had just two turnovers against those 10 assists in his 33 minutes. He had 10 points and five assists just 15 minutes into the game.
Romar wasn’t exactly floored.
“This isn’t the first time Nigel played like he played today,” the coach said.
Williams-Goss got his 10th assist about the same time he and Wilcox left for good, with the Huskies up by 24 and 5 minutes remaining. Abdul Gaddy on March 20, 2012, was the last Husky to get double figures in points and assists before Saturday.
Williams-Goss has 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting, with 14 assists and seven rebounds in two games this season against Oregon State, which is about 90 minutes down Interstate 5 from where he grew up in Happy Valley, Ore.
Yet Romar said it’s not this matchup, merely that Williams-Goss “is a really good player.”
“I love Aaron, Gordon,” Romar said of the freshman star at first-place Arizona, whom he nearly got to sign with Washington, “and I know his team is near the top.
“But I don’t think there is any freshman in our league that is as valuable to a team as Nigel is (to Washington)... We’re not in first place. But to know who is most valuable to his team there is no question: Nigel Williams-Goss.”
The Huskies bussed four hours north up Interstate 5 into Saturday night while happily watching the replay of their revitalizing win and teasing each other over their plays – “How’d you miss THAT?!” They are now home for the final three regular-season games: Friday against Washington State (9-17, 2-12) and then March 6 and 8 against UCLA and USC. The Pac-12 tournament begins March 12 in Las Vegas.
UW has an outside chance at fourth place – though it will need the help of Colorado, Arizona State, Stanford and California losing multiple times. The top four finishers in league play get first-round byes in the conference tournament.
“We are just trying to get ourselves in good position for the tournament, seeding-wise, and then just try to make a run in that,” said Wilcox, who swished from outside and even dunked while scoring 14 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half to reach 1,814 career points – nine more than Brockman scored in an entirely different way for UW from 2006-09.
Wilcox’s first basket of the game, a deep 2 from the left wing 11 minutes in, came with the Huskies in their largest hole of the day down 25-19. That began seven consecutive points for Wilcox, and a 30-8 run for the Huskies. Andrews, resurgent with 51 points in three games since he scored none and played a season-low 5 minutes in the win over Stanford two weeks ago, began hitting from outside. Simmons kept plays alive on the offensive glass and scrapped for loose balls. And Williams-Goss was distributing the ball in the lane almost flawlessly, relentlessly.
“I knew we were capable of it,” Wilcox said of the complete performance, especially on the road. “We’ve always known what to do. It was just a matter of doing it for the whole game. Everybody played the way they are capable of playing.”
Asked how many times that’s happened this uneven season, Wilcox sighed.
“It’s not many, especially lately,” the senior captain said.”But it’s a good feeling to have everyone on the same page.”
When Wilcox swished his second 3-pointer in a row from the top of the key the Huskies led 76-55 with 7 minutes left. Much of the matinee home crowd departed to get back out into the more-enjoyable sunshine.
Yet it was all sunny for UW inside, and all the way back to Seattle.
What can Romar use from this rousing day to perhaps springboard his Huskies into a late-season leap?
“Point out why things occurred the way they did today. Point them out,” Romar said. “And (tell them,) ‘Let’s not change anything, fellas.’ That’s what we will try to talk about.
“Show them what worked.”
Saturday, refreshingly, that was just about everything.