Selfless C.J.: Wilcox's 24 Leads UW Over Oregon
Dec. 31, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - For these Huskies, it's Happy New (Conference) Year!
For C.J. Wilcox, it's Happy New Role!
The selfless sophomore showed how cool he is with his new job coming off the bench by tying his career high with 24 points. That included the game-turning 3-pointers that repelled Oregon's final charge in a 76-60 victory Saturday night and sent Washington off to a 2-0 start in the Pac-12.
"Yeah, I've done it before, a lot last year," Wilcox said of his freshman season, when he started just six of 33 games yet was a lethal shooter during decisive moments late in contests. "We all play the same number of minutes. It doesn't matter who starts.
"I just come off the bench ready to shoot."
The balanced scoring shows the roles are getting more defined with each game this young, developing team plays.
"Guys are really starting to grow and mesh," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Early on, we weren't a team yet. We are building to be a cohesive unit."
Cohesion killed the Ducks (10-4, 1-1).
With students in the Dawg Pack wearing shiny New Year's Eve hats, Wilcox got the party going following an uneven start for the Huskies.
And just to complete his fun night, Wilcox helped shut down Oregon's dangerous Devoe Joseph. Joseph, averaging 14.7 points per game coming in, scored just four while missing 11 of 12 shots.
Wilcox had started the first 11 games this season but went to the bench this week when Romar went with a new lineup to add Wroten's scoring and driving with Aziz N'Diaye's inside presence.
Wilcox's reaction was like he reacts to everything: With an unemotional shrug.
"Romar told me it wasn't a demotion, that it was a move that made our team chemistry better," Wilcox said. "I was fine with that."
Wilcox had 15 points off the bench in Thursday night's win over Oregon State, then had nine on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range in the first half against Oregon.
He was 3 for 4 from deep after halftime, too, and 8 of 11 overall from the field. The six 3-pointers he made tied his career high, and the total points equaled the 24 he had against UCLA last spring.
When Wilcox let fly from behind the arc in the corner opposite UW's bench - where each Husky was standing anticipating the make - Washington turned what had been a taut 48-44 game into a 67-51 runaway. That was the point Wilcox said he felt "a little bit" like that March 3 night against UCLA, when he scored all 24 of his points in a blistering second half of shooting.
"Actually, I did think about that," Wilcox said, almost bashfully.
The game featured a scrum involving the always feisty Wroten.
The freshman missed on yet another drive early in the second half, then waited exasperated at the basket standard while play continued. Romar implored Wroten to run back down on defense, and he did with urgency - right through Oregon's Olu Ashalou. The two got tangled, and then Ashalou elbowed Wroten in the side of the head.
Wroten went to the floor to try to draw a foul. The trailing official wasn't watching the play. When a whistle finally sounded, Wroten went at Ashalou, jawing at the 6-7 forward. Huskies captain Darnell Gant entered the scrum to defend Wroten.
That got Gant a technical. Ashalou got one, too, for the elbow.
Oregon went on an 8-1 run immediately after the scrape to get within 48-44. The Huskies were standing around again on offense, as they were for much of the first half.
Then Wilcox got them un-stuck.
The sharpshooter scored eight points on an 11-2 run that had Washington back up by 13. Oregon never threatened again.
"If C.J. starts or if he is on the bench, he plays that way. He can play with any combination we have," Romar said. "He's going to do the same thing regardless. He's just so versatile - whenever we put him out there.
"And on top of that, he is pretty selfless."
In some ways, the Huskies were fortunate to be up by 11 at halftime. E.J. Singler was playing great for the Ducks, hustling all over the floor - at one point into the second row behind the UW bench for a loose ball - and making four of nine shots. But the rest of his Ducks were just 7 for 25 in the half, with nine turnovers.
Wroten's continual probes into Oregon's zone defense got him 11 points and three assists early. He could have had more had he been better than one of four on free throws.
Wilcox thinks the new arrangement of Wroten starting and him off the bench makes UW harder to defend.
"I think it gets the defense more sucked in, because Abdul and Tony are always driving. It gets Terrence and me better looks."
It did Saturday. Wilcox and Ross combined for 35 points on 12-for-20 shooting.
Desmond Simmons again showed how indispensible he's becoming - in areas beyond box-score numbers. When the gritty redshirt freshman sprang head-first onto the floor at a Duck's feet to force a held ball, Romar ran onto the floor to give him a hearty applause and yell to begin the ensuing time out.
Simmons then tracked down a long rebound, then fed Wilcox for one of his 3-pointers.
Simmons finished with six rebounds and three assists.
Oregon (10-4, 1-1) had beaten Washington State by 17 in Spokane on Thursday, making Romar nervous on how this one might go.
It went the way the Huskies now hope to go at Colorado and Utah Thursday and next Saturday.
"In this conference you can start out by being hot because you win two in a row at home - then two weeks later be in eighth place because you go on the road," Romar said. "We've to get to the point where we can get on the road and not change at all.
"We're not there yet."