Ross' Late 3 and Free Throws Send UW Past Utah
Jan. 7, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SALT LAKE CITY - Yes, the Huskies lost at Colorado. Yes, they looked groggy in this 11 a.m. start at Utah two days later.
And, yes, they had to hold on against the team picked to finish last in the conference before they won their first game away from Seattle in six tries this season.
Terrence Ross ensured Washington is 3-1 and back among the Pac-12 leaders - heading into four consecutive home games.
Ross scored 14 points and looked as cool as this city's morning snow while making a crucial 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring, off great plays by Abdul Gaddy and Desmond Simmons with 2 minutes remaining. That swish and the sophomore's two free throws with 8.9 seconds left allowed the it's-never-easy Huskies to beat Utah 57-53 Saturday afternoon at the sleepy Huntsman Center.
When it was over, Ross and his Huskies (9-6, 3-1 Pac-12) looked as happy that they don't have answer "When are you going to win on the road?" than they did about the win over the slowed-down Utes (4-11, 1-2) in the building where Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played a historic NCAA championship game in 1979.
"It was more of a relief than celebrating," Ross said. "We don't think, 'Oh, we win. We are on our way.'
"We have to build from this."
For all the understandable angst over the loss at conference newcomer Colorado, Washington flew home Saturday afternoon back among the leaders in the anything-goes Pac-12.
The Huskies now return home for four games beginning Tuesday night against Seattle University then Sunday against Washington State. UW is 8-1 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
"This is a huge win for us," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Like I told our team (after this win), we have not put ourselves behind the pack, at all.
"If we continue to learn lessons, like we did today, I like the direction we are headed."
He loves where Simmons is headed. The redshirt freshman always seems to make the right plays, the kind of winning plays that coaches love. He finished with six points, 10 rebounds and that big-time assist to Ross from the lane to the top of the key and the Dawgs leading by three.
It was exactly the play - making the extra pass to create a better shot - that Romar demanded of his players following the loss at Colorado when UW rushed shots early in possessions to feed the home team's momentum.
"He does what it takes to win," Ross said. "He plays Huskies basketball."
"People will see his rebounds," Romar said, "but the box score won't show his heart."
The Huskies not only showed they could win on an opponent's home floor. They showed they could win playing an opponent's way.
The Utes, the lowest-scoring team in the Pac-12 at 57 points per game coming in, slowed the game into a ragged, halfcourt slog - much like they did while beating Washington State 62-60 in overtime Thursday.
But Gaddy continually ensured the offense stayed poised and worked Utah's tiring defense. The junior maestro had six assists and one turnovers, improving his conference-leading turnover-to-assist margin that was 3-to-1 coming in.
"Abdul was a conductor out there," Romar said.
Wilcox, playing in front of about four dozen family, friends and high school teammates from the Salt Lake City suburb of Pleasant Grove, was 2 for 13 and didn't make his first 3-pointer until 5 minutes after halftime. That gave Washington a 41-31 lead.
But Utah went on an 11-2 run behind repeated drives by Josh Watkins, who scored 12 of his 18 points after halftime.
The Huskies led by three late when Romar instructed them to run some clock. Gaddy did, setting up his defender on the left wing and driving the baseline under the basket and out the other side. With the shot clock at 4 seconds he found Simmons on the side of the lane about 8 feet from the hoop.
The redshirt freshman found Ross alone on top of the key with that cherished extra pass. Ross drained the open 3 as the shot clock expired to give Washington a 53-47 with just under 2 minutes left.
"It was big. We needed it," Ross said. "Especially because I missed those two big free throws down the stretch."
Simmons said he could see Ross alone out top before Gaddy passed.
"As soon as I get this, Terrence is mine," Simmons said he thought to himself. "I knew I had enough time to get it to Terrence, and he has a quick shot."
Gaddy then scored on a drive after a Utah turnover to put the Huskies up 55-47. But then Ross twice missed front ends of 1-and-1 chances, allowing the Utes to get within 55-53 on a 3-pointer by Utah's Cedric Martin with 8.9 seconds remaining.
Utah again fouled Ross. The 82-percent foul shooter entering Saturday made two this time, and the Huskies escaped.
Wilcox, averaging more than 15 points a game, missed his first seven shots and didn't score until a layup off a drive in a halfcourt set with 2:47 left in the opening half. Wroten, UW's leading scorer at 17 per game, third most of any freshman in the country, missed his first three shots. He didn't score until he drove inside with 1:26 remaining in the first half.
Yet the Huskies led 29-27 at halftime.
Utah's offense was clunky. And Washington played better defense in the halfcourt than it did in the loss at Colorado. Wilcox and Shawn Kemp Jr. each got big ovations from their coaches for denying dribble penetrations to the lane on the same possession late in the first half.
The Huskies came out from halftime and went at the rim with weave plays from the foul line. Wroten and Gaddy both scored to give Washington its largest lead, 33-27, 2 minutes into the second half.
The commitment to defense showed 2 minutes later. Ross was just 2 for 7 from the floor when he dived head first to create a Utah turnover by Chris Hines 30 feet from the basket. Wroten was the first Husky over to congratulate Ross for the play, and Romar went to halfcourt at the ensuing timeout to praise Ross for the hustle.
"We played defense," Gaddy said, comparing Saturday to UW's Thursday in Colorado.
"I believe we can win the conference. But we have to take it one game at a time and keep working."
QUICK SHOTS: Wilcox got all of his teammates' tickets for Saturday's game - 36 - and found about 10 more to host about four dozen of his friends and former teammates at Pleasant Grove High School, about 25 minutes south of the Huntsman Center. Wilcox's father Craig, a former player at Brigham Young, mother Mandy, a nurse, and his 3-year-old brother Tyson were behind the Huskies' bench - just as they were Thursday at Colorado. "It was fun," Wilcox said. "All those people haven't seen me play in person for a long time." ... This was the Huskies' first game in the Huntsman Center against Utah in Salt Lake City since Dec. 19, 1970, an 89-78 loss to the Utes in the Utah Classic.