Ready To Rock: Huskies Growl Early, Beat Stanford
Jan. 21, 2012
By Gregg Bell UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Abdul Gaddy continued his week of renewed aggression, constantly and deftly driving the lane.
Aziz N'Diaye blocked a shot on the baseline with such vigor he ended up sprawled through a row of seated Huskies cheerleaders.
And football's Austin Seferian-Jenkins added instant physicality, jolting two Stanford big men with screens that shook them like a Bay Area quake on his first possession as a UW basketball player.
THAT'S what happens when intensity starts at the jump.
Tony Wroten relentlessly drove for 21 points, Terrence Ross soared and swished for 18 and senior Darnell Gant responded from an 0-fer night and missed shot at the buzzer Thursday to score 17 points - one off his career high - as the beyond-ready Huskies blitzed Stanford 76-63 on Saturday.
On this rousing afternoon against the conference's co-leader entering this week, performance starting matching potential. These Huskies finally looked like the team they believe they are.
"I am not surprised (if we happen to) win all of our games, we've just got to play the right way," said Gaddy, who scored all nine of his points in the first 18:34 to aid the Dawgs' rare, quick start. "We are a young team and we just have to stay consistent."
Even though UW cancelled classes on the last three days of this week because of Seattle's snow and ice storms, these Huskies kept learning.
"That we can't slack," Ross said. "We can't come out sluggish in games."
Indeed, Washington (12-7, 5-2 Pac-12) responded from a deflating, three-point home loss to first-place California on Thursday night by showing refreshing zest from the opening tip. That's how coach Lorenzo Romar got his 300th career win and 100th in the league - in the same, on-fire manner that has become the signature of his Huskies teams over 10 seasons at UW.
Asked his secret to 300 wins, Romar laughed and said, "Don't get fired."
"For us, something we can really grab on to after this game is how hard we played," said Romar, who has spent weeks trying to get his guys to respond to the start of the game instead of just the starts of second halves. "I am really proud of our guys' effort and focus."
All that spice has added sizzle to the Pac-12 race. With Cal losing at Washington State, Washington heads to Arizona State (6-13, 2-5) and Arizona (13-7, 4-3) Thursday and Saturday just a half game out of first place.
"We're in a good position. We feel we could be in an even better place but these are the cards we have," Gaddy said. "Now we have to get two on the road."
UW is 1-5 away from Alaska Airlines Arena, which housed the second-largest crowd of the season Saturday (9,794).
Those fans were roaring even before tipoff. They went bananas when Seferian-Jenkins, the 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end who is already threatening school career receiving records for the position after just one freshman season, entered 5:52 into the game after Gant picked up his second foul.
When he checked in for the first time, Seferian-Jenkins became the first Husky to play football and basketball weeks apart from each other since Nate Robinson in 2002-03, for Romar.
With the guys who throw footballs to him (Keith Price) and coach him in his main sport (Steve Sarkisian) courtside, Seferian-Jenkins set the two quaking screens within his first 15 seconds as a UW hoopster. He had five rebounds and three fouls in nine minutes before halftime.
"A poor man's Jon Brockman," is what Romar called ASJ -- after just one game. "I knew from the first day we had him (in practice two weeks ago) that this was something we did not have."
His added value showed up when Romar put him back into the game to keep N'Diaye from picking up a third foul in the final 2 minutes of the half, which ended with Washington ahead 32-25.
Plus, Seferian-Jenkins isn't just taking up minutes. He can play, as he has on the varsity since his freshman year at Gig Harbor, Wash., High School.
"We feel like every time he is in the game that he is going to get every rebound," Gaddy said. "He is a big spark for us."
Thanks partly to those two, Saturday became the first time since New Year's Eve the Huskies had led at halftime against a team with a winning record. That last time was against Oregon, which also was a victory.
"Our mindset was, every time we come out sluggish we fall way back," Ross said.
Stanford (15-5, 5-3) never led after 7-6 early. The Cardinal blew a 13-point lead in losing at Washington State Thursday night.
Seferian-Jenkins finished with seven rebounds, one assist and five fouls in 16 rousing minutes - "seven rebounds in 16 minutes? That's excellent," Romar gushed. He missed his only shot, a wide-open one from the right foul line extended that Stanford dared him to take before it softly bounced off the rim.
Asked if his hoops debut went as he expected, Seferian-Jenkins said wryly, "Yeah, we won. That's what I expected."
The Huskies' intensity continued in the rollicking second half.
Wroten finally connected on a lob pass to soaring Ross for an alley-oop slam they've been trying to perfect for two games. Gaddy made a series of nifty crossover dribbles and found Ross wide open behind him for a 3 - part of Ross' 5-for-9 shooting after a 1-for-8 first half. Then Wroten dove past three Stanford defenders like they really were trees for yet another slashing score at the rim.
Suddenly, Washington lead 55-40 with 11:38 left and Alaska Airlines Arena was roaring even more.
Stanford got within 71-59 with 3 minutes left on a 3-pointer by Aaron Bright of the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, but then Romar particular liked that his Huskies responded again. Make that, Gant responded.
The team's only playing scholarship senior swished a 3-pointer on the next possession to put UW back up comfortably for good.
"We kept playing and pushed it back up," Wroten said of the big lead. "If that (opposing comeback) happens on the road we have to put our feet on their throats."
Gant made 7 of 11 shots after going 0-for-9 Thursday including the missed, open look that would have sent the Cal game into overtime.
"I definitely had it today," Gant said, smiling. "After that first miss (early Saturday), I put it behind me and said, 'I'm not going to go through that again.
"That's what I've been trying to get through to our guys: Coming out the right way, right away. That was the one thing from the other night; if we had come out right we would be right there in first place. And look what happened today: We're still in the running for first place."
Yes, after all this team's ups and downs this season - Wilcox still being out indefinitely, the sleepwalk losses to Saint Louis, South Dakota State and Colorado, the blown opportunity against Cal -- Washington is a half game out of the conference lead.
"Given the fact we've played three games with C.J. Wilcox, to still be a half-game out of the first?" Romar said. "If we can continue to improve - now we get to go on the road again - I'm pleased with the direction we are going."