Ross, Wroten and Seniors Lead UW Past UofA
Feb. 18, 2012
By Gregg Bell
Darnell Gant kissed his hand then bent down to tap the paw onto the purple, block W at center court.
"It was a spur-of-the-moment thing," Gant said.
Fellow senior Brendan Sherrer, the walk-on who also started - for the first and last time as a Husky - followed Gant's W smooch. Alaska Airlines Arena went wild, especially the Dawg Pack. That's where Sherrer used to sit for these games.
"Seemed like a good idea," Sherrer said of the court kiss, shrugging.
Senior Day was a blast for the Huskies, thanks to their dynamic sophomore and freshman. Ross started hot this time and stayed that way with 25 points. Wroten had 22, with nine rebounds on another day of brash drives inside. And Washington remained atop the Pac-12 with a 79-70 victory over Arizona Saturday afternoon at rockin Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies (19-8, 12-3 Pac-12) entered the day in a first-place tie in the conference with California. The Bears were hosting Oregon State later Saturday night. Three games remain in the regular season for both leaders, beginning for UW next Saturday at Washington State.
The Dawgs fell behind 7-2 early then came roaring back behind Ross' fifth 20-point game this season. They never trailed after the 13:41 mark of the first half, holding Arizona to six field goals over the final 12 minutes while winning for the 14th time in 17 games.
"This time I saw a little maturity, a little growth," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said, pleased his sometimes-maddening, still-growing team is finally starting to show consistency - when it matters most.
"We didn't let up. That's a big step for us."
The Dawgs roared almost from the start, continually attacking the lane for a 42-22 advantage in the paint.
"Forty-two points in the paint, it was clearly the difference in the game," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "They wore us down physically."
They also got out and ran - and kept Arizona (19-9, 10-5) from running while enjoying a 10-0 edge in fast-break points. And they held the league's most prolific 3-point scoring team to just 6-of-21 (29- percent) shooting from deep.
"You can only hope Senior Day turns out this way. It was great," Romar said. "We put together 40 minutes today of offense and defense. ... Our guys did a tremendous job today of playing `Husky Basketball.'"
Arizona has won six of its previous eight games. The only losses are to the Huskies.
C.J. Wilcox didn't attempt a shot until 32 minutes into the game and didn't make one until 7 minutes remained. But his eight points in 3 decisive minutes kept the Wildcats from getting any closer than within three points.
Wroten did, too. He grabbed a pass near the top of the key, went into hyper drive dribbling down the left side of the lane and then soared for a mammoth slam with his favored, left-hand over stunned Wildcat Angelo Chol. The house went bonkers. What had been a 55-52 game became a 62-54 Huskies lead with 8:57 left.
"I wasn't even planning on dunking it," Wroten said. "Coming down, I saw it was a 2 on 1 and I saw Terrence, so I was already plotting to throw it up to Terrence. Then two guards came sprinting down so Terrence disappeared. So I just went up for a layup and turned it over and dunked on him.
"It was just funny because it was Chol, you know, he wanted to come here and didn't. And I got him."
Romar said the play helped keep the Huskies rollin' - physically and emotionally.
"Our guys loved that. I loved it," the veteran coach said. "Pretty sweet."
The play that got the Huskies going in the first half will be talked about for a long time. At least wherever and whenever Aziz N'Diaye is around.
The junior 7-footer, who finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, came off a screen to block a deep shot by Nick Johnson on the right wing. He corralled the loose ball in UW's backcourt, pushed it across the timeline with a half-dribble (OK, mostly traveling) move. As Arizona's Miller went apocalyptic for the non-call, N'Diaye began his leap to the rim just inside the foul line. He soared and slammed the ball through the hoop.
He looked like a runaway Space Needle.
The crowd and Huskies' bench loved it, erupting and falling all over themselves as if they were about to bring the remodeled arena down to its studs. Miller got a well-earned technical. Wilcox made the ensuing free throws. And UW suddenly led 21-14.
Asked if he'd ever seen the low-post anchor do that while recruiting him from N'Diaye's native Senegal to European youth leagues to the College of Southern Idaho, Romar said: "I'd never seen him go coast to coast like that."
"He keeps telling me about all the things he can do," the coach joked. "Maybe we are not using him the right way."
They are using Ross well, eh? The velvet-smooth sophomore made four of his first six shots and 11 of 19 in all in his fifth 20-point game this season, driving inside off screens when Wildcats came out to challenge him and dropping back to hit jumpers when they were weary of his dribbling.
The second-half wonder scored 15 points in the first half. It was the most in an opening period by a Husky this season.
Asked if he felt Arizona was frustrated after losing for the third time to UW in 11 months, Ross said: "I feel like we frustrate everybody, not just them."
Sherrer thrilled the Dawg Pack student section he used to sit in plus his parents, grandparents, cousins and 17 total family members he had in attendance when he was announced for his first career start.
Asked if he was emotional while getting introduced while walking out of the team tunnel with his mother Nancy and father Kent before the game, Sherrer said: "Nah, I was too nervous to cry."
Romar told him Friday he was starting, after 28 career games mopping up all in comfortable UW wins.
The reaction to the news by the mild- and well-mannered biology major about to apply to UW's dental school?
"It was kind of like, `You better start me!'" Romar joked.
"He's such a good guy, if I told him he wasn't starting he would have said, `I understand' - and then slashed my tires later."
The 6-8 forward who got on the Huskies via an open tryout after he answered an ad in The Daily student newspaper in October 2009 ripped the ball away from Jesse Perry under Arizona's basket on the Wildcats' third possession.
"Did you see that defense?" Romar said. "Brendan can hold his own in there."
Sherrer left 2:13 into the game to huge roars. Those cheers returned when he came off the bench in the final minute - and again when Romar had him come off for one, final ovation.
The previous three games of this rollicking series had been decided by a combined five points at the buzzer, starting with Isaiah Thomas' "cold-blooded" shot at the overtime buzzer that beat the `Cats in last March's Pac-10 tournament final. Then Wroten blocked a layup with 2 seconds remaining Jan. 28 in Tucson to preserve Washington's biggest win of this season.
Until this one.
After the game, Thomas tweeted from his NBA life as a Sacramento King: "Great day 2 be a Washington Husky!!!"
Yes, indeed it was.
"We have figured out this year that if our shots aren't going down then we need to be able to make stops on defense," Ross said, nailing a realization Romar's been trying to hammer home for months. "I think that was the key to us winning this game."