Huskies Show Big Heart In Big Apple Loss
Dec. 10, 2011
By Gregg Bell
NEW YORK - Mike Krzyzewski crossed paths with Tony Wroten in a stairwell beneath Madison Square Garden, and they greeted each other.
That made Coach K the only Duke guy to stop the Huskies' point guard on Saturday.
"You played a great game. That was a HELL of a game," college basketball's Division-I leader all-time in wins told Wroten. "We can't keep you in front of us."
In the heart of New York, Washington showed it has a huge one. It also showed it has a big-time freshman.
Wroten daringly drove for a career-high 23 points before fouling out late, and the slow-starting Huskies roared back from 19 points down to within six before losing to the seventh-ranked Blue Devils 86-80 Saturday in midtown Manhattan.
"We dug ourselves too big a hole. We finally got in our groove, but it was too late," Wroten said.
"Unfortunately we lost. But we played Huskies basketball in the second half."
The roaring crowd inside the packed "World's Most Famous Arena" became pro-Huskies during the young team's gritty rally. It came with UW pressing, pushing and using an impromptu, four-guard lineup because of a sprained knee 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye sustained landing on a soaring dunk early in the second half.
"I was proud how our guys didn't quit," coach Lorenzo Romar said after UW's six-day trip to The Big Apple ended -- with lessons and growth that should pay off when Pac-12 play begins in January.
"This concludes a long week (when) we learned an awful lot about ourselves ... that we are capable of competing with anybody in the country. But we're 4-4 just being capable. We've got to get over the hump.
"I am confident we will."
C.J. Wilcox added 22 points for Washington, which lost Tuesday here to undefeated, No. 11 Marquette on a 3-point shot with 6 seconds remaining.
"In spite of not winning these, our team is going to be extremely confident against whoever we play," Romar said. "What's going to tell the difference is the last two, three minutes of games - are we confident in those times?
"And if we are, I think we can finish this season very strong."
Wroten and Wilcox exploited the slower lateral movement of Duke's guards in the second half, after Wilcox's signature 3-point shot wasn't falling. Wilcox finished 2 for 7 from deep, but 8 of 12 on two-point shots.
"I feel like we have seen the two best teams we're going to see this season, before the NCAA tournament," Wilcox said of this pair of games at MSG. "We know where we need to be, and that we can compete with anybody."
N'Diaye walked onto the team bus to Newark Airport with the aid of the longest pair of crutches imaginable. His MRI exam on Monday will reveal the extent of his injury, though the Huskies may be going a while with the smaller lineup they used to rally Saturday.
Austin Rivers got it going early and had 18 points for Duke (9-1), whose wins entering Saturday included over Kansas and Michigan State. The lone loss was at second-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 29.
Washington trimmed what had been a 19-point hole with 5 minutes left in the first half down to 11 after Darnell Gant converted a 3-point play with 15:59 remaining. But then Wilcox turned it over on a travel, Washington gave up more of Duke's 13 offensive rebounds and the Blue Devils restored their larger lead.
Yet the gritty Huskies kept coming.
After the wowing Wroten fouled out with just over a minute left trying for a steal at half court and breakaway layup, Abdul Gaddy continued his aggressive second half with a drive and score. That made it 78-72 with 58 seconds left.
But Duke made 8 of 10 free throws in the final 58 seconds, sandwiched around a UW turnover when Gaddy's long pass went off the hands of Martin Breuning.
The freshman from Germany was forced to play late because of Wroten's disqualification and N'Diaye's sprained knee.
The injury didn't look good. The junior transfer center left the game and went directly to the locker room with a trainer and a teammate on either side of him propping him up. As the team boarded its evening flight to Seattle, N'Diaye said his wrapped knee felt stiff.
UW plays next on Friday at 7 p.m. against UC-Santa Barbara back home at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies headed home knowing this week in New York leaves them far improved from their first game away from Seattle last month, a blowout loss at Saint Louis. Despite the defeats here, they are a better, more intense team on defense. They are a better rebounding one - though Duke exploited them on offensive tap-out rebounds early. And the Huskies are settling into their roles more comfortably now, with Wroten coming off the bench early and Desmond Simmons entering to rebound and provide energy.
Now there is a new role to learn: the four-guard set.
With Scott Suggs' decision to redshirt his senior season rather than return from foot surgery, the outside-shooting jobs are set. Wilcox and Terrence Ross (7 for 17, 16 points Saturday) are the primary long-range marksmen, with Gaddy and Wroten the distributors and penetrators into the lane.
Ross, who dazzled with 19 points Tuesday against Marquette, missed his first seven shots Saturday.
All Huskies except Wroten came out tentatively and cold, a bad combination against Duke. Wilcox and Ross air-balled early jumpers. The team didn't run inbounds plays correctly.
Yet the Blue Devils didn't seize the game early as much as UW sputtered. Each team committed six turnovers early before Duke finally took control behind 14 first-half points by Andre Dawkins. Still, Washington missed numerous opportunities to cut into a double-digit hole in the opening half.
Wroten scored nine points but committed five of his team's nine turnovers in the half. And Washington shot 32 percent from the field and missed five of its nine free throws. That is why it trailed 40-26 at the break.
"I think we were a little bit intimidated because of the stage we were on and the opponent," Wilcox said. "It made us do some weird things. We saw the letters across their jerseys.
"In the second half we realized they were beatable. And we attacked them."
None more impressively than Wroten. He had the crowd gasping and oooohing with reverse layups and dare-devil dashes down the lane, gliding across the Garden's familiar orange floor paint.
"I feel like it's hard to contain me sometimes," Wroten said.
The Huskies may feel the same way come February, thanks to this encouraging yet ultimately winless week in New York.
"Playing against the best in the country, we learned a lot," Ross said. "How to finish games. How to compete. How to execute."
QUICK SHOTS: The Pac-12 fell to 0-12 against ranked teams with UW's loss. ... This was the sixth all-time meeting, with Duke winning four of the first five. In the only other neutral-site game before this, the Huskies beat the Blue Devils 80-78 in the second round of the 1984 NCAA tournament.