Wroten Career Night Rallies Huskies Past UCSB 87-80
Dec. 16, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Coach K was right.
Six days after Duke's legendary icon Mike Krzyzewski stopped Tony Wroten underneath Madison Square Garden to tell him he was a special player, the Huskies' freshman was even more of one.
Wroten celebrated his first career start with a career night. And his Huskies needed every bit of it to get past UC-Santa Barbara 87-80 Friday.
The heralded freshman scored 27 points while debuting in a four-guard lineup necessitated by the knee injury to 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye. It tied the most by a Huskies freshman, a record shared by Isaiah Thomas from 2008 and Huskies assistant Paul Fortier from 1983.
Thomas scored 27 on Dec. 30, 2008, against Morgan State.
"yessir I remember it like it was yesterday," Thomas tweeted back after Wroten's breakout Friday night. "He might jus beat that by time season over tho"
Washington used all Wroten's magic and more to rally to its first win in four games in front of 9,246 at a relieved Alaska Airlines Arena.
"A monster, monster night," is what Lorenzo Romar called it, after the coach's 200th win in 10 seasons at Washington.
Wroten, who once scored 70 against professional and college players in a summer Pro-Am league, made 11 of 21 shots in 34 minutes. Those were also highs for this first season since starring at Seattle's Garfield High School.
His fake pass and soaring, left-handed slam that gave the Huskies their first lead in a while, 53-51 early in the second half, may be on highlight shows for a while.
"I'd give it about a seven," Wroten said with a shrug when asked for a self-assessment of his ninth college game. "I need to make my free throws at the end of games."
Abdul Gaddy scored 17 points, Terrence Ross scored 16 and Desmond Simmons added nine points, eight rebounds and huge hustle plays at the end as the Huskies (5-4) extended a school-record with their 32nd consecutive home victory over a non-conference opponent.
Wroten put Washington ahead with 17 minutes left for the first time since 14-12 when he drove down the lane, faked a pass left outside and then soared for the memorable left-handed slam. That had the Huskies up 53-51 -- and had Alaska Airlines Arena roaring.
Wroten's first assist was equally wowing: A perfectly placed lob that Ross soared to get and slam for a 58-57 Huskies lead with 11 minutes to go. Ross' fall away jumper made it 60-57, then he helped on defense to cause a backcourt violation on the Gauchos.
A 3-pointer from Ross, then his two free throws, gave Washington a 77-67 lead. But UCSB scored 10 consecutive points faster than one can say "What just happened?" to tie it with 3:30 remaining.
Darnell Gant, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, then scored on a put back while getting fouled with 2:46 remaining. His subsequent free throw gave UW an 80-77 lead. The Gauchos (5-3) didn't get within three points after that.
"We needed that play," Gaddy said.
Washington had lost three consecutive games but was encouraged by a last-second loss to 11th-ranked Marquette and a furious rally against No. 7 Duke in games last week at Madison Square Garden.
Friday, the Dawgs were discouraged by Santa Barbara dominating them inside early. The Gauchos scored 26 of their 36 inside points in a first half that saw UCSB lead by as many as six points.
UCSB attacked the inside with the dribble, with entry passes and with 7-3 reserve center Greg Somogyi. N'Diaye, out perhaps one more game until Thursday against Cal State Northridge with a sprained knee, sat helpless on the Huskies' bench in a plaid shirt and jeans.
Washington shot 50 percent in the first half, committed just two turnovers, got 13 points from Wroten and 12 from Gaddy - yet trailed 47-44 at the break. That was because UCSB enjoyed a 22-14 rebound edge, 26 points in the paint and 12 second-chance points in the opening period.
"It was hard because he's our enforcer," Gaddy said of N'Diaye being out. "In the first half, they killed us on the rebounds and we really missed him. ... They really tried to beat us up. At halftime, we really took it on our chests, like `We're going to be the more physical team.'"
They were also the one that had Ross' 14 second-half points and Wroten's daring drives.
Wroten credited his breakout these last six days to a renewed focus. He spent the first weeks of the season admittedly "affected" by not being in the starting lineup.
Romar said Wednesday and Thursday at practice Wroten played and led "like he was a junior. He was yelling, talking to guys, getting them pumped up.
"He's quite a talent. There's not much he can't do out there on the floor," Romar said. "You can call it a summer league if you want, but he scored 70 points. A lot of guys go to the summer league. They don't score 70 points in a game."
The way Wroten is playing in real games right now - 23 points last weekend against Duke, 50 points in two games and wondrous shots at the rim with his favorite left hand from all angles - he can't help but lead.
Wroten thinks it's all simply a matter of the mind.
"I've just been more focused," he said. "I hate losing, like everyone on our team. I got after all my teammates in practice. Coach told me that I was a leader on the second group and `now you've got to be a leader on the starting five,' that even though I was a freshman I've got to lead.
"I know how good I am capable of being," Wroten said. "Obviously, I feel like I'm one of the top freshmen in the country. And I hope everybody thinks that."
His only blemish was going 4 for 9 from the free-throw line, leaving him at 51 percent on the season. After he missed four straight when UCSB kept fouling him late in the tight game, Romar took him out on offensive possessions.
Wroten understood. He was frustrated with himself for the misses.
"I don't blame him. I can't be in games if I don't make my free throws," Wroten said, adding he has been dwelling too much on each miss.
QUICK SHOTS: Fortier said he went for 27 points and 19 rebounds on Feb. 12, 1983. We'll have to take the coach at his good word, since statistics from that game weren't readily available. Fortier had told Wroten of his freshman mark after Wroten's 23 against Duke on Saturday, and Wroten said teammate C.J. Wilcox reminded him he was close to the mark during Friday's second half. ... Wilcox spent much of the night in foul trouble and scored just seven points, six days after scoring 22 against Duke in New York. ... Despite UCSB's success against it early, Gaddy and Romar both like the new, four-guard set up. It's what rallied UW from 19 down against Duke to within six in the second half after N'Diaye got hurt last weekend. "I think it's a great line-up. We're fast and we could pick up full court. We could press and we could do a lot of things out on the court," Gaddy said. Romar said, "It gives teams different looks. And this was our first time playing with it (this much). I thought there were a lot of positives to it."