Wroten's 23 Can't Stop UW From 92-73 Loss to SD St.
Dec. 18, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar's message is clear: Whether it is South Dakota State, Duke or the Dallas Mavericks, what happened Sunday should not happen. Ever.
"I don't care who we play, we don't lose like we did today at home," a terse Romar said after South Dakota State stunned lethargic Washington 92-73 eight days after UW's gritty and encouraging comeback almost beat Duke.
"It's just unacceptable. Unacceptable."
The noon tipoff seemed like it was too early for the Huskies, seeing how slow they were to defend outside shooters and how stagnant they were on offense.
South Dakota State's Nate Wolters was definitely too much for them.
Wolters scored 34 points and made 13 of 16 free throws to keep Washington from digging out of a 22-point, first-half hole. Tony Wroten's 23 points were not nearly enough for UW to avoid a humbling defeat before 9,060 stunned people at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies' school-record 32-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents ended on a day that began with Romar concerned with his team's lack of energy at the team's breakfast. The early tipoff, the body language, the fact that his players had, in the coach's words, not seen South Dakota State on SportsCenter, all worked against the Dawgs - before Wolters worked them over.
Romar had told his players in the locker room just before tipoff of the time of being in his year as a young assistant at UCLA playing a Santa Clara team no Bruin had ever seen.
Forty minutes later in that 1995 game, some unknown guy named Steve Nash had shredded UCLA in an upset win.
"I spoke to our team before the game about a lack of energy, that we better get ready to go," Romar said after UW's first non-conference loss at home since No. 12 Pittsburgh beat the Huskies 75-74 on Dec. 8, 2007. "That was one of our issues today."
Darnell Gant had 15 points and 10 rebounds. But C.J. Wilcox was 4 for 15 from the field and leading-scorer Terrence Ross fouled out with just six points for Washington (5-5), which lost for the fifth time in seven games --and lost any progress from a last-second loss to 11th-ranked Marquette and 86-80 to No. 7 Duke last weekend in New York.
The last time Washington had lost to an unranked non-conference team at home: Dec. 14, 2002, against Eastern Washington in Romar's first season leading the Huskies.
"We didn't have the energy. We weren't talking on defense. We were not focused," said Wroten, who has scored 23, a UW freshman record-tying 27, and 23 points in his last three games. "Coach told us to watch out for it, waking up for an early game that we had to have energy,
"We just have to find a way to find energy deep down."
Their next chance is their final one before Pac-12 play begins, Thursday night at home against Cal State Northridge.
"Is this time to panic? If we are doing this against Northridge, it's time to panic," Romar said, jabbing his index finger for emphasis.
Three days of what promises to be grueling practices suggests they won't.
"We'll learn some things," was all the perturbed coach would say when asked how Monday's practice would be.
Romar feared a letdown this week following the encouraging games against Marquette and Duke during a great week spent in New York. The Huskies came home to final exams and practices, then a game Friday night against UC-Santa Barbara that UW rallied to win 87-80 on what Romar felt was pure adrenaline.
Romar's fears became reality right away Sunday. The Huskies' only lead was 2-0 on the opening basket by Ross. The sophomore made only two more the rest of the game before fouling out with just six points, 10 below his average.
Defensively, the Huskies over-committed on dribble penetration in a middle that was again missing 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye to a sprained knee. That left the Jackrabbits' many 3-point shooters alone outside. South Dakota State (10-4) made 11 of its first 14 shots and started 7 for 7 from 3-point range.
SDSU scored 31 points in the game's first 9 minutes. The Jackrabbits, who lost to North Dakota in their previous game, took a 35-14 lead midway through the first half on 3-point shots launched seemingly from U Village up the street.
The lead became 41-19 with 6 minutes left in the first half. Wolters kept driving, setting up teammates, scoring or getting to and scoring from the free-throw line. His 34 points were two off his career high, and he had seven assists, five rebounds and no turnovers while playing all 40 minutes. In the second half, his coach, Scott Nagy, was calling timeouts to get his exhausted, do-it-all leader breathers.
Romar was left wondering why Wolters' name isn't on all the mock NBA draft lists he sees.
It might show up on some now.
"I haven't seen a performance like that since Jason Kidd was in the then-Pac-10, when he controlled the entire game," Romar said of Wolters' wondrous day.
Romar spent much of the first half with his arms folded across his chest, looking steamed. At one point, with the arena in stunned silence, Romar screamed to his offense to "MOVE THE BALL!" The home crowd gave that one its loudest ovations of the half.
Yet Chad White's fourth make in five 3-point tries had the Huskies down 51-33 at the break.
Washington went on a 9-2 run highlighted by Wroten losing two defenders with a behind-the-back move for a wowing layup, and then a 3 from Gant. A jumper by Ross made it 61-50 with 12:47 to go, and UW had hope.
But that was as close as the Huskies could get. South Dakota State scored nine of the next 11 points to go back up by 18 with 9 minutes left to essentially end it.
The Huskies, who rallied to beat UC-Santa Barbara 87-80 Friday night, started a four-guard lineup for the second consecutive game. N'Diaye was in uniform but was still resting a sprained knee. The center may return Thursday.
"I think Aziz would have helped," Romar said. "But I don't know if he could have erased a 19-point deficit."
Someone asked Romar how damaging this startling loss might be to the Huskies' resume for the NCAA tournament.
"We just played a very, very poor game today," the veteran coach with 200 career wins at UW said. "We can't start worrying about RPIs, all that kind of stuff. We have to get better.
"We need to do one thing: We have to improve."