Resilient Huskies Winning In Many Different Ways
Feb. 3, 2012
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Players, top scorers, keep getting banged up.
The latest is leading scorer Tony Wroten, who was getting treatment Friday for a bruised thigh but whom Washington expects to play Saturday against USC.
Yet these revived Huskies keep soaring -- all the way to the top of the Pac-12.
That is a telling sign that UW's young pups are growing into a dynamic team, one built to withstand many disparate - and potentially desperate - situations over the final weeks of this season.
"You know, we are learning a lot about this team," Romar said Friday before the Huskies (15-7, 8-2 Pac-12) practiced for Saturday's 8 p.m. game against the Trojans (6-17, 1-9) at Alaska Airlines Arena on ROOT Sports television regionally, Fox Sports Net nationally, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with the exclusive game chat.
"Now, we've won games without our best shooter and one of our top scorers, which is C.J. Wilcox (recovering from a stress fracture in his upper leg). We've played all year without Scott Suggs (broken foot), who figured to be one of top players this year.
"Tony goes down (Thursday), our leading scorer and in some ways our most fiery player.
"We're pretty resilient. We've stayed together pretty well."
Wroten got hit high in the leg going in for a layup 2 ½ minutes into Thursday night's 71-69 rally past UCLA, Washington's 10th victory in 12 games. As Terrence Ross slammed home Wroten's miss, Wroten was on the ground beneath the basket rubbing his leg. He stayed hobbled the rest of the game yet played 27 minutes, scoring 13 points mostly on willpower.
"It really limits your mobility. You could just see he was laboring," Romar said. "You could just tell it was bothering him a lot."
Then midway through the second half Wroten got accidentally kicked in the shin by one of UCLA's Ware twins, adding to his pained night.
Wroten had tests after Thursday's game that showed a bruised quadriceps. He spent much of Friday getting treatment. It will help that Saturday's tipoff is late, giving the freshman an extra, almost full day of more treatment. If his rehabilitation exercises and treatment go as planned, he should be able to play against USC.
His coach reminded that Wroten played through a severely bruised tailbone and elbow he got Jan. 10 while getting fouled hard on a drive in a win over Seattle University.
"My thought is that Tony is a warrior. He will find a way to play," Romar said.
Wroten's pain -- and the fact Romar wanted to stay with Ross, Wilcox, Darnell Gant, Abdul Gaddy, and Aziz N'Diaye because they were playing so well rallying the Huskies - is why Wroten sat out the final eight minutes against UCLA Thursday.
The Huskies rallied from 10 down in the final 6 minutes to win behind Ross' 18 second-half points. It became another example of how the Huskies have evolved and grown over the last month.
"I think it showed our maturity," Gaddy said. "We were down 10 points and we fought back. We wanted to prove our maturity. We had a will to win."
And now they have multiple ways to do it.
"This is not a team where we have one guy, and that's the only guy who can score," Romar said. "C.J. scores. We tried to get Aziz going early (with four quick points Thursday). Tony is our leading scorer.
"And then down the stretch, Terrence is kind of putting the team on his shoulders offensively."
Here are Ross' statistical splits over his last five games: In the first half, the sophomore is averaging 4.4 points on 29-percent shooting overall, including 3 for 14 from 3-point range. In the second half, he is averaging 15 points, shooting 62.5 percent, and is 12 for 18 on 3-point shots.
"What do you want to call it `Terrence Time,' or whatever it is?" Romar said, chuckling. "He's just starting to emerge as a guy down the stretch who takes over games and makes big shots."
Ross has been a huge reason why the same Huskies many were writing off three weeks ago after a slumbering loss at Colorado are 8-2 in the league for the first time since starting off 10-2 in conference play in 2005.
"Before the year if they had said, `You will be 8-2 in your first 10 league games. You want to take that?' - Yes! Let's take that one!" Romar said. "I'll go with that.
"I know the wins have not been picturesque, but somehow our guys have found a way - and in a different way of doing it. We have not gone out scoring 90 points a game. We've been in a lot of grinder games. I think our guys have done a great job playing in these games, on the road and at home, finding a way to pull those out.
"I'm pleased with the direction we are headed. (But) I still think we can get a lot better."
Turnovers remain a concern. So do defensive intensity and overall consistency at both ends of the court. Romar said he thought the team took a surprising step back in physicality for most of Thursday's game, when Bruins big man Joshua Smith dominated inside with a career-high 24 points.
Wilcox made just one of four field goals in his second consecutive 26-minute game, the third contest in his return from missing three games to rest the leg stress fracture.
USC is 1-9 in the conference with a depleted roster following a 60-53 loss Thursday at Washington State. The Trojans' win last weekend against Utah was their latest initial conference victory since 1989. Yet Romar says he won't be tempted to rest Wilcox and Wroten on Saturday.
UW plays five of the final seven regular season games after USC on the road. That includes next week's trip to Oregon and Oregon State.
"Absolutely not. Not as far as I'm concerned," Romar said. "SC doesn't let you get away from them. They find a way to hang in there. In spite of their guys going down, they find a way to play you better competitively."
Indeed, the Trojans are last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense at 54.3 points per game but first in scoring defense, allowing 58.2 points per night. So most of their games are low-scoring grudge matches, just as the last several between the Huskies and USC have been.
The Trojans have won two of the last three meetings, albeit with a far more loaded team - an NCAA tournament team, in fact - compared to what they have now. The largest margin of victory in those last three meetings has been six points, the margin Washington won by in overtime in Los Angles to open last conference season.
"We've got to go in with all barrels loaded," Romar said. "They present problems to us. They pack it in defensively. They are going to try to play a game to keep it close.
"I can't remember the last time we played USC and it wasn't one of those types of games."