Urgent Seniors Lead Team Meeting On Eve of Ducks-Dawgs
Feb. 13, 2013
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - With their season on the brink, where are the Huskies turning?
Seniors Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs and Aziz N'Diaye called a players-only meeting Tuesday. That was after the team's 3:10 a.m. Monday arrival from Los Angeles, site of the sixth loss in seven games for Washington (13-11, 5-6 Pac-12) Sunday night.
Gaddy, a co-captain, did most of the talking, according to leading scorer C.J. Wilcox.
"The main thing is we come together more as a team," Gaddy said before practice for Wednesday's 8 p.m. game against No. 23 Oregon (19-5, 8-3). "We had a talk (Tuesday). The main thing is we want to do as much as we can and give it all we've got. We want to leave it all out there. We don't want to come into a locker room after a game and not be tired, not be satisfied that you left it all on the floor.
"The seniors, me, Scott, Aziz ... we've only got eight games left, for sure (counting at least one game in next month's Pac-12 tournament). We've just got to keep the faith and keep playing as hard as we can - and anything can happen."
Including winning out?
"Definitely, we feel we have to win out the rest of our games," said Wilcox. "There are still quality wins we can get."
The last time Washington was 5-6 in the league was 2004, coach Lorenzo Romar's second season leading the school at which he played into the early `80s. With the wonders of Nate Robinson and the grit of Will Conroy, those Huskies won their final seven conference games to finish second in the Pac-10 and snared an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Romar thinks an at-large NCAA bid is still possible with this season's team because the Huskies' upcoming schedule beyond Oregon includes more resume-enhancing chances against Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA.
"I'm not convinced should we win out that we wouldn't get an at-large bid," Romar said.
But he immediately added: "I think there is zero margin for error. ZERO."
Romar noted his '04 team had players who had been previously "so-so" step up late.
Shawn Kemp Jr., for one, is doing that now for this team. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is averaging 10.6 points in his last five games, four of them his first career starts. He was averaging 3.4 points in his first dozen games back from a torn patella tendon.
That '04 team also had five of its final seven league games at home.
So does this one.
Yes, it can happen. Anything already has in the league this season.
Oregon was unbeaten in the league until freshman point guard Dominic Artis hurt his foot late last month. The Ducks arrived in Seattle Tuesday having lost three consecutive games, including to Colorado to end a 20-game home winning streak. The Oregonian newspaper of Portland reported Ducks coach Dana Altman called Artis "doubtful" to return against Washington.
"He's their key guy," Romar said. "He was making things a lot easier for that team."
Arizona seemed primed to take control of the Pac-12 as Oregon slipped. Then the Wildcats (20-3, 8-3) lost Sunday at home to fifth-place California - which UW beat in Berkeley last month. The Huskies play at Arizona next Wednesday.
Washington began 4-0 in the conference for just the fourth time in 35 years. Three of those wins were on the road. Then, last-place Utah got its first league victory by all but handcuffing Wilcox while UW's defense allowing 60-plus-percent shooting. That started a four-game losing streak that included Oregon State's first conference win play and an 81-76 loss at then-No. 16 Oregon when the Ducks committed 23 turnovers. The Huskies likely would have won that day in Eugene had they not turned it over 21 times themselves, giving Oregon 27 gift points.
The turnovers continued two weeks ago as UW lost a lead late and then the game by four at home to No. 8 Arizona. Last weekend 19 turnovers gave UCLA 19 points in Washington's 59-57 loss at the buzzer. Then Sunday night at USC four turnovers on the final four possessions, after the Huskies had cut the Trojans' 19-point lead to five, plus 4-for-14 foul shooting sealed a 71-60 defeat.
UW's only win in this skid is a 96-92 track meet on Feb. 2 over Arizona State, which is currently one game behind Oregon, Arizona and UCLA in the league standings. The Huskies, currently ninth, have lost to the Ducks, Wildcats and Bruins by 11 combined points.
Romar notes that with the exceptions of a late surge to blowout Loyola, Md., in November's opener an 18-point loss to Colorado State in which the Huskies got dominated, every other of UW's 24 games have been tight.
"It shows me that we are close ... we're right there," said the 11th-year coach with six NCAA tournament appearances at UW. "That's why I refuse to believe that it is over."
Aside from Robinson, Conroy and Brandon Roy returning, the only way these Dawgs have a chance to roar back with anything close to seven consecutive wins is if they finally put together some complete games at both ends of the floor. After weeks of defensive lapses, UW has been able to shore up holes - sometimes within games, as it did when the Huskies went into a zone to stymie USC late in the first half, getting them back into that one.
But now the offense is being torpedoed by turnovers. A majority of those have been self-inflicted: Stepping on boundary lines while dribbling; moving while setting screens near the foul line; jumping in the air to pass with no one open; dribbling instead of shooting while 3 feet from the rim.
All of that happened late at UCLA and USC, dooming the last two, winnable games.
"We have to get that one game," Romar said of playing offense and defense the right ways on the same night. "I thought it was Arizona State, but it wasn't.
"If we can turn it around, the table is set to (make a run)."