The names and faces were the same, but this was not the same group that staggered like zombies through losses to Albany, Nevada, Utah and Oregon State. This was the engaged version of Washington trying to sock eighth-ranked Arizona in the mouth.
At the start, the Huskies did. Up 16-5 in boisterous Hec Ed, the Huskies couldn’t have hoped for a better opening. But, again, by the time the final horn sounded, Washington didn’t have enough to beat an elite team. Arizona 57, Washington 53.
The season is slipping away from Washington as it hits the midpoint of Pac-12 play. The Huskies are 4-4 in the conference after losing four consecutive games, which leaves them in a four-way tie for fifth place. Oregon State and Utah still have just one win apiece, which came against Washington.
Washington had three distinct problems in Thursday night’s loss:
1. Turnovers. It was not a good night for the Washington points guards. Abdul Gaddy had six assists and six turnovers, including two late that were enormous. His off-the-mark alley-oop to C.J. Wilcox with 28 seconds left in the game and the Huskies down two pretty much sealed the game. Wilcox was wide open on his cut to the hoop after receiving a high back screen. On the play, which Washington has run for years, Wilcox has an option to stepback for 3 or cut to the hoop. He chose the latter and was wide open for the lob.
Gaddy: “It was just a bad pass. I should have got it there.”
Wilcox: “It was behind the backboard too much. I just tried to save it and ended up turning the ball over.”
Washington committed 17 turnovers in the game after committing 21 against Oregon.
After playing well for three consecutive games, Andrew Andrews had an off night. He had three assists and three turnovers, plus a couple forced shots. Washington had 10 assists and 17 turnovers on the night. Not good.
“We were just too negligent too many times. It hurt us, it cost us the game,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said.
2. Free throws. In the last three games, Washington has missed 24 free throws while shooting 56.4 percent at the line and lost that trio by a total of 17 points. The main culprit Thursday was Aziz N’Diaye. He was 2-for-6 from the line after making his first two. With Washington down 52-51 with 1:36 to go, N’Diaye was fouled and missed both shots. Washington was also 1-for-12 from behind the 3-point line Thursday.
3. C.J. Wilcox’s fourth foul. Wilcox had three personal fouls when he sprinted down the floor after Nick Johnson who was loose on the break. Trying to swat the athletic Johnson from behind gave Wilcox his fourth foul with 13:53 remaining in the game. Romar said he left Wilcox in the game after he picked up his third foul with 16:02 to go because “he’s really good” and to see if he could play through it.
When Wilcox went out, Washington led 35-31 in a game where scoring was less common than bipartisan Congressional work. As Wilcox sat, the game underwent a nine-point swing. The Huskies scored four points in 6:29 without him. When he returned, Washington was down five, 44-39, with 7:24 to go. Wilcox said he was caught up in the game when he committed the fourth foul, seeing a would-be dunk to be stopped.
Other thoughts, notes and quotes:
> Shawn Kemp Jr. started for the first time his career, replacing Desmond Simmons at power forward. Had he been healthy all year, this likely would have been the starting lineup Washington used from the start. Kemp produced early, starting the game 3-for-3 and helping Washington to its 16-5 lead. That would be basically it, however. He finished with seven points and one rebound. He provides more offense than Simmons, but also less attention to detail.
> Nick Johnson played Wilcox as well as anyone this season. Wilcox was just4-for-16 from the field and hit just one 3-pointer. He was also fouled by Johnson on another 3-point attempt. Johnson said afterward he wanted to trail or pop up in front of Wilcox whenever possible. By trailing, he forces Wilcox off the 3-point line and toward Arizona’s help defense. Johnson had three blocks and four steals in the game.
“Nick Johnson is an elite defender,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “When we start to feel that way you get comments from the opposing coach or players that would admit that he’s very good on defense and he is. Nick didn’t play particularly well in the first half but a sign of his growth and maturity is he is the best player certainly on our team, maybe both teams in the second half. He did everything.”
> The final shot for Washington when down four points ended up being a corner 3-pointer for N’Diaye. That was not what Romar wanted out of a timeout. The play was for Wilcox cutting to the basket and Romar felt it was open. He wanted a quick two, then a foul, though the game was likely out of reach at that point.
“We had CJ coming to the basket and that’s what were trying to get,” Romar said. “I thought CJ might have been open and the play was not called for Aziz to take a shot. The play was to get a layup and foul right away. We could have been a little gun shy because we had just turned the ball over and maybe we didn’t want to try to throw that ball to CJ when he’s coming to the basket. But I can’t wait to watch it to see if he was in fact open. I thought he had a couple steps coming to the basket on Nick Johnson.”
This screenshot shows Wilcox had a step on Johnson after cutting down the lane on him. Wilcox would have had to score of Grant Jarrett, who rightly let N’Diaye drift to the corner without chasing him out there. It was N’Diaye’s first and likely last 3-point attempt:
> Arizona has 17 turnovers, too. Yet Washington scored only 10 points of the Wildcats’ turnovers versus the 20 that Arizona put up from 17 Washington turnovers.
> N’Diaye had another double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and added three blocks.
> Washington’s bench scored just four points.
> Scott Suggs had one rebound in 36 minutes.
> Arizona State, which Washington plays Saturday, rallied in Pullman to beat the Cougars, 63-59, on Thursday night.
|Percentages||.351||.167||.737||Team Rebounds: 5|
|S. Kemp, Jr.||20||3-5||0-0||1-2||1||1||0||1||0||1||3||7|
|Percentages||.368||.083||.588||Team Rebounds: 9|