This is the game Husky Nation has been waiting for. The game where the Huskies brought it in the first half. The game where the Dawgs played like a team. The game where Ross showed his killer instinct. The game we desperately wanted to see. Tonight we got what we have been pleading for. This Husky team may have turned the corner.
There is something about the national stage that dazzles all of us. Knowing that this is being watched by the entire country. It can either bring the best out in somebody, or the pressure can crack a person. This team belongs in the former category. Whenever they are put on national television something just clicks. Typically there is one player who just stands out on the national stage. This is a team that stands out when the country is watching. This team plays their best basketball with millions watching.
It feels so good to finally say that this feels like a team. Not a scattered group of individuals wearing the same jersey. This is a team, or at least, masqueraded as one tonight. Multiple times their constitution was tested, and multiple times they responded. When Arizona went on a 9-0 run in the first half, WIlcox hit a big shot to put a tourniquet on the bleeding. Then later we bore witness to the chilling of the blood within the veins of Terrence Ross. That shot was absolutely vile.
More bullet holes tonight because there is only one thing that I could characterize as ugly.
- The first thing that I wrote down was that the Dawgs switched very well tonight, and their pick and roll defense was phenomenal. The Huskies defend pick and rolls with a very different approach than the Wildcats. THe Wildcats hedge off of the screen and then recover. This is very common in the NBA and worked fairly well tonight. However, the Dawgs defend by switching for a period of about two seconds and then switch back. This is typically due to the belief that bigs can use their length to prevent quicker, smaller guards to drive past them for a short time. For the Huskies this works very well, and Bob Knight touched on this several times early in the broadcast and peppered in a few notes about it throughout the game.
- Something else caught my eye early in the game. That was the fact that early in both games on this Arizona trip the Dawgs made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to N'Diaye. Both games he has scored quite a few of our early game points. I really am hoping that he develops more than a right hook in his post repertoire, as that would give us three post-up scoring threats. As of right now, Ross and Tony Wroten are the only two players who can consistently score in the post; Ross is the only Dawg to score with his back to the basket, as Tony almost always faces up then uses his superior quickness to get past his defender.
- Tonight saw the Huskies outshoot the Wildcats from deep. Coming into the game, many would have expected the Wildcats to outscore the Dawgs from deep, yet trail in the category of free throws attempted. Many were wrong. The free throw disparity was absolutely horrendous, but more on that later. The Dawgs shot 6-14 (43%) versus 4-13 (31%) for the Wildcats from deep. Two of the threes were made by Tony Wroten? Yupp. Tony Wroten Jr. That includes one prayer three that only one person thought was going in. That one person was the shooter: Mr. Wroten. Also going 2-4 was the enigmatic Terrence Ross. This was a strong shooting performance put on by the Dawgs
- The return of C.J Wilcox made a tremendous impact on this team. Yes, he played versus Arizona St., but this is the game that truly saw the return of C.J Wilcox. His first bucket was key in stopping an early Arizona run, and his off-ball movement is straight from the player I compare him to most: Ray Allen. He is extremely similar in his ability to find a lane and cut. Sometimes the cut leads to a lay-in, other times into a good look from deep. For shooters as prolific as Allen, and hopefully one day WIlcox, threes rain in just like lay-ins. He also was a strong defender today, and made yet another chasedown block to stop a fastbreak. I have come to expect nearly one of these per game from WIlcox. He has become adept at timing his leap and using his extraordinary length to stop the easy lay-in.
- Wilcox was not the only player with a chasedown block. I can remember one of Ross's blocks being a chasedown, however not on a fastbreak, and I have to believe he had another. He was a shotblocking menace out there tonight. He finished with three rejections, and numerous others that were dangerously close to being sent back to Alaska Airlines *cough cough* Hec Edmundson Pavilion *cough cough* Arena. There was one other block that for some reason was not put on the stat sheet. That was the game clinching not-goaltending by Tony Wroten to close out the game. This was probably the sweetest way to finish the game. Witnessing an actual block on a last-second shot attempt against the white-out crowd. Did anybody else catch the sign some girl held up that referenced Derrick Williams's goaltend of Gant's last-second shot last season? It said something to the effect of "Gant- Welcome to the Block Party." This made me chuckle a bit.
- Tonight there were offensive sets run. Ball movement was much more efficient and effective. Players knew where they were going with the ball, and were always looking for cutters and curls off of screens. One example of this was a play pointed out by the broadcasting crew. After swinging the ball out to Ross on the wing, Abdul Gaddy worked his way through a well-set back pick by Aziz N'Diaye that set up a perfectly placed pass by Ross to hit Gaddy for his only bucket of the night. There were multiple times when Wilcox was hit curling or slashing off of a screen for an easy bucket. Wilcox was able to use his length to finish around defenders off of the passes, which was a key part of this game as well.
- Wilcox, whom I cannot talk about enough tonight, was put in an odd position of point guard for two consecutive trips down the court. This was probably the design of the play, in an attempt to try and get Wroten on an isolation on the wing. I cannot remember the outcome of these plays, but it was one peculiar note that was worth mentioning.
- The Dawgs hustled their tail ends off tonight. One play in particular stands out above the rest. Seven foot Aziz diving to save the ball out of bounds, then hustling his way back into the paint to find himself open for an easy bucket. Aziz showed quite a bit of hustle tonight. He hurried his way back on defense, which helped to prevent transition lay-ins. The hustle was there tonight from every single player. Part of me wonders how much the addition of Seferian-Jenkins means to this team. How much does his grit and hustle rub off onto the rest of the players? How much does his physicality in practice help the usually contact-averse N'Diaye prepare for contact in games. Seferian-Jenkins had his Freshman mistakes tonight, but he still hustled and left it all out on the court. His physical play makes an imprint on the other team. Early in the game I remember him fouling a shooting Wildcat in hard but completely legal fashion, unlike the egregious foul on Anthony Davis today. Thank goodness he is alright, that was a dangerous play where Davis was lucky to not be seriously injured. Back to Seferian-Jenkins however, his foul I believe helped to set the tone that the Huskies were not going to be out-physicalled.
- This may have been Terrence Ross's best game defensively as a Husky. He kept Kyle Fogg in check, and had some blocks that few else in the country could have made thanks to his extreme athleticism. He is the best athlete in the gym most every time he steps onto the floor. The sky is truly the limit for Ross in more ways than one. This man can fly.
- Ugly: Officiating.
- I have two uglies! Free Throws. It pains me too much to go over the numbers.
What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Just don't like me? Let me know in the comments section.
Note to Mr. Berkowitz: I would love to take over the basketball side if you would let me. I am aspiring for a career in sports journalism and this would be the best stepping stone that I could find.