USA TODAY Sports
The stage was set. The Dawg Pack was rowdy and ready. They were there early. The stadium buzzed, fed off their energy. The team soaked it all in early, and things looked ripe for an upset. It wasn't meant to be. Sean Miller was bound to win a game in Hec Edmunson Arena one day, and that day was today, despite the best efforts of the Washington fan base.
Arizona is a good game. There is a reason they came into it ranked eighth in the country. Solomon Hill is one of the best players in the country. Brandon Ashley is an up and coming forward that Washington missed out on. Nick Johnson is an excellent defender. Just because he leads the conference in steals doesn't mean he is a shutdown defender, and he was a shutdown defender today on the top scorer in the PAC-12. And there is also Mark Lyons.
The Wildcats are balanced offensively and stingy defensively. They are my pick to win the conference.
Now, I missed the first eight-plus minutes of the game, so I only saw the scoreboard but not the process to get there. I guess the Dawgs looked good. After that, UA pulled closer and closer, taking the lead late in the first half, but Washington ultimately won the half 28-23 thanks to "forcing" twelve Arizona turnovers.
The game stayed close, thanks to stifling defense by Washington and inept execution, also by Washington. A symbol of Washington's second half was a play run for C.J. Wilcox with thirty seconds left. The play was set up beautifully, and well-designed. WIlcox handed the ball off to Abdul Gaddy on the left wing, then ran around an Aziz N'Diaye screen above the free throw line and received a lob pass from Gaddy, He should have received a lob pass from Gaddy, but the pass sailed way off the mark, and ultimately ended up out of bounds. It was Gaddy's sixth turnover.
Dots for your reading pleasure.
- I talked about this in my last game recap, but Scott Suggs is frustrating offensively. He is a great catch-and-shoot player, possibly better than Wilcox. He has some ability attacking the basket, but really doesn't like to. He has a very good shot fake, but doesn't use it to get to the basket, which he could do very well. He fakes, takes a small step in some direction, then goes right back to where he faked, with the defender being able to recover.
What Suggs needs to do, at least sometimes, is fake then immediately attack the basket. He hardly ever (if he ever does) attacks the bucket hard immediately after faking, which he could be very effective at. If he doesn't feel like getting all the way to the rim, he could just pull up. He has the ability to finish in traffic, and did as much in this game, but he needs to do it a little more often off of his fakes.
- Early on, although Washington wasn't getting any looks, they were looking for baskets in semi-transition. They weren't fastbreak looks, but still before the defense has a chance to set up and everyone is able to find their man defensively. Typically teams have little things they like to do in transition, whether they are have a big man streaking down the middle or a shooter popping out for a three. Washington likes to have trailers (players that get down the court after the ball, "trailing the ball-handler") set up for threes. Arizona didn't allow for that.
- Gaddy was very hesitant to shoot this game. He was 2-3 against Oregon, and should have been confident enough to hit shots when he was open. He didn't. He instead attempted flashy bounce passes cross-court that were doomed the moment they popped into his head. I accidentally typed "pooped" there instead of popped, and I am no debating whether to change it back. Eh, I'll leave it, pooped makes no sense, except that it does.
Gaddy finished with six turnovers, tying his season high. Yes, he has had a six-turnover game earlier this season, two in fact. I have been a staunch Gaddy defender in the past year, but I am running out of ways to defend him. He can't shoot and can't pass, anymore. His jumper was respectable early in the season, and the fact that it is as off as it is tells that he is either in the midst of a really bad cold streak, or his confidence has plummeted. The latter is the more likely of the two.
- Desmond Simmons received only eighteen minutes this game, due in large part to Shawn Kemp Jr. taking over his spot in the starting lineup. Kemp had played well the last several games and earned his shot. He scored six points early, but only one later in the game. His impact wasn't monumental, but he still has the ability to impact a game, through physicality and athleticism. He is a decent athlete (for division-I standards), strong, and has a feel around the basket. It didn't show this game however, other than his early points that I missed.
- Jernard Jarreau has potential, but his lack of bulk really hurts his ability inside to carve out space on rebounds and finish. What is odd to think is that he has added size since he signed with Washington, about thirty pounds worth of muscle. He has potential, and some NBA scouts have even noticed his talent, according to Percy Allen. He still needs to develop, but he can shoot a bit, dribble a bit, and has length and athleticism. Look for him to be the target of lob passes in seasons to come, because he can get up there, and is a long athlete.
- Aziz N'Diaye was a beast defensively. He had three blocks in the first half, maybe four, as there was a shot he may have gotten fingertips on that wasn't counted as a block, but he certainly had an effect Arizona's attempts in the lane, whether he blocked or altered them he had an effect. Sometimes it even happened when he wasn't even contesting at all, but he had defenders thinking about the 7-0 native of Senegal.
- Washington did a better job of not getting beat in transition, which is something that was seared into the minds of the players by Romar's coaching staff, undoubtedly. Washington will give up a few transition buckets just because of how hard it attacks the offensive glass, but this game in particular, they didn't allow transition baskets, and it showed up on the statsheet. Arizona shot a very poor percentage from the field (so did Washington) and part of that stemmed from an inability to get easy points in transition.
- "This league needs better officiating." "He's got a nice package." There were more, but Bill Walton can be fun.
Aziz N'Diaye was on the floor during that last play to set screens. He was not supposed to stray out to the three-point line. In no world does any coach ask him to stand in the corner and shoot. Never. Ever. Ever. No. Don't ask. He is the team's best screen-setter, which can be very key to in-bounds plays. Defenders need to be stopped in their tracks to get shooters open, it didn't work, so N'Diaye left the lane.
The fault lies on Gaddy for giving him the ball. The designed outlet was a lob to Andrew Andrews closer to mid-court, and Gaddy should have hit him there, not the big guy. I may break this play down later, just to see what happened, but it was ugly.
Gaddy killed two of the last possessions for Washington. While it can be easy to contribute the loss to him, that isn't the entire reason for it. Yes, it was a big contributing factor, and is very visible thanks to it being late in the game, but Walton said something that makes a lot of sense. It was something to the effect of "That's the reason this game is so beautiful. It is a game made up of a lot of plays of minor consequence." No one play makes or breaks the game unless it is the final play of the game, but there was play upon play that led up to it.
- Some recent research has shown that, in regards to three-point shooting, the only thing a defense can control is the amount of shots a team takes, but not necessarily their makes. Washington hit one of their 12 attempts. Sometimes the shots won't fall for you, tonight they didn't. Here is a link to Ken Pomeroy's (free) article. It is an interesting read.