Shawn Kemp Jr. had a career night as the Huskies surge. - USA TODAY Sports
UW starts out on fire, catches almost every break on the way and escapes with a W in the most thrilling game of the season.
As I was fast forwarding through halftime while watching the replay on my TiVo, I told my wife that the way things were going, it looked like we were going to have to score 100 to win the game.
In one of the more unusual games that they have played in a very long time, the Huskies pulled out a thriller in Seattle and defeated the red-hot Arizona State Sun Devils 96-92.
"In the name of Isaiah Thomas," you are thinking to yourself, "surely this was an overtime score".
"Well, then, C.J. Wilcox must of have absolutely gone off".
"Ah, then we finally got an explosive offensive breakout from Andrew Andrews"
"The Bench! The bench finally took over and started raining buckets!"
The truth is that the Huskies started out on fire both inside and out, including a fade-away three from Scott Suggs and a step-back from Desmond Simmons (yes, I said a step-back from Simmons ... and it was all net). The momentum continued as they were able to get the big-men down low involved to the tune of 34 points on 16-22 shooting. Even the free-throw shooting was stellar - the Huskies were 21 of 22 from the stripe on the night. Add in a huge night from Andrews off the bench (20 points), the fact that Carrick Felix picked up his third foul with 10 minutes to go in the first half, and an offensive rebounding edge of 12-1 and you have a game where the Huskies should have it all going en route to a blowout home victory.
Except it wasn't that easy.
The Sun Devils, who look nothing like the roadkill we saw last year, had equal success pounding the ball down low to their freshman big man, Jordan Bachynski, early on. As the Huskies adjusted to this, the perimeter shots became available and Sophomore F Jonathon Gilling joined breakout superstar Felix in raining down threes - eight between them - to provide the counter blow to every Husky run. Still, the Huskies were able to get the lead up to 15 points halfway through the 2nd frame.
Then Jahii Carson happened.
The Freshman PG from Tempe got all "IT" on us and totally went off. Never prone to hyperbole, Sean Farnham noted that the Pac 12 has not seen a player like him come into the league in a very long time (really?). Carson was all over the court and aggressively getting the ball into the lane. Romar threw defender after defender at him. Gaddy first. Four fouls. C.J. Wilcox next. Four fouls. The night finished with Scott Suggs shadowing Carson, but it didn't matter. The young man was pouring in baskets from everywhere, even extending his range to beyond the arc to drain two threes. He was phenomenal in going 13-19 from the floor for 32 points (and 5 assists) in driving ASU all the way back from the brink such that they were within a single point with less than a minute to go.
Despite Carson's heroics, and the endless fawning of the announcing team, this night did belong to UW and, as such, they would find a way to finish. A close-out "and one" from Aziz N'Diaye and a couple of big scores from Scott Suggs, not to mention six straight free throws from an otherwise dormant Wilcox, put the Huskies in a position to win the game. Carson would have one last chance to steal it away, but an outstanding defensive effort from Suggs with a help from N'Diaye would cinch it for the Huskies.
In a game where everything went right for the Huskies - Felix in foul trouble, Shawn Kemp, Jr. dropping sky hooks, Simmons converting step-back threes and "and ones", Andrews going extra aggressive and netting 20 - defeat was nearly snatched from the jaws of victory. Nonetheless, the Huskies did what they needed to do to end their four game skid.
- The Huskies continue to demonstrate that end-of-games is not a facet of the game that they have mastered. As they were closing out, either by design or his choice, the Huskies kept going back to C.J. Wilcox who threw up forced brick after forced brick. He just didn't have it and outside of some 1:1 heroics - first by Suggs on a broken play and then by N'Diaye on an "and one" offensive putback - the Huskies could easily have let this one slip away. This is an area that MUST improve for the Huskies.
- Lorenzo Romar was far from giddy about the victory, noting the teams lack of defensive effort throughout the night
"I’m ecstatic that we won, but I’m going to go against the grain of how I usually am—glass half-full. If we’re not going to defend better, we can’t expect to come out on top. I’ll take it. If we’d have held them to 20% and lost, it would have been worse, so we’ll take it for sure, but we just have to do a better job on the defensive end"
- Abdul Gaddy was a factor tonight. Early on, not unlike Arizona, he was aggressive in getting the ball into the paint and trying to create offense. He hit the first goal of the night on a nifty under the rim move and he was constantly trying to create - netting seven assists on the night. Still, his four turnovers and four fouls were killer. Gaddy just can't seem to get it all together and, not unlike Keith Price, he appears to really be shouldering the pressure day in, day out.
Shawn Kemp Jr. deserves a shout out after a career game. I think it is pretty safe to assume that Kemp has locked down the starting 4 position after a night in which he scores 18 and pull 6 boards. You can really see why Romar thinks that Kemp has a good chance to really develop as a post scorer. He has a good instinct and some touch. He had one sky hook that was flat out a pro shot. On the flip side, he is still a bit clumsy on both ends and he is a defensive liability. This has to improve.
- Jahii Carson is a stud. While it was irritating to hear the announcers fawn all over him ... while the Huskies were winning ... he is, nonetheless, a stud. If those two threes at the end indicate that he actually has range and has just been hiding it ...well, then, the Pac 12 is in for a rude awakening.
- I don't know how to feel about Scott Suggs. On one hand, he made some big plays for us including some early threes, a three at the end, a beautiful 1:1 bucket following a broken set at the end and, of course, the shut down of Carson on their last shot. On the other hand, Suggs was lost for big stretches of the game and his defense on Carson most of the night left something to be desired. I'd like to see Romar try bringing Suggs off the bench and putting Simmons in as a three. I think this would improve our defense out of the gate and it might take some of the pressure off of Scott - a player I think we all believe is better than what he is showing.
That's it for now, Dawgs. Happy Super Bowl Sunday!