Final Score: 63-59, Husky win (5-0)
The two Husky hallmarks recently have been offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line. Those two things were evident against Montana and were critical in overcoming the Huskies' piss poor shooting effort. For the fourth straight game the Huskies were over 40% (47.3% to be exact) in OR%, which makes for a ton of second chances. Unfortunately the shooting was so horrible that often the rebounder was not able to make the second chance basket. The Huskies also destroyed the Griz at the free throw line, and to be honest, the margin should have been wider. There were countless plays, mostly in the first half, when a UW shooter was hammered and no foul was called. The Huskies played sloppy at times, but Montana played sloppy for nearly the entire game.
When you play almost 40 games in a season, inevitably you are going to have some where you just play poorly. When you're a bad team, you end up getting killed in those games. But the Huskies showed their mettle by playing hard the entire game and overcoming their 35.4 eFG%. I mentioned in the preview that the 9 day layoff between games may factor in, and I don't think there's any doubt that it did. The rust was evident. The Huskies were able to penetrate the zone at times and get offensive rebounds but just couldn't put the ball in the basket for about 30 minutes. Even though the shots weren't falling Romar's squad stayed committed to defense, kept Montana from pulling away and stayed close until they were able to take control. Isaiah Thomas got it going late and made several big shots in the last few minutes, while Venoy Overton also played big at the end of the game, hitting 3/4 free throws and blocking what would have been a game tying 3 pointer.
Player of the Game:
For whatever reason, Darnell Gant did not play until the second half. This is a guy who started every game this year, and all games last season except for one. Clearly there was a reason for that because as soon as he checked into the game there was a noticeable momentum shift. He didn't even make a shot from the field, but he hit both of his free throws, took a charge, pulled down 4 offensive rebounds, played top notch defense and made several plays that won't show up in the box score. It wasn't a stat stuffing game, but Gant has always been a beyond-the-box-score type of player.
Honorable mention to Venoy Overton, who scored 10 points (50 eFG&) with 4 assists for a 165 ORating. He added 3 rebounds and had a huge blocked shot.
Stat of the Game:
13: The number of non-steal turnovers committed by Montana. A huge number.
Again Romar played all 11 players. It's too many. The players seem out of sync way too often and a big reason is that the rotation hasn't been solidified yet.
Abdul Gaddy got his first start (Venoy Overton was late to shootaround), but he really looks his age out there. He doesn't do much for the team against a zone because he's not a very good shooter yet.
Of the Suggs/Holiday/Turner trio, Suggs and Holiday looked terrible, while Turner had his best game of the season going 4/8 for 11 points.
Quincy Pondexter played his worst game in a long time. He just couldn't get shots to fall, and quite honestly was getting pounded in the first half but the refs wouldn't give him call. I think that got him off his game further and frustrated him. He'll bounce back. This game was an aberration.
A Note About UW Versus Zones Going Forward:
A lot is being made about UW's inability to break zones. I don't think it's that big a deal. The Huskies are turning out to be a decent shooting team with Thomas, Turner and Suggs all being guys who can knock them down with regularity, and even Venoy Overton seems to have improved his shot from range. If you exclude Abdul Gaddy, every Husky shot 33% or better from deep last night.
The biggest factor working in the Huskies favor going against a zone is that zones give up a lot of offensive rebounding opportunites because defenders don't have a man they're assigned to box out. Giving a Lorenzo Romar coached team on edge on the offensive glass is not a wise move, and the Huskies will always capitalize on that. While the Huskies may suffer a little by being forced to shoot outside more than they'd like, it will be neutralized by their advantage on the offensive glass.
The problem last night wasn't that the Huskies played against a zone, it was that they played terribly.