Airball. Airball. Airball. Three airballs in a two minute span for the Washington Huskies. None of them were particularly bad looks either. Shots would not fall for Washington, no matter what. Scott Suggs made a three-point attempt that went off the backboard. That wasn't intentional. He did hit another three however.
C.J. Wilcox missed every three-point attempt that I witnessed (I missed the first five minutes of the game). He did hit one early, but then didn't score again until there were 31 seconds left on the clock, with the game nearly in-hand for Connecticut.
More will come later in the week on my thoughts about Washington's energy and hustle, but from what I saw, the team never gave up on the game. Not all of the smartest plays were made, sure. Jumpers weren't falling, there is nothing that can be done about that. Wilcox went 1-6 from deep, despite four of his five misses coming on wide-open looks. That comes down to bad luck.
Credit Kevin Ollie's Connecticut Huskies for solid defense. There were several possessions where Washington ran their offensive sets to no avail. They were forced into many contested jumpers, especially in the first half. Lorenzo Romar was happy with the team's performance in the first half for the most part. He realized that sometimes the shots weren't going to fall. He knew his team would need to hit the "easy shots" in order to have a chance at victory.
Then what happened? Aziz N'Diaye blew a layup on Washington's first offensive possession after the half. It was a sign that if the ball was going to bounce, it would bounce toward the Huskies. The Connecticut Huskies.
Some questionable shot by UConn kept the Dawgs in the game until late, but it wasn't enough to overcome.
Some quick Dots:
- Aziz N'Diaye had his worst game of the season. He picked up three fouls in the first half, and despite not having another for the rest of the game, finished with 14 minutes. The big man in the middle played less than half of the game, despite averaging over 30 minutes. He had three rebounds, one of the offensive variety. He also didn't score a point.
N'Diaye, whom I believe is making the transition from "big guy playing basketball" to "big basketball player", is still learning the game. Every move he makes comes with thought. He isn't natural, nor will he ever be. Those who expect him to just dominate based on his pure size have unrealistic expectations. Yes, his height and strength are big factors as to why he is successful, and aid the team tremendously. He just doesn't have the polish necessary to be a dominant force.
- Wilcox was off. There will be these nights, as with any shooter. What he does get credit for is realizing his shot wasn't falling and attempting to get to the rim. He didn't have much more luck around the basket either, but it is good to make that step.
Kyrie Irving, point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is known as a player who doesn't really "get cold". How he does that is getting to the rim. He is better than Wilcox at getting to the basket and finishing, but it is a lesson that many players need to take to heart. If your jumper isn't falling, work your way inside, and also get your teammates involved. Several baskets at the rim tend to get a player's confidence up, which is a big part of shooting. Everyone knows that Wilcox is within range whenever he steps onto the court. Sometimes jumpers won't fall. That is when it is time to find other avenues to get the ball in the basket.
- Andrew Andrews is back. He is no longer slowed by his sprained ankle that caused him to miss several games earlier in the season. He can attack the basket better than any other player on Washington's roster. Without him, Washington never would have pulled the game to within four points with eight and a half minutes left. Andrews isn't the distributor Abdul Gaddy is, but he isn't meant to be. He is in no shape a pure point guard.
Andrews has two jobs: get the ball into the lane, and initiate the offense. Sometimes in that order, sometimes not. As a freshman, he has done an amazing job of creating opportunities for himself and others. He would have an extra assist per game if N'Diaye had hands instead of bricks.
It will be interesting to see how Andrews and Williams-Goss mesh together in the backcourt next season. I figure that their dynamic will be similar to how Gaddy and Andrews play together now. Except I think that Andrews will shoulder more of a burden when it comes to creating for teammates next season, with Williams-Goss being a true freshman.
Things will be even more interesting if Hikeem Stewart, who didn't play today, develops his offensive game more during the offseason.
- Shawn Kemp Jr. has struggled to score in the low post so far this season. After returning from his torn patelle tendon, he has been a physical defender, and has shown effort on the boards, even if it hasn't translated directly into rebounds. One thing that he was supposed to be, but hasn't been so far, is a low post scorer.
Romar said before the season that Kemp had developed into their best low-post threat. That may be true, but he hasn't had much luck. He has looked confident with his moves, but they just haven't gone down for him. Kemp attempted two hook shots today, but neither went down. He does have a good power dribble off of a catch, and is able to finish through traffic.
As of yet, Kemp hasn't shown the ability to be thrown the ball on the block and put the ball in the basket. That will be developed throughout his career. maybe he won't ever be a dominant force like his father, but he should be able to develop some low-post ability throughout his stay at Washington. The development has already started.