I'm going to be honest. I was about to throw this season down the gutter. If the Huskies lost big to Eastern Washington at home the season would have been thrown in the tank, at least in how much Ben Knibbe cared about the team. I was pulled from the brink, thank goodness.
Over the last 17 minutes of their 92-80 win, Washington salvaged what was left of my miniscule attention span. Granted, I came into the game wishing I could have been watching the Chiefs-Broncos game on Sunday Night Football. That is actually what is on the TV right now in my line of site over Microsoft Word and this article. Julius Thomas, you should have had that catch on the back-shoulder fade.
The Huskies came out slow, and it took them 25 minutes of game time before they realized what their strengths were: forcing turnovers with athleticism and attacking the basket. This was led by Nigel Williams-Goss, whose post-game interview I was disappointed to be unable to hear. He had 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. He looked like Washington's best player on the floor; Williams-Goss is a true freshman.
C.J. Wilcox had his lowest point total of the season with 15 points on 4-13 shooting, missing both of his three-point attempts. He was a big part of Washington's success at the charity stripe, going 7-8 from there. Yes, he scored, his impact never stopped there. His on-ball defense looked like the best on the team outside of Andrew Andrews, who seems to be getting away with hand checks, so I will reserve judgment until I see how much is actually called on him.
The game looked like it was going to go the way of the Eagles for the first half. When the second half started, things looked like most of the same, with Eastern Washington just plain beating Washington. They were better getting out into the fastbreak, they were better at hitting contested jumpers (what can you do?) and they just plain outplayed Washington.
Then things turned around. The defensive intensity cranked up. The defense was fueled though, by the offense. With a little under 17 minutes to go, Wilcox was fouled going to the hoop, and hit two free throws to put the score at 57-47. Then, on the ensuing defensive possession, Wilcox got a steal and was fouled in transition to put the deficit in single digits. Life.
What brought Washington back into the game? Free throws. Those gimmes, the charity points. The ones you just gotta have. 31-34 from the free throw line. 91.4 percent. At one point, eight straight Washington points came off of free throws, and 14 of 18 points if you extrapolate (what a cool word) that span by several minutes in each direction.
Who would have thought that free throws would win Washington a game? I will say this: the biggest reason Washington has improved their foul shooting is because the guys who are shooting the free throws are good free throw shooters. Wilcox, Andrews, Williams-Goss, Mike Anderson, Perris Blackwell, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Darin Johnson. The team is at 79% (had to manually do the math, it isn't updated yet on ESPN) for the season. That would have ranked fifth nationally.
I actually have to make these Dots quick. I have a long drive back to college.
- Nigel Williams-Goss is going to be better than Abdul Gaddy. He took control of this team. He was the one who pushed the tempo when the team was stumbling offensively, and it sparked the offense, getting their best shooters to the free throw line. His ability to get inside impressed me. He doesn't have the strength or deception that Gaddy does. He doesn't have the length of Wilcox. He doesn't have the quickness of Andrews. NWG really just has the smarts of knowing when a defender is on his heels. He picks his spots. He plays smart, like a true point guard
- I thought Blackwell had a meh game. Then I looked at the statsheet. He had a double-double. 11 rebounds to go along with 16 points, the second highest total on the team. Maybe it was just because there was a struggle to get him the ball inside, but I didn't realize how much of an effect he had on the game. He scored on putbacks, mostly, without being able to score on post-ups thanks to poor entry passes all game.
- The poor transition defense is purely a hustle issue. Well, purely may not be the right term, because when running high post sets, wings are often out of place to defend in transition, but there were several times in the first half where EWU just blew by half-jogging UW players. I caught Andrews more than anyone else. DON'T MISTAKE THIS AS ME SAYING ANDREWS DOESN'T PLAY WITH HEART. It probably means that he, and other players, were emotionally deflated from being behind to a team from the Big Sky.
That's what I got for you. What are your thoughts on the game?