Utah came into the game with the best field goal percentage of any team in the country. They ran at the fastest pace of any team in the Pac-12. It was anticipated by many that the team averaging over 85 points per game was going to push the pace and turn their game with the Washington Huskies into a track meet.
That didn't happen. The Runnin' Utes were the team keeping the pace down, and it may have been a big contributing factor to them shooting only 42% in losing a nailbiter to UW 59-57. Losing nailbiters is all-too-familiar to the Utes, with Jordan Loveridge missing a three at the end of overtime against Oregon in what would have been a major upset.
Washington's defense was the story of the game early. They didn't allow the Utes to make a field goal until there was 12:45 left in the first half. The offense didn't do much better, and the Huskies actually trailed 9-8 with 10 minutes left in the game.
What happened a lot in this game could give the impression that the Dawgs play to the level of their competition -- the Utes were playing poorly offensively to start the game, so the Huskies decided to join the act. The argument becomes even stronger when the Arizona game over the weekend is brought into the equation. Utah could be a very good team. They could also be a middle-of-the-road team. Tonight, it appeared as though the Utes were an okay team with one very good player: Delon Wright.
With all of the poor shooting and turnovers, Washington still held a 26-21 lead going into halftime. It was clear that Utah was going to do everything in their power to keep the ball out of the hands of C.J. Wilcox. They ran a box-and-one defense, a triangle-and-two defense (the other player focused on was Andrew Andrews) and did their best to focus on wherever Wilcox was.
Lorenzo Romar found ways to use this to his advantage. He used C.J. Wilcox as a screener multiple times, with no intention of the set ending in a shot for his fifth-year senior. Especially against a box-and-one, this will kill a defense. Romar used Wilcox as a decoy more and more, and it opened up room for Andrews, who had his finest game as a Husky.
Andrews may have missed his final free throw that, had he made both shots of the one-and-one, could have put the game out of reach, but the lead-up to that showed just how important he is to Washington. He scored nine of UW's last 11 points, all coming on pull-up jumpers. Heck, he even assisted on the basket before his game-ending run started. This was his night.
Andrews led the Huskies in scoring with 19. Leading up to the three to put his Dawgs up nine with a shade under two minutes left, he was 0-3 from deep. Each look he had at the basket on his previous three-point attempts was much better than his pull-up-with-a-defender-in-my-face-I-don't-care-I'm-going-to-make-this-anyways-BYAH.
Yupp, recap ends with that. Now for some Dots.
- Wilcox is the best shooter in the Pac-12. Right now I am watching the 2011 NCAA Tournament game against Georgia, and Wilcox just hit a three. He was good at shooting threes all the way back in 2011, did you know that? Even with Terrence Ross, Scott Suggs and Isaiah Thomas on the team, Wilcox in 2011 may have been the best pure shooter on that team, that team that attempted 24 threes per game. He has only improved since then.
There was a lot of talent on that team. Justin Holiday has spent some time in the NBA. Aziz N'Diaye has had some looks by NBA teams. Isaiah Thomas came in second in Rookie of the Year voting. Terrence Ross scored 17 in his last game for the Toronto Raptors, and is now being tasked with defending the top wing threat on opposing teams. That includes some ho-hum names like LeBron James and Paul George.
Wilcox was the best shooter out of all of them, and maybe was even the best shooter out of all of that NBA talent on the perimeter.
Little-known fact that you won't care about: I once played Words With Friends against Mathew Bryan-Amaning.
- C.J. Wilcox could not defend Delon Wright with the type of defense they were using. Instead of hedging, the Huskies switched every ball screen. The end result was a lot of Perris Blackwell not defending Wright. Wright responded with a career-high in scoring and he looked like the best player on the floor. He scored 27 points and had 11 boards.
The defense did a much better job against the leading scorer for Utah in Jordan Loveridge. He came into the game averaging over 17 points, and was limited to 10 points on 3-8 shooting. He was not afforded the looks that he is comfortable shooting, and that ultimately resulted in his lack of shot attempts.
- Darin Johnson's minutes are something that we will never be able to predict. Against Arizona State, he played 20 minutes. Against Arizona and Utah combined he played 16. Before the ASU game, against Hartford, he played two. It goes with the gameplan, from what I have figured. I remember reading some time that Romar's only response to playing Johnson only two minutes was, "We decided to go with these guys tonight."