Dejounte Murray may not be finished goods, but his ascension to the upper echelons of the PAC 12 star chart is a sparkling one. This rise was on full display as the young Husky star willed UW to a thrilling 87-85 comeback victory over the surging USC Trojans in Seattle.
It was a weird game for UW in that it seemed like they were playing at their preferred pace and that they were often in the right place at the right time. There were even some spectacular moments - particularly from Dejounte Murray and David Crisp. Despite this, the Huskies fell behind quickly and decisively over the first 30 minutes of game play.
But UW's young team showed tremendous tenacity in sticking with it despite falling behind by 22 points midway through the second half. Behind the offensive and defensive heroics of Murray, UW mounted a furious comeback over the last 14 minutes of the game to claim the lead with just 15 seconds to play. Murray sparked the 24-5 run that would bring UW back into it, playing a brand of Romar-ball that assistant coach Will Conroy must have found eerily familiar. The epic comeback gives UW its second straight win in PAC 12 play.
From the outset, the flow of the game seemed to be one that would work in favor of the Huskies. In the first half, the Dawgs were able to get their transition game going, drawing fouls and hustling on defense. But execution was a problem, particularly in shooting the ball, as UW shot just 25% in the half. USC gained the upper hand thanks to their offensive execution in the lane, some good trapping defense, and good ball movement resulting in a lot of assisted buckets. The Trojans got up by as many as 13 in the first half, with UW cutting the lead to just ten to end it.
The good news for UW coming out of the first half was that nobody was in foul trouble and a few key guys - in particular Murray, Andrew Andrews and Crisp - seemed to have a little momentum going in the offensive end.
But it was USC that captured that momentum to start the second half. The Trojans exploded on the offensive side over the first eight minutes of the second half as UW got burned trying to stretch the floor defensively and create some turnovers. In fact, USC had stretched their lead to 22 points just three minutes inside of the half. At that point, Romar-ball came to life.
Pressure defense, ball-swatting rim defense, and flashes of spectacular play from Murray, Crisp and Andrews led to a 24-5 UW rally over a 5-minute stretch. A moribund crowd came to life as what was once a 22-point USC lead was cut to three with seven minutes left to play.
The two teams would go on to trade punches the rest of the way. Again, it was Murray who triggered the key defensive plays to disrupt USC's attempts to close out the game. Andrews would seal the game with two rebounds and UW's final three points.
Murray is the clear story of this game. He finished the night with a stunning stat line - 29 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. When USC focused on taking Andrews out of the game in the second half, it was Murray who stepped into the void. He was all over the floor and, eventually, his effectiveness began to create opportunities for guys like Crisp, Andrews and Chriss. It was the performance that Husky fans have been waiting to see.
Next up for the Dawgs is a road trip to the state of Arizona. They tip off first on Wednesday night against ASU in Tempe.
- MBB connisseurs have to like what they see in the development of young Dejounte Murray. As noted above, he was active on the defensive side with both his arms in passing lanes and rotating on the perimeter. Offensively, he showed his slashing game with an aggressive first step and a runner that is reminiscent of Brandon Roy. Among his many highlights, he had a breakaway steal and near dunk (he was flagrantly fouled) late in the first half that shows just how perfect a fit he is in a Lorenzo Romar high-pressure scheme.
- USC sophomore PG Jordan McLaughlin sure looks like a star to me. He's a hustle player whose lateral quickness was a factor, both in blocking UW dribble drives and creating space in the lane for shots. The 6'1" jitterbug finished the game with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
- Did anybody else suffer headaches thanks to the plethora of colors on the shoes of the USC players. Red, pink, yellow, and purple were all seen among the Trojans' kicks. It was like an industrial bag of Skittles exploded in USC's shoe locker before the game.
- Long stretches of offensive drought seem to be a thing with this incarnation of the Huskies. One such example was the comedy of errors that saw the Trojans go on an 8-0 run in the 1st half that featured lots of UW wildness, turnovers, and missed jumpers. Of course, a 24-5 run in UW's favor shows that sometimes that dynamic works in reverse. Energy is less often the issue than execution.
- Washington is #2 in the nation in blocked shots and continued to show why in this game. Both Malik Dime and Matisse Thybulle - who played together on the floor for several stretches - show exceptional technique and timing in disrupting shots when facing up on defense. The pair had six of UW's eight blocks for the game.
- The Julian "JuJu" Jacobs tomahawk dunk over UW's Chriss is too spectacular to be missed, even if that highlight benefited the wrong team.
- The one thing still missing from UW's attack is a true low-post scorer with touch around the rim. You can see Dickerson eventually developing along those lines, but tonight against a more experienced USC front line, he showed that he's not ready to fill that role.
- You have to like what Romar's team has shown in their first two PAC 12 games against really good competition. That a team this young can fall behind so dramatically and still find a way to win is an exceptional building block that this team will be able to draw upon when they face adversity later in this season.