A lot of things were going to have to go right for the Huskies to pull out a close game against No. 13 Utah. A lot of things went right.
Let us run down a little checklist of necessities for a Husky win/close game:
- One of Nigel Williams-Goss/Andrew Andrews going off (NWG 28 points)
- Gilles Dierickx playing like he belongs in the Pac-12 (He played okay as the game went along)
- Three point percentages were going to have to fall in the Dawgs' favor (57 percent to 26 percent)
- Mike Anderson, Darin Johnson, Quevyn Winters and/or Jernard Jarreau would have to provide scoring (Anderson and Jarreau combined for 29 points)
- Utah play flat (14 turnovers)
UW was the underdog and played like there was nothing to lose, because there really was nothing to lose. Williams-Goss attacked the paint like he was one-hundred percent healthy, and it led to a game-high 28 points. Against defensive player of the year candidate Delon Wright, Williams-Goss looked quick, something that has not been said of him by anyone not named Percy Allen.
Williams-Goss was the catalyst for everything offensively, down to an NBA-range three with 1:11 left off of a double screen by Jarreau and Anderson that put the Huskies up seven and put the game seemingly out of reach from the Utes. Instead of using craftiness off of ball-screens, Williams-Goss showed his ability in isolation. Lorenzo Romar understood that his star player was feeling it and having his way in his matchup, so he let Williams-Goss go to work.
He scored more and assisted less than normal, finishing with only three dimes (a team-high) but pulled down six boards, tying Gilles Dierickx for a team-best.
Speaking of Dierickx, he looked like he belonged on a Division-I floor (not a starting Pac-12 center, but progress). As the game went along, Dierickx got stronger, and played stronger. He remembered he stands at seven feet tall. He realized he has a weight advantage over Jakob Poetl.
What actually happened was he was able to get his legs under him. He was far less tentative offensively and defensively. Though his further aggression on the offensive end might not have been a good thing. He went 1-5 from the floor and had two turnovers, with both of them occurring when he attempted a move to the basket and was stripped before being able to complete a shot attempt. He had his shot blocked multiple times. When trying to score, bad things happened for Dierickx. When he passed, good things happened. Actual, offense-aiding, positive plays were made when he was passing. Not just not-negative plays.
The day wasn't about Dierickx. The game was about Williams-Goss, and the day was about Anderson and the out-of-action Shawn Kemp Jr. It was Senior Day. Chances are that the Huskies won't make the NIT barring a run to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Even then, Hec Ed won't be hosting a game in the NIT. Senior Day was the last time Anderson and Kemp will have suited up and taken the floor in front of the Husky faithful. They are two players who have put forth a lot for this program during their time. We will have a separate post thanking these guys later, but it would be doing these men a disservice to not dedicate a paragraph - that would repulse journalism instructors due to its length - to these men.
Going into more of the minutiae of the game, Washington played a 2-3 zone during every defensive possession aside from a few short minutes at the end of the first half when Dierickx was sitting due to foul trouble. Utah attacked the zone poorly. When the ball was given to the high post (good) the Ute running the position didn't know what to do with the ball. The reason the ball should go to the high post is because it is in the center of the defense and multiple defenders will collapse, leaving other players open. Instead, Washington didn't collapse. This put the player (typically Brekkot Chapman or Dakari Tucker) in an advantageous position to score. They didn't.
The other issue with how Utah attacked the zone was the placement of the perimeter players. The wings and guard up top stayed several steps beyond the three-point line, allowing them to be ignored off the ball, which means defenders were better able to play the passing lanes. Already mentioned was that Utah committed 14 turnovers. This was a big reason why.
While the defense was powered by turnovers and Utah shooting an uncostumarily low 26.3 percent from deep, the offense was powered by Williams-Goss and three-point shooting. Andrew Andrews didn't provide the long-range firepower, hitting on only one of his five attempts. Instead, it was Anderson and Jarreau, combining to hit on six of their seven sniper bullets. It was nice to see Jarreau showing his actual range. He had been limited to mostly 18-foot jumpers by the design of the offense. He was allowed to float to the wings on high pick-n-pops and show off his shooting touch even more against the Utes.
Anderson had one of his best all-around performances of the season, highlighted by his three triples. He got to the rim using blow bys and crossovers, even utilitzing a nifty hesitation move to create separation once he got into the lane and draw contact. His 4-6 shooting helped Williams-Goss to push the Huskies to a 51 percent mark from the field, the highest number that the Utes have given up this season, per Christian Caple.
The entire game went back-and-forth. over one-quarter of the ticks off the clock came while the score was knotted up. Hec Ed got rocking, by the standards put forth by this season. Many members of the team got their first glimpse of the potential atmosphere next season with an even more talented squad. Mike Montgomery lamented the loss of the ferocity Husky fans poured into the stadium, but it will return soon.
This game was only the beginning of the next several seasons of exciting Husky basketball. Of all the games to watch on DVR and get spoiled by an expletive-laden excitement text, it had to be this one. Yet, it was still an enjoyable game to watch. The Huskies played well, Williams-Goss took over with 14 of the final 26 points for UW, and the seniors were sent out with a bang. There is a reason Utah came into the game ranked No. 13 in the country: they are good. Washington outplayed the Utes today. That makes three victories over top-15 schools. For a team that won't make the NCAA Tournament barring a complete shocker of a Pac-12 Tournament run, it shows the heights the Dawgs are capable of.
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. UW, Stanford. Las Vegas. Watch it. I will.