Photo Credit: Getty Images
My time of mourning is done. I refused to write about this game until I knew which teams would play for the Pac-12 tournament final. Husky fans were desperate for a California vs Oregon State final, with Cal taking home the trophy. This would put the Dawgs in a superb position to get a bid, as it is hard to believe that the powers that be in the NCAA would only allow the Pac-12 one team. The Golden Bears fell to Colorado and Oregon State was steamrolled by Arizona in the final twenty minutes. UW is now firmly sitting on the “last four in” and “first four out” bubble with many bracketologists.
The first half was what all Washington fans were afraid of. Everyone knew that Oregon State was a dangerous matchup, but if UW withstood the Beavers’ punches that the Dawgs would come out on top. OSU ran the Huskies out of the gym in the first half, going into intermission with a 46-33 lead. Oregon State ended the first half on a furious 29-14 run and made it look like they were the team desperately fighting for a tournament bid. The Beavers’ 2-3 matchup zone gave Washington fits in Corvallis and did the same on Thursday afternoon, as the Dawgs turned the ball over ten times in the first half and failed to get into the lane.
Lorenzo Romar may not be a good “in-game” coach, but he made some darn good half-time adjustments. Washington found themselves up eight within the first eleven minutes of the second half. The Huskies began to get into the zone with a high-post man (why Terrence Ross and Darnell Gant did not do this in the first half is infuriating) and take care of the ball, as UW did not have a turnover in these opening minutes. Washington sat on their lead until there was a little over three minutes left when Aziz N’Diaye fouled out with UW up 77-71 . OSU fought back until Jared Cunningham went to the line after an and-1 with 31 seconds left and the Beavers up one following a charge by Terrence Ross on the other end. During OSU’s comeback it should be noted that Tony Wroten went 6-6 from the line as UW’s only source of offense. Cunningham missed the FT. Wroten attempted to drive and was fouled with 17 seconds left. You should already know what happens next. I won’t go over it. Just don’t blame Wroten.
Tony Wroten: Wroten abused Oregon State in the first matchup to the tune of 26 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. OSU slowed him down in the second matchup. On Thursday, Wroten attacked with a vengeance and finished with 29, 7 and 3. More importantly, Tone went 6-6 from the line during a two-minute span near the end of the second half and was the only Washington player who wasn’t tentative when driving to the basket. This is why he has been valuable all season, he has never been afraid of the lane. Say what you will about the four free throws that he missed at the end of the game, as he should take full blame for not converting. However, UW loses this game by double digits if Tone does not play as well as he did. The blame for the loss falls on the coaches and the free throw shooters not named Tony Wroten. Tone was visibly distraught in the locker room and did not talk to reporters.
Darnell Gant: In Gant’s last Pac-12 game of his career his finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds. These points game during Washington’s big run to open the 2nd half, as Darnell sliced into the zone and hit free throw line jumpers. I still do not understand why this did not happen the entire game.
Coaching: This shouldn’t go down as Lorenzo Romar’s worst coaching job ever, but due to the circumstances I am putting the first twenty minutes up there on that list. Romar refused to make any adjustments against the Beavers’ zone. The worst part was, he was clearly able to make adjustments at halftime. Why is Romar, a top-tier coach, not able to make those changes during the game? Terrence Ross slashed through the zone once in the first half and it ended in an easy jump shot. That is how you beat a zone, put a man at the high post. UW has never successfully or consistently done that against any team running a zone. Romar is a fantastic coach, but his lack of in-game ability needs to be addressed.
Free Throw Shooting: Tony Wroten: 9-15. Rest of team: 3-11. Blame Wroten all you want, but let’s think about this. With the Huskies up 4 with five minutes remaining Terrence Ross missed back-to-back free throws and C.J. Wilcox missed the front end of a one and one, leaving four points on the board. Ross and Wilcox are supposed to be Washington’s best free throw shooters and they combined to go 2-6 from the line.
Waiting: Waiting until Sunday sucks. I want to know if Washington is in. They probably will not make the tournament at this point in time, as either Colorado or Arizona will take UW’s “last four in” spot. The last time the Huskies failed to make the tournament was with Spencer Hawes. Bring on the inevitable Spencer Hawes/Tony Wroten theories.
I have so much that I want to say about this year’s Washington Husky men’s basketball team. I truly hope that they did not play their last meaningful game of the season on Thursday. I don’t want to take any credit away from the NIT, but nobody ever strives to be in the tournament full of teams who missed out on the Big Dance. Sunday is tomorrow. That is all I can say.