SEATTLE — There aren’t flecks of gray in the hair of the Washington starters. None are paying attention to what will happen with social security or polishing off AARP paperwork.
But this is an elder group.
Washington starts three seniors – one a fifth-year senior, Scott Suggs – and a fourth-year junior, C.J. Wilcox. Desmond Simmons, a mere redshirt sophomore, is the baby of the bunch in his third year.
Suggs sat out last season with an injury and watched those other four play on a team that became the first in Pacific-12 Conference history to win the regular-season conference title but not go to the NCAA tournament.
Those Huskies played up to
six glaring, and often close, games they could point to from that season that helped keep them from the tournament. These Huskies now have a third such game this season following Saturday’s loss against Utah. That loss is the beacon of backsteps because Washington’s senior citizens took a youngster’s approach.
Utah came into the game with a 0-5 conference record. Despite the veteran team and multiple warnings from the coaching staff, Washington started slow and had to explain afterward and since why it overlooked the Utes.
“The pattern has been when there’s a group that we’re going to play that we fear, we bring it,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “There are a lot of quality teams in our league that our guys fear. If we play Utah again, we’d have to fear them the next time.”
Next time is upon the Huskies, although not in the form of Utah. Washington starts its swing through Oregon by traveling to Corvallis for a vampire-friendly 8:30 p.m. tipoff against Oregon State today. The Beavers, like the Utes, have a 0-5 record in conference play.
“The thing that scares me, they see 0-5, like they saw at Utah and subconsciously for whatever ... ” Romar said before cutting himself off. “... We just went through that. I would be shocked if we went through that again now.
“I don’t think focus is going to be the issue.”
Offense has been an issue. Washington produced a dismal double-down against Utah by playing bad offense and defense. The defense, though, had been steady since Pac-12 play started. The Huskies relied on it in 4 of 5 games, and it has served them well.
The offense has not been in tow. Suggs and Abdul Gaddy, in particular, have struggled. Five games into conference play, Gaddy is shooting 26.1 percent. He was 2-for-9 against Utah, and one of the makes was a banked-in 3-pointer. He has gone from 12.6 points a game in non-conference play to 6.6 in conference games.
Suggs’ falloff has been similar. He is shooting 31.7 percent in the same five games. He shot 48.5 percent his previous full season in 2010-11. He’s down to 39.9 percent overall this year and averages 9.2 points a game after putting up 13.7 during non-conference play.
The solution, they insist, is simple.
“Just as easy as you can go into a slump, you can get out of them,” Gaddy said. “Once you make one shot, then you can make five in a row. So, stay confident and keep shooting no matter what.”
Their struggles have contorted what C.J. Wilcox is seeing as he tries to navigate through defenses. Utah joined other opponents in focusing on Wilcox, who is the scoring leader in conference play. The Utes’ small and big players bumped Wilcox with vigor when he tried to move through screens, knocking him off his path like a sudden change in terrain.
That made Suggs and Gaddy the prove-it shooters. They were only able to show that their slumps were going to continue for one more game.
“I know, myself, I haven’t shot it well,” Gaddy said. “I know that Scott hasn’t shot it well. We’re getting good shots, we just have to make them.”
It’s being said, just not done.
Washington (12-6, 4-1 Pacific-12 Conference) at Oregon State (10-8, 0-5)
8:30 p.m., Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 154-137.
Desmond SimmonsF126.96.36.199 35.774.0
Aziz N’DiayeF10.79.40.3 62.745.5
Scouting report: Oregon State has evolved from relying on a 1-3-1 defense to one that mixes defenses. It also is a team that continues to struggle. The Beavers have lost five consecutive games, including a 69-68 heartbreaker at USC last Saturday. Oregon State runs a lot of things through wide body Joe Burton, its grounded center with good hands and court vision. He leads the team in assists with 3.1 per game. This season, Roberto Nelson is becoming the scorer many projected he would be. Forward Devon Collier is one of the more talented players in the league, but his play fluctuates. He’s scored 10, 18, 13, 9 and 16 points in his five conference games.
Next: 4 p.m. Saturday, at Oregon (Pac-12 Networks).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports firstname.lastname@example.org