Brutish game, feeble finish

Despite turnovers and missed free throws, Huskies still had an chance to stun Wildcats until they bungled it

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comFebruary 1, 2013 

SEATTLE — If the season isn’t off the rails, the careening train is at least starting to lose contact with the track.

Washington has its longest losing streak since 2008. It’s 4-4 in conference play following a 4-0 start. Turnovers and missed free throws are becoming common.

After a brisk start Thursday, Washington grappled through the evening with eighth-ranked Arizona before losing, 57-53, in front of the most boisterous home crowd of the season that was still well short of a sellout.

“Right now, the guys are really down,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said.

The 8,535 in attendance watched Arizona and Washington (12-9 overall, 4-4 Pacific-12 Conference) in a brutish affair with a bungled closure by the Huskies that fit the slog which occurred much of the night.

Down 52-51 with 1:43 remaining, C.J. Wilcox

missed a jump shot, which was in tune with his poor 4-for-16 shooting that produced just 11 points for the Pac-12’s leading scorer. But Aziz N’Diaye clutched the rebound and was fouled. He missed both free throws, leaving the Wildcats with a slight lead.

Arizona (18-2, 6-2) countered with senior Solomon Hill isolated on the wing against Scott Suggs. Hill crossed over then settled for a clean jump shot from the left baseline that he hit for a 54-51 Wildcats lead with 1:18 to go. Suggs came back and wound his way through the lane for a layup yanking Washington back to within a point.

Then Washington’s 17th turnover doomed it. Trailing by two, 55-53, following one made free throw by Nick Johnson, Wilcox brought the ball up. He hit Abdul Gaddy with a wing pass and cut straight from the top of the key to the hoop off an N’Diaye screen. He was open for a lob on a play Washington has run for years, but Gaddy’s pass was wide right and resulted in a turnover.

“We were just too negligent too many times. It hurt us, it cost us the game,” Romar said.

Johnson would make two more free throws to put Arizona in front by the final margin with 27 seconds to go. Wilcox missed two shots on the next possession and N’Diaye ended up shooting the first 3-point attempt of his career with seven seconds remaining. Air ball. Game over. Losing streak up. Heads down.

As much as Washington’s 17 turnovers and seven missed free throws knocked it into another loss, so did a single foul.

Wilcox had three personal fouls when he sprinted down the floor after Johnson who was loose on a break. Trying to swat the athletic Johnson from behind gave Wilcox his fourth foul with 13:53 remaining.

Romar said he left Wilcox in the game after he picked up his third foul with 16:02 to go because “he’s really good” and to see if he could play through it.

He couldn’t and the game changed.

When Wilcox went out, Washington led 35-31 in a game where scoring was less common than bipartisan Congressional work. As Wilcox sat, the game underwent a nine-point swing. The Huskies scored four points in 6:29 without him. When he returned, Washington was down five, 44-39, with 7:24 to go. Wilcox said he was caught up in the game when he committed the fourth foul, seeing a would-be dunk to be stopped.

The Huskies also continued to clang free throws. In the last three games, Washington has missed 24 free throws while shooting 56.4 percent at the line and lost those contests by a total of 17 points. Washington was 1-for-12 from behind the 3-point line.

Washington started with a change and energy. Shawn Kemp Jr. was in the starting lineup, replacing Desmond Simmons. Kemp’s insertion to the starting lineup was a move to bring more offense and size to the starting power forward spot. He delivered promptly.

His lay-in with 16:59 to go in the first half gave him six points, Washington an 8-2 lead and Arizona coach Sean Miller enough concern that he called timeout.

Arizona’s turnover problems started early and persisted through the first half. The Wildcats, who average 13.7 turnovers per game, had 12 by halftime when Washington led 28-23. The 23 points were a season-low in a half for Arizona. On the final possession of the half, Arizona did not get a shot off. Hill stood about 28 feet from the basket when the horn went off and Arizona, befuddled, trudged to the lockeroom while Washington raced off the floor giddy.

That joy was gone later. @Todd_Dybas

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