Seniors’ solid effort comes up a little short

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMarch 10, 2013 

Reflective of this basketball season, the home finale for the Washington Huskies’ seniors turned into a disappointing anticlimax.

Before the game, Abdul Gaddy, Aziz N’Diaye and Scott Suggs held aloft framed jerseys in front of a Hec Edmundson Pavilion crowd that clearly appreciated their many fine efforts and years of solid service.

But at the end of the game, it was UCLA holding the Pacific-12 Conference title. The Bruins captured it with a 61-54 victory over the Huskies, who played hard but not well when it counted the most, and were admirably spirited but lethally sloppy.

Whereas a nucleus of three seniors would normally be expected take over a close game and forge a win with their experience and savvy, it was UCLA, behind three freshmen, who took control of the game down the stretch.

After going up 52-48, the Huskies went 1-for-10 shooting with four turnovers and just two points in the final six minutes. In that stretch, the Bruins got 12 points from freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson.

Gaddy, N’Diaye and Suggs each contributed at times to keep the Huskies close and competitive, and they also contributed to the loss, combining for 10 of UW’s 19 turnovers.

“You hate to see them go out with a loss,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “That hasn’t happened very often with our seniors here. We usually do a good job on Senior Day.”

Romar cited Suggs’ offensive output (14 points) and his defensive effort against the bulkier Muhammad. But Suggs and Gaddy both had four turnovers, while N’Diaye had 10 rebounds but just five points.

At the end of the regular season, Gaddy stands third in assists on the all-time UW list, and N’Diaye is fourth in blocked shots in three seasons at UW. Notable accomplishments.

So it’s fair to say that Gaddy had a solid career for the Huskies. Yet, fair or unfair, it’s hard not to hold his performance up to the expectations that accompanied him to UW as an All-American who was ranked the No. 2 point-guard prospect in the nation (behind Kentucky’s John Wall, who is in his third NBA season).

A knee injury cut short his sophomore season, and he spent last season in a lineup dominated by two NBA first-rounders, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten.

N’Diaye’s day was special because his mother, Amy, was visiting from Dakar, Senegal, for the final three regular-season games. These were the first games she has seen him play in the United States.

Afterward, the 7-footer was gracious in his praise for the fan support, and said it caused the Huskies to play with great effort.

“We battled at the beginning and ended up coming up short,” he said. “We turned the ball over a couple times, and they made basket(s) out of it.”

Actually, they made many baskets. As Romar pointed out after the game, the Huskies’ 19 turnovers led to 29 points for the Bruins – nearly half their 61 total.

Romar acknowledged the obvious, the Huskies (17-14) will have to score a series of upsets and win the Pac-12 tournament next week in Las Vegas to earn an invitation to the NCAA tournament.

So, the probability is the Huskies will go a second straight season without an NCAA berth. The loss to the 23rd-ranked Bruins left them 0-6 this season against ranked opponents. In fact, they haven’t defeated a ranked team since Isaiah Thomas netted a deep, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to sink Arizona in the 2011 conference tournament.

And this was the first time in nine seasons they’ve lost at home to UCLA.

In so many ways, then, Huskies hoop fortunes appear to be trending downward.

It’s not a topic that’s fun to address on a Senior Day, when fans are saying goodbye to players who have worked hard and contributed to a lot of wins.

But none of them played well enough to hold on to a lead down the stretch and claim a winnable game on Saturday.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 @DaveBoling

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