Andrew Andrews played here in last year’s Pac-12 tournament, but he wasn’t himself.
Instead, he was awake all night vomiting, stricken with a case of apparent food poisoning approximately 12 hours before the Washington Huskies’ tourney opener against Utah.
He was still ill mere hours prior to tipoff, so trainers pumped him full of intravenous fluids and he wound up playing 24 minutes. But he only attempted three shots, only scored three points and looked as sluggish as one might expect.
It snapped Andrews’ six-game streak of scoring 15 points or more, an end-of-year spike that hinted at the potential for a strong conference tournament. But the Huskies lost that first-round game to Utah, 67-61, and their season ended that day.
A year later, and the Huskies face a similar story heading into the 2015 Pac-12 tournament: They’ve had a disappointing year. Their season will end in Las Vegas if they don’t win the tournament championship. And Andrews is again closing the season in impressive fashion.
So as 11th-seeded UW (16-14, 5-13 in Pac-12) prepares for its first-round matchup against 6th-seeded Stanford (18-12, 9-9), the Huskies know they need Andrews to keep up his recent production to have a chance at extending their season.
And maybe they’ll switch up their night-before-game meal, too, just to be on the safe side. Last year, the Huskies gathered for dinner at guard Nigel Williams-Goss’ parents’ house, and ate a catered meal from a certain restaurant that shall remain unnamed.
Asked if anyone has teased Andrews about last year’s unfortunate sickness, Williams-Goss smiled and replied: “I think if we’re going to give anyone a hard time, it should be (strength and conditioning) coach (Daniel) Shapiro, because he kind of changed the menu on us last minute. If anyone’s going to get a hard time, it’s going to be him.”
Said Andrews, laughing: “After the Utah game, (Williams-Goss’) mom said, ‘I bet you don’t want to come to our house again.’ ”
Jokes aside, Andrews has turned into a vital cog in the Huskies’ stop-and-start offense. Coach Lorenzo Romar repeatedly refers to him as “a rock,” and that’s been especially true during the past 10 games.
In that span, Andrews is averaging 19.0 points per game, shooting 45.6 percent from the field (his full-season field-goal percentage is 39.8), shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range (43.9 percent in his last seven games), and shooting 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.
He scored 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting — going 7 of 7 from the free-throw line — in UW’s shocking upset last week of then-13th-ranked Utah. He’s made two game-winners in the final seconds, at Colorado and at Washington State, and scored a career-best 35 points and made a career-high six 3-pointers in that game against WSU.
“I think Andrew has just been getting lost in the game. He’s been a rock,” Romar said. “And it’s good to see that. This is his third year of playing college basketball. You can see the experience out there on the floor really showing when he’s out there playing. I think he understands how to impact the game in a positive way, and he’s been shooting the ball extremely well. He’s just really matured. It’s been really good to see.”
Andrews said he’s trying to play more like he did as a high schooler at Benson Tech, where he drove to the basket more aggressively and tried harder to score. That’s what the Huskies, losers of 10 of their last 12 games, most need from him.
“Every possession (I’m) just looking to be a lot more aggressive and just try to make winning plays,” Andrews said. “I feel like during the course of the year I was trying to get everybody involved and (had) kind of taken a little step back, but toward the second half of the year I just realized I was kind of hurting us, as far as the team, because they needed me to do a lot more. So I just took that approach on.”
Against Stanford, the Huskies must first of all take better care of the ball than they did in two regular-season losses to the Cardinal. UW committed 19 turnovers in a 68-60 overtime loss in Palo Alto, and committed 13 turnovers — which led to 19 Stanford points — in an 84-74 loss in Seattle.
The Huskies are buoyed this time by their surprising victory last week over Utah, which was just their second victory since dismissing star center Robert Upshaw on Jan. 26.
And by the knowledge that their season will end this week barring the miraculous achievement of winning four games in four days.
“It’s definitely not just another week. It’s win or go home, and potentially your season could be over if you lose,” Williams-Goss said. “It’s not just any other weekend. But we’re also not going to change what we’re doing drastically. We have to come with more focus and more energy, because other teams are going to play with more focus and more energy. It’s what you love about March. It’s what you love about competing. And we feel if we can control the things that we can control, that we can have a successful week down there in Vegas.”
Romar said Tuesday that senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr., who has missed UW’s past four games (first two with a concussion, last two with a calf strain), is still questionable for Wednesday’s game.
Kemp was able to do some “light, light jogging,” and shot the ball some during practice, Romar said, but “we’ll see (Wednesday) if he’s even better.”
His minutes will likely be limited regardless, Romar said.