*UPDATE* – here’s the video.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s starting to feel like these Huskies are coming together. Coming together like past Husky teams: finding ways to win, by any means necessary.
Last season – and maybe even the last two or three seasons – you could easily say the Huskies were too reliant on the outside shot. Which, when you’ve got the shooters, is fine. It means you’re always “in” the ballgame; no matter how much of a lead the other team gets, you always feel you’re just a hot five minute streak away from closing the gap. And when you’re hot, forget about it! You’re unbeatable! But, it’s when you’re cold that things look very, very ugly. It’s the main reason why these great jumpshooting teams – while they can go far – generally don’t go all the way. It’s impossible to be “on” with your long-range shot every single game.
But, the best Husky teams – and my favorite Husky teams – are the ones that aren’t so great at shooting the three, but still find other ways to score. Every Husky team runs well; Lorenzo Romar is a master of preaching the fast break. But, the Husky teams that don’t shoot particularly great tend to be that much more exciting on the run.
This is one of THOSE teams. And, when they figure out how to generate points in ugly, low-scoring games like this one tonight – where Arizona State is doing everything in its power to drag the game down to a bloody, screeching crawl – it gives me hope that this could be one of those “special” Husky teams. Those Husky teams we never forget. Like in Brockman’s final season. And Brandon Roy’s final season. And Q-Pon’s final season.
Tony Wroten scored 22 points tonight. 4 were at the line. 18 came from 9 of 12 shooting. Every single one of those 18 points came in the paint, with Wroten driving, tossing up runners, and dunking with authority. If you didn’t see Wroten’s dunk in the second half of this game, do whatever it takes to find it online. As soon as I see it on YouTube, I’m linking to it, because it was fucking SICK. At one point, the Huskies were nursing something like a 4-point lead. Wroten got the pass at the top of the key and looked like a man possessed, like he was going to do whatever it took to score on this possession. The lane parted, he drove in, a big man got in between him and the basket (but, I believe, he was inside the halo), Wroten jumped from halfway in the key, and he slammed like we haven’t seen ’round these parts since the early 90s Shawn Kemp. BEASTED!
Like I said, though, the Huskies were just the better team tonight, and they flaunted their talent in the second half. Arizona State took a two-point lead into halftime as the Huskies continued to look listless in the first half of a ballgame. But, we came out, went on a run, and were never really seriously challenged the rest of the night.
And yeah, ASU is terrible, with all their best players either injured or kicked off the team, but that doesn’t make a game like this any less difficult. OK, maybe a LITTLE less difficult, but they’re a system team, with their odd 1-3-1 zone defense that usually gives the Huskies fits. They’re a team that slows it down, prevents running teams like the Dawgs from doing their thing, and tries to keep games in the 50’s. Tack on the fact that a number of the Huskies this week are battling flu-like symptoms, and the fact that we’re on the road (never an easy feat for ANY team), and you know what? I’ll take an ugly 6-point win.
Just because the final margin was six points doesn’t mean it was all that close. The Huskies can’t hit free throws (especially on the road). When we play this game in Hec-Ed on February 16th, the final margin will easily be in the double digits, count on it.
In other news, I thought Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked pretty good, though a tad rusty. He’s certainly a difference-maker when you consider he’s only two games in and already more ready for Pac-12 basketball than Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Breunig, and the two white reserve forwards. Being able to give quality minutes to a guy who can actually hold his own on the court is going to make all the difference for this team.
C.J. Wilcox came back and played 10 minutes. He was REALLY rusty tonight, but that’s good. I’d rather he get it out of the way in a game like this – a game where, by all rights, we SHOULD have won, with or without him – than in a game against the Wildcats. Hopefully he’ll have more of his legs about him to give us another weapon this Saturday afternoon.
I thought it was interesting to see Aziz in the post. The kid’s got some moves! If he can only learn to finish around the rim with his little half-hook shots, we might have a double-double machine next season.
Something to watch going forward: our top three guards are playing too many minutes. Tonight, Gaddy played the entire game, Wroten played all but 6 minutes, and Ross played all but 7. I’m concerned, because come Tournament time, we’re going to need our best players with somewhat fresh legs. I’m also concerned, because I don’t think this thing with Wilcox has gone away. I’ve got a REAL bad feeling that if he doesn’t get shut down eventually, he will CERTAINLY miss some games here and there.
That’s a little scary because, while I love these teams that find a way to get it done without the long ball (the Huskies only shot eight 3-pointers tonight; when did that EVER happen the past two seasons when we were jacking up 25 a night?), you’ve gotta have SOMEONE on the perimeter to keep other teams honest. Otherwise, they’re just going to pack the lane like little badgers and dare you to put it up from outside.
And right now, without Wilcox, all we have are Ross (who is as streaky as they come) and Gant (who, while good, isn’t exactly a world-beater from long range).