Or is it a sign of improvement to come?
Well, I’m sure Husky fans are HOPING for the latter, but let’s face it, it’s very reasonable to have doubts.
96 points is far and away the best single-game output of the Washington Huskies this season. They currently average a shade under 70 points per game, which is apparently terrible for a college basketball team (115th in the nation). Scoring 96 points kind of equates to a bowler who averages 100 pins suddenly exploding for around 140, it’s an unexpected jump that’s more often than not an aberration.
For starters, to what do we attribute this spike? I’m looking over the games they’ve played to date and 96 points is easily the most they’ve given up to an opponent, with a 93 scored by USC in an overtime losing effort. ASU isn’t a no-defense type of team that runs and guns with the elites; they only average 4 points per game more than the Huskies.
So, let’s look at the box score. Immediately, what jumps out is Shawn Kemp Jr.’s 18 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Over his last three games, he’s averaged nearly 22 minutes per game, up considerably from 12.5 minutes per game over his initial 12 games (remember, he missed the first 7 games of the season due to injury). In his last three games, Kemp has put up 12 points per game, again a drastic increase over the three and a half points per game average over the previous 12 games.
What are we looking at here? Is this a fluke? Well, if it is, then it’s a “fluke” that happened against the three best teams in the Pac-12 (Oregon, Arizona, and Arizona State). I’m not ready to annoint Kemp our savior just yet, but it’s certainly something of interest to watch going forward. Can he keep this up? Can he hold down the starting Power Forward spot in the rotation? And, more importantly, can he be counted on next season when we lose Aziz and will have a huge gaping hole in the middle of the paint?
Scrolling down the box score, and speaking of Aziz, he nailed 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting. Honestly, it’s too bad this is his final season, because if he had another year with the team, he would easily go down as one of the best true centers in the program’s recent history. As it stands, either way, he’ll probably be the best true center of Romar’s tenure (which doesn’t say a whole helluva lot, but is still someone who will be missed). He’s less than a rebound per game away from averaging a Double-Double this season. One or two monster rebounding games could clinch it for him.
Then, scrolling down a little further, you see Andrew Andrews: 20 points, 7 of 12 shooting, plus 6 of 6 from the free throw line. He was 0 for 3 from beyond the arc, but those free throws are undeniable. He took over for Gaddy (who was in foul trouble, sweet, sweet foul trouble) and led the team better than our Senior point guard. Ever since Tony Wroten declared for the NBA draft, we have been lacking a guard who can get in the paint and finish at the bucket. We’ve seen flashes of potential out of Andrews, but this was the first time he really broke out. I’ll be happy to see more of this as the season goes on.
When you look at the bench as a whole in this past game, you’ll see that the Huskies scored 30 total points (with Desmond Simmons scoring the other 10). I like Simmons an awful lot, but for this team I think we’re best served with him providing a spark off the bench (while still playing 20+ minutes per game as a lockdown defender). The common trend of this year’s Husky team has been a complete and utter black hole where the bench is concerned. Jernard Jarreau has clearly shown he’s not yet ready to play significant minutes in this system, and he’s really the only other guy on the team who has PLAYED this year.
With this lack of depth, it has been imperative for guys like Wilcox and Suggs to be on their A-games each and every night. With other guys, like Kemp, Andrews, and Aziz, stepping up, it takes the pressure off. With the pressure off, hopefully they can draw some of the focus away from our stars, thereby making this a more-balanced offense.
It would be idiotic to expect the Huskies to keep up a pace of scoring in the 90s. All I want is a little more even distribution of production. Instead of Wilcox and Suggs comprising 60+ percent of the scoring, push that down to around 40%. Where, if one (or both) of them has an off night (like Wilcox’s 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting against ASU), that doesn’t mean we’re destined to lose.
UW goes to UCLA this Thursday. This is another big test for this team. Another opportunity to prove they have what it takes to hang in this steadily-improving conference.