You saw the Huskies at their best last night, and you saw the Huskies at their worst. The two extremes were JUST enough to lock down a 2-point victory, 86-84.
It was a pretty far fucking cry from what happened in the first half. Total domination from head to toe, as the Huskies raced out to a 51-33 halftime lead. The Huskies hit over 50% of their shots and were getting contributions from all over the lineup. Dominic Green – who is maybe the 8th or 9th guy in the rotation – played a season-high 23 minutes, having easily his best game. Part of that was probably due to all the foul trouble (really, happening with both teams, but hit pretty hard on the Husky big men), but Green still contributed with 10 points, including 2 of 5 from behind the arc.
Six Huskies in total scored in double figures, with Dejounte Murray very nearly the 7th with his 9 points, on an uncharacteristic off-night. Indeed, it was a pretty off-night for all of the guards, as Murray, Andrews, and Crisp shot a combined 8 for 31 (26%) from the floor. But, they did make up for it at the line, scoring 13 of their combined 31 points at the stripe. And, they also had a combined 7 steals and 10 assists to keep things moving in what was a sloppy game in general, with the Huskies having 19 turnovers.
The big men really led the charge, with Noah Dickerson playing just a monster game with a bum ankle. He almost single-handedly kept us in the game when guys like Chriss, Thybulle, Dime, and Andrews were all in serious foul trouble. It’s not the most remarkable line in the world, but Dickerson’s 15 points and 8 boards were essential in keeping us in this thing when the shit started to hit the fan.
With that huge 18-point lead, you knew it was going to go one of two ways: either the Huskies would keep the throttle down and blow them out by 30, or the Bruins would go on a second-half run and eventually overtake us. Obviously, you can tell what happened. My friends and I were cheering harder for UCLA misses (with the Huskies only leading by 10 points) than we were for any of the high-flying action in the first half.
I thought a few other things stood out. David Crisp hit a pretty important 3-pointer with a little under 9 minutes to go in the game. UCLA had just pulled the deficit to single-digits for the first time since the first half, and it appeared the Huskies were playing in a thick fog, with no one really wanting to put up the shot to stop the bleeding. But, Crisp will take that shot all day, and he nailed it.
Next up, with a little over 4 minutes to go in the game, UCLA had pulled to within one point, and Murray – having his aforementioned off-night – drained a three to slow the onslaught.
But, most importantly of all, and maybe the underrated star of this game, was Donaven Dorsey. He was inserted into the game late, thanks to Dime, Chriss, and Thybulle all fouling out. With 2:31 left in the game, almost immediately after he stepped onto the court, with the game TIED, Dorsey jacked up a three that rattled off. Sure, he was probably a little cold – he’d only played 8 minutes the whole game, most of that in the first half – but you can just imagine Husky fans everywhere asking what in the hell he thought he was doing. Then, sure enough, with a little over a minute to go, after UCLA had completed their comeback by taking a 3-point lead, Dorsey found himself in the corner, in front of the Husky bench, when a quick pass from Murray hit him in the hands. Without a care in the world, Dorsey launched and hit the game-tying three.
Outstanding! Play of the game right there! Sure, with the game still tied, with the clock winding down, Andrew Andrews had the ball, dribbling to his left, and upfaked a big man with three seconds left in the game, causing him to fall on Andrews as he threw up a prayer of a shot, forcing the refs to call a foul. And, sure, Andrews hit both free throws, even though UCLA tried to ice him by calling a time out between the two. And, yeah, someone (I don’t remember who), forced Bruce Alford – who led the game with 28 points, most of those in the second half as he led UCLA’s massive comeback – to pass off the final shot to some other guy on the team who wasn’t NEARLY as fireball-hot as Alford was in those final 20 minutes, leading to the brick as the clock struck all-zeroes to officially decide the game. But, I’m telling you, without Dorsey’s three right there, I don’t know if the Huskies even get to a point to put the game away with free throws.
That’s a huge moment in the young career of Donaven Dorsey. I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to lead to bigger and better things for him; I just know that the whispers about him have been that he’s too tentative. You don’t want to say a player is afraid or playing scared, but maybe he was lacking in confidence, not fully trusting his shot? I mean, for a guy who doesn’t necessarily play the most stingy defense in the world, who is predominantly known for his outside shooting, and in his Freshman year last year, he only hits a shade under 34% of his threes, that could possibly get in one’s head. But, not last night. Last night, he was laser-focused, and he came through when it mattered most.
I started off this post talking a little bit about Dominic Green, and I ended this post talking a lot about Donaven Dorsey. These are – flip-flop them however you see fit – the 8th & 9th guys in the rotation. For the vast majority of the conference season, the Huskies have been running a strict 7-man rotation, and may now be realizing that was something of a mistake. Probably a necessary one – as I don’t know if those 8th & 9th guys were ready for bigtime minutes – but with a team this young, and this prone to foul trouble, you’re going to run a lot of guys down playing extra minutes to compensate. It’s VERY important to be able to run out a bigger rotation of guys to keep everyone fresh in these final weeks leading up to the Tournament. This team isn’t going to solve its fouling issues overnight.
I know yesterday was kind of a kooky example, where certain players were in immediate foul trouble early, combined with the Huskies playing out of their minds in creating that 18-point lead. But, it really looked like Romar made a concerted effort to get more guys involved, and early. Even little-used 7th Freshman Devenir Duruisseau got some time in there when the game mattered. Again, it could just be the circumstances of the evening, but I’ll say this, I don’t remember the Huskies making much of an effort to get all these guys involved in that Arizona game, especially early in the second half, when guys were still in foul trouble and the Wildcats had yet to start really pulling away.
A game like this can go a long way in boosting Romar’s confidence in some of these guys who seemed to have gotten short shrift this season. Either way, just a HUGE win, on the road, in a “hostile” environment, against a team that might not be Tournament-good, but is still a prominent name in the college basketball world. Now, it’s on to USC on Saturday, and another huge game. Coming away from this L.A. trip with a split would be nice. Coming away with a sweep would be season-altering.