Well, let’s be real here. This one was painful. After a three point halftime lead the Dawgs were facing an almost double digit deficit with four minutes left, only to come surging back in the final minute with a golden opportunity to win it.
With 35 seconds left the Huskies held for the last shot. The best look they got was CJ Wilcox covered in the corner for what looked like a fade away three. Clank, rim. Rebound Aggies.
But alas, there was life! Isaiah Thomas made a vintage huskies hustle play when the Aggies passed the ball down court anticipating a foul when instead Thomas swooped in and took the ball the other way. However, with no timeouts and time waning down Thomas missed his opportunity to launch a good look, and instead the 5’8″ guard was swatted, game over. Dawgs lose by one. Heartbreaker.
But if anything this loss is just another wake up call, that a team that was fancied to be a shoe in not only for the Pac-10 championship but maybe even the Sweet 16 again has a lot more holes than we may have anticipated.
But just how bleak are things? Is it time to hit the panic button? Dare we say that the Huskies are…..Over-rated? No, not quite.
This team could just as easily be 9-0 as they are 6-3. They lost to Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas A&M by a combined 13 points with each of the match-ups going down to the final 30 seconds.
But there have been a few disturbing trends that have been exposed when the Huskies have played ‘real’ teams compared to the ‘Cupcake’ out of conference games against the likes of Long Beach State and Portland, and for now I’ll lump Virginia and Texas Tech in with the cupcakes even though they have greater potential(hopefully).
One is Washington’s ability to get open three point looks against better, more athletic, defensive basketball teams. Overall through nine games Washington is a 45 percent three point shooting team. But against the three teams that have handed them losses? 15/50 – 30 percent. The result has also been a team averaging 95 points a game averaging just 67 points a game in their three losses.
I’d be beating a dead horse to say that duhhhhh, it’s the quality of competition that explains these discrepancies. But how exactly are the Huskies getting exposed? What are the huskies doing so ineffectively against good teams? What are these teams taking away from the Huskies?
It’s simple. It starts in the paint, and that’s where Washington is killing themselves.
Maybe we’ve been spoiled the last couple of years. Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter dominated the boards and were the security blankets for maybe what was an over-rated rebounding team, because without either of those two the Huskies are getting exposed. The top rebounder is Justin Holiday, averaging 6.8 a game, which is sad because Holiday is a perimeter player. Of course we have to look at the highly disappointing Mathew Bryan Amaning, averaging only 6.0 boards per game. Disappointing for one of the team’s three seniors who has needed to step up and assume a leadership role as the team’s only experienced option in the paint.
Team’s defensive strategies are simple, at least for those who have the athletes to keep up with Washington. Defend the perimeter. Check CJ Wilcox. Check Scott Suggs. Check Darnell Gant even. Close out on those shooters. Don’t worry about the paint, what has Mathew Bryan Amaning proven to be able to do? You collapse two defenders into the paint and he’s helpless, and if you have the athletes that a team like Kentucky or Michigan State does, closing back out on shooters after collapsing the paint isn’t terribly difficult. Zone or man to man, the Huskies haven’t found an answer for it.
But what about the Huskies wizard of a guard Isaiah Thomas? Can’t he dribble penetrate, create havoc, get to the line and collapse defenders to open up three point shots? Uhm, well, he’s averaging less than 13 points a game in the Huskies three losses, less than his season average. And this afternoon’s game in College Station is proof that Thomas just isn’t up to the big time yet.
Which, brings me to my final point of concern about this Washington squad. Who is their Jon Brockman? Who is their Quincy Pondexter? Who steps up when the going gets tough?
It seemed like it might be Isaiah Thomas making like that of the old Detroit Piston’s name sake with the clutch steal and opportunity to win the game, only to bungle the opportunity and get swatted. Point is, he doesn’t show up for big games. Neither does Justin Holiday, who fouled out with four minutes left in this contest. Neither does Overton who has not lived up to his offensive potential.
Still, keep your hand off the panic button. The schedule only gets easier. San Francisco and Nevada lead way to the Los Angeles schools opening up Pac-10 play where the Huskies should be the favorites. But let’s not take anything for granted here, Arizona, UCLA and Washington State all look like they are capable of pushing the Huskies. Time is running out for a team trying to find their identity and find some consistency.
Where you at Isaiah? Where you at MBA? Where you at Holiday? Q-Pon and Brockman aren’t here to babysit you anymore. Sooner or later this team needs a signature win, and they need it soon.