Washington Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 11th, 2012

The Huskies return four contributors from last season’s team, along with guard Scott Suggs, who comes back after losing last year to a foot injury. The returnees range from sharpshooters to prolific passers to big men down low. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • C.J. Wilcox, Junior, Shooting Guard (14.2 PPG, 1.1 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG) – If there was ever a player to average a quiet 14.2 PPG, Wilcox was that player last season. The sharpshooter was the one player coach Lorenzo Romar could always count on to make a clutch shot, yet he still was an afterthought to most casual fans because he played behind a pair of NBA first round draft picks in Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross. He averaged a solid 28.5 MPG, but was basically fourth in the depth chart behind Wroten, Ross, and Abdul Gaddy. The best night of his season came on a Friday in Reno, where Wilcox played 38 minutes in Washington’s 76-73 overtime loss against Nevada. In that game he matched his average of 14 points and three rebounds, but he also recorded two steals on the defensive end. An interesting trend in Wilcox’s game revealed itself after coming back from a three-game layoff due to a stress-related hip injury. Romar was reluctant to play Wilcox for any substantial amount of time in the first five games of his return, in part because Wilcox was struggling to find his shot. The sophomore guard was only averaging about half his normal production through his first four games back, but then, while still playing fewer minutes than usual, he turned his game up a notch for the final stretch of the season. He poured in 22 points at UCLA, 20 against Northwestern, and 17 each at Oregon State and home against Oregon in an NIT quarterfinal game. By early March, Wilcox had completely gained back the minutes he had lost due to his hip injury. His totals near the end of the season should have Husky fans excited, as his quick-scoring ability should be able to soften the blow left behind by the losses of Ross and Wroten.

    After Losing Their Top Two Guards To The NBA Draft, Wilcox’s Ability To Knock Down The Three When Needed Will Be Huge For The Huskies In 2012-13 (credit: AP)

  • Abdul Gaddy, Senior, Point Guard (8.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG) – Along with Suggs, it will be Gaddy’s responsibility to provide some senior leadership at the guard position. The guy is a terrific passer, and can also kill you with a jumper if you give him enough room.
  • Aziz N’Diaye, Senior, Center (8.0 PPG, 0.3 APG, 7.6 RPG) – N’Diaye is a monster on the glass, pulling down over seven boards a game in 2011-12. But with the departure of Darnell Gant, he will have to increase his production even more. The monster out of Senegal is no slouch either on the offensive end, as he is more than capable of putting in a double-digit scoring night. Twice in 2011-12 he had a stretch of three games with double-digit scoring figures, and he scored a season high 14 points against Seattle U. and California. Without question, N’Diaye will be counted on to shoulder the load in the post and balance out an offense that was mainly guard-oriented last year. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC’s Pac-12 Season Superlatives

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2012

Yesterday we named our All-Pac-12 team, today we hand out our awards. It may not have been a banner year in the Pac-12, but we have had good races for each of these awards and come away with some very deserving honorees.

Player of the Year

Terrence Ross, Soph, Washington: California’s Jorge Gutierrez won the official Pac-12 award, but Ross gets the nod here for a variety of reasons: 1) he’s the best player in the conference; 2) he’s the best player on the conference champion; and 3) when he gets in a rhythm (which is often), no other player in the conference (save perhaps his teammate, Tony Wroten) can make as big of an impact on the game. Ross’ best game of the year may have come on January 15 when he scored 26 points in the second half (while also adding a game-high 14 boards) to bring the Huskies back from a six-point halftime deficit to beat Washington State. Or maybe it came against UCLA on February 2 when he scored 10 points in the final five minutes to help bring the Huskies back from a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left. Or maybe it was his dominant performance inside the three-point line against Arizona on February 18, when he scored 25 points despite a perimeter jumper that took the day off.

Terrence Ross, Washington

Terrence Ross Was A Clutch Performer All Year Long For The Huskies (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

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Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.

Washington

Washington's Win Over Arizona On Saturday Gave The Huskies Reason For Celebration (Elaine Thompson/AP)

What to Watch For

There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.

Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.

As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.

Player of the Year Watch

There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2012

  1. With the schedule winding down, it’s a good time to start looking ahead to some of the postseason awards. For quite a while, there was a logjam in the race for Coach of the Year, but with the leaders of the conference now more clear, it looks like Colorado’s Tad Boyle and California’s Mike Montgomery have jumped out into the lead. The two teams meet Sunday in Boulder in a game that could go a long way toward determining the eventual winner, but both coaches have done a stellar job this year. For Boyle, his Colorado team was expected to finish near the bottom of the conference in its first year in the Pac-12; instead they’re just a game and a half back of the leaders. Meanwhile, Montgomery dealt with the aftermath of a successful procedure to treat bladder cancer prior to the start of the season and has since turned in another typically great job patching the holes in a Golden Bear team that now sits tied with Washington for first place.
  2. Speaking of Washington, some Husky fans are still wondering whether head coach Lorenzo Romar has done a masterful job or a subpar job this year. There have been some bad losses for U-Dub this year (the blowout home loss to South Dakota State stands out, but big losses at Colorado and Oregon also fit the bill), but still the Huskies figure to finish the season with more than 20 wins for the fourth straight season and they could still possibly post a 15-3 record (if they win their final three conference games), potentially the best record in school history. And, given the fact that Romar has dealt with the loss of senior leader Scott Suggs prior to the season and has done a good job folding eight freshman into a roster, it appears from this angle that Romar has done just about as good of a job as he’s ever done to this point. However, reputations are earned in March, and the success of the Huskies in their remaining games may deliver the final verdict.
  3. Washington’s players are still debating among themselves whether Aziz N’Diaye traveled on his phenomenal end-to-end blocked shot and dunk against Arizona on Saturday. See for yourself here. Sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox is in Sean Miller’s corner, thinking that the Husky big fella traveled on his way up court, but Romar and senior forward Darnell Gant think N’Diaye made a great, and legal, play. I tend to agree with Romar and Gant; it looks like N’Diaye threw the ball ahead before securing it, then controlled the ball and began his dribble. Regardless, just a terrific end-to-end play by the junior out of Senegal.
  4. The Huskies next get on the court Thursday night at USC, and given that the Trojans have now lost 14 of their last 15, it is likely that Washington will skate through that game. However, despite the team’s struggles with injuries throughout the year, the team is still playing hard for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And, just as importantly, the players in the program are all in O’Neill’s court, supporting their coach despite calls from some SC fans for a new coach. Athletic director Pat Haden has made it pretty clear that O’Neill will be back next year, so it will be interesting to see how far the Trojans can bounce back up next year.
  5. Bud Withers at the Seattle Times takes a look ahead to next season’s Pac-12 possibilities, and sees better things on the horizon. For instance, while California will lose a couple important seniors, and Washington could see guys like Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross head to the NBA early, teams like Arizona, Colorado and Stanford are not only expected to return some quality pieces, but they have strong recruiting classes coming in. Likewise, UCLA sees reinforcements arrive next year, while teams like USC, Washington State and Oregon State could be ready to jump into the upper half of the conference.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

  1. This weekend, for once in the Pac-12, all of the upper echelon teams still competing for a conference title took care of the lower-tier teams. The only losses among the top five teams in the conference came against other top five teams – Colorado’s loss to Arizona and Washington’s loss at Oregon, both on Thursday night. But now, with five games left on everyone’s conference schedule, we’ve got five teams all within a game of first place. California earned its spot at the top of the standings by building up a 17-point second half lead against UCLA and then withstanding a late charge, earning its 20th win of the year. With the win, head coach Mike Montgomery became the first Cal coach to win 20 or more games in three of his first four years at the school, while the Golden Bears also completed a regular season sweep of the Los Angeles schools for the first time since 1959. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith got off to a strong start in that loss against Cal, scoring five points on his first three possessions and racking up two fouls on Cal freshman forward David Kravish and another on senior Harper Kamp. But, over the next 35 minutes he managed just five more points and was frustrated by Golden Bear double teams and his own conditioning issues. While it isn’t exactly breaking news that Smith is overweight and in poor physical condition, leave it to Bill Plaschke to get Smith on record as saying he “didn’t do anything” to prepare for this year over the offseason. Smith claims that he’ll be putting in the work this offseason in preparation for his junior year, but we’ll have to wait and see just how well that goes.
  2. Washington got back on track and maintained its own hold on a piece of first place with a 75-72 win at Oregon State last night. The game was sloppy on both ends, but was intensely competed and the Huskies had to hit 10 of 15 free throws down the stretch to hold on to the lead. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten led the scoring for the Huskies with 50 points between them, but they all struggled from the field, hitting just 15 of their 44 field goal attempts (37.5% eFG) on the night. Jared Cunningham led all scorers with 23 points, be he too was inefficient, needing 20 shots to get his points. While the Huskies are technically tied with Cal for first place, the Golden Bears beat U-Dub earlier in the year, and that game will not be returned due to the unbalanced schedule in the Pac-12, meaning Cal holds the tiebreaker.
  3. Arizona pulled out a win on Saturday over Utah, but it was in no way a win that left Sean Miller feeling pleased with his team. The Wildcats trailed the 5-20 Utes for the first 27 minutes of the game, and didn’t claim the lead for good until a Nick Johnson three with 1:24 remaining put Zona up 64-61. Six free throws down the stretch provided a final margin of nine points, but UA was definitely fortunate to come away with the win. The Wildcats’ problems began well before tipoff, as senior guard Kyle Fogg was late for a pregame walk-through and was removed from the starting lineup as a result. As for the game itself, Miller described his team’s play as “alarming,” “disappointing,” and “pathetic” and mentioned that at least half of his seven-man rotation was not playing with maximum possible energy. The Wildcats travel to the Washington schools next week, so they’ll need to put out a much better effort to extend their four-game winning streak.
  4. The other two teams sitting a game back of the leaders also took care of business on Saturday, as Colorado earned its second road win of the conference season by taking care of Arizona State, and Oregon completed a sweep of the Washington schools by outlasting Washington State. E.J. Singler led the way for the Ducks with 23 points and four threes and also had a major hand in limiting the Cougs’ leading scorer, Brock Motum, to just 15 points, and just one point in the final 15 minutes. In Tempe, it was freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way for the Buffaloes with 15 points, five rebounds and three threes. The Buffs will pick back up next week on the road again, with a trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah scheduled for Saturday. After that, however, the final four games of the season will go a long way towards determining CU’s fate: they host Cal and Stanford before traveling to the Oregon schools the last week of the regular season.
  5. Lastly, Stanford won for just the second time in seven games on Sunday when they took apart a struggling USC team, 59-47. The Cardinal dominated on the glass, grabbing 97% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 41.3% of the rebounds on the offensive end, and they held the Trojans to just 35.4% eFG. But, with Stanford now out of the race for the conference title, the highlight of the game had to be junior forward Andy Brownhe of the three knee surgeries – scoring the first field goal of his Stanford career. Brown played eight minutes on Sunday, and has now played 21 minutes on the season, but his battle back despite injuries could be something to build on for the Cardinal going forward. Quickly, on the USC front, after a solid 8-for-13 performance Thursday night, sophomore guard Maurice Jones returned to form, hoisting 14 shots and hitting only two against the Cardinal. He’s now shooting just a 41.3% eFG on the season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 2.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 10th, 2012

  1. It seems like I have spent the last couple days talking and writing about how if Washington could just string together a patch of wins here down the stretch, they could earn themselves an at-large bid regardless of the holes in their résumé. And, typical of what we have come to expect of the Huskies over the past several years, just when you start buying what they are selling in the regular season, they go out and get punked on the road, just like they did Thursday night, losing at Oregon by 25 in a game that was never in doubt. The Ducks scored the first eight points of the game, shot 64.3% from the field in the first half and then coasted in the second half. No Husky who played more than ten minutes in the game shot better than 50% from the field, their top three scorers–Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross, and C.J. Wilcox–combined for 32 points on 12-of-35 shooting, with a ten turnovers between them, and the entire team shot just two-for-16 from deep. The loss drops Washington back into a first place tie while Oregon moves to within a game of first place.
  2. In the other big game of the night, Arizona continued its hot streak, taking care of Colorado by 14 in their third consecutive strong performance. While the Wildcats have struggled to find consistency in the first three months of the season, now they are playing like a cohesive unit, even as they are limited to just a seven-man rotation. Thursday night, the veteran trio of Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill, and Kyle Fogg did the heavy lifting, scoring 17, 16, and 15 points respectively, while guys like Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Brendon Lavender, and Angelo Chol slid comfortably into their roles and took care of business. Combined with the other results in the conference, the Wildcats now find themselves within a game of first and rolling at just the right time. Colorado is also a game back of first place, but their struggles on the road will need to be mended if they hope to seriously challenge for the title; they are now 1-4 in Pac-12 road games with the sole win coming against 1-11 USC.
  3. Speaking of USC, they got to 1-11 by getting taken apart in the second half by California last night. After a hard-fought first half that saw the Trojans down by just six going into the locker room, the Golden Bears rode Harper Kamp’s hot streak after the break (he hit his first seven shots of the second half), while freshman forward David Kravish dominated the undermanned Trojan squad on the glass, grabbing a career-high 18 boards. Coupled with the Washington loss, the Golden Bears again find themselves tied at the top of the conference.
  4. UCLA will be Cal’s next opponent on Saturday, and Thursday night the Bruins took care of business against Stanford, using a late 10-0 to finally put away a pesky Cardinal team in a game that saw both teams put together a variety of runs. It was a sloppy affair, with the teams combining for 41 turnovers, but in the end it was the Bruins’ ability to turn Stanford’s turnovers into points that decided the game, as UCLA scored 28 points off of their 22 forced turnovers. Lazeric Jones had 21 points, six assists and six steals, while freshman Chasson Randle was the only Stanford player to score in double figures, with 16.
  5. At the bottom of the conference, Arizona State welcomed back junior guard Trent Lockett with a win over Utah. Lockett had 12 points and six boards in his return, but it was the combination of Jordan Bachynski (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Carrick Felix (15 points, eight rebounds) that put the Sun Devils over the top. Meanwhile, in Corvallis, the maddening Oregon State conference season continued with a ten-point home loss to Washington State, despite Jared Cunningham filling the stat sheet in a big way. The player of the year candidate had 33 points, including five three-pointers, six rebounds, a couple of assists, three steals, two blocks, and even four turnovers for good measure. Teammate Ahmad Starks struggled, however, hoisting 13 threes and only making two on a miserable night. On the other end of the court, however, Washington State’s own POTY candidate, Brock Motum, continued his hot streak, scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds. Since Faisal Aden’s season ending injury, Motum has averaged 27.3 points and nine rebounds over four games.
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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Washington at Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2012

Looking at the rest of the Pac-12 slate, it’s tough to find a bigger game than the one coming up tonight in Eugene. That’s where first place Washington meets fourth place Oregon in a game with huge conference crown implications. For the visiting Huskies, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but they need every good win they can get if they want to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side is Oregon, who are losers of its last two games against upper-half conference teams. Not only does that create seperation between the Ducks and the top of the Pac, but it also gives those teams tiebreakers over the Ducks for Pac-12 Tournament seeding. Obviously, a win tonight would be huge for the Ducks. While the ship for an at-large bid has sailed, the Ducks need to do everything they can down the stretch to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. That would mean a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney, giving Oregon a solid shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. There’s no better time to start that journey than tonight.

Oregon guard Devoe Joseph leads the Ducks with 15.8 PPG. (credit: Eric Evans)

If Oregon is to have a chance in this one, it will need to shoot the ball better than it did in the first meeting between these two teams. In that New Year’s Eve ESPN2 affair, the Ducks shot just 21.7% from behind the arc. Guard Devoe Joseph was targeted and shut down by the Husky defense, going 0-5 from three and scoring just four points overall. In order to contend with the plethora of Husky sharpshooters (C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, and Terrence Ross, to name a few), Joseph needs to have a huge night shooting the ball; Not to mention Johnathan Loyd and Garrett Sim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Wednesday was national Letter of Intent signing day in college football, and Oregon made one of the bigger splashes of the day by signing 6’8”, 290-pound defensive end Arik Armstead. While the signing was a boon to head football coach Chip Kelly’s strong class, it may also prove to help out Dana Altman and his basketball program as well, since Armstead expects to shift over from the football field to the basketball court once the Ducks’ football season ends (and, if recent history is any indication, that won’t be until January). While football is his top priority, Armstead didn’t even consider going to schools that wouldn’t have offered him the opportunity to play both sports. It remains to be seen how fresh those wheels will be once he’s done being pounded on by Pac-12 offensive linemen for a year, but Armstead could give Altman’s program a midseason boost next year.
  2. In the wake of Kevin Parrom’s broken foot that will cost him the rest of his junior season, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said that the school will attempt to petition the NCAA for an extra season of eligibility. Although Parrom has already played more than the 30% of games on UA’s schedule, making him ineligible for a redshirt season, Miller thinks that the combination of Parrom’s good academic standing, his 14 missed games as a freshman and his hardships this season (Parrom was shot in the leg while visiting his mother in New York City during the fall, just before his mother died of cancer) make him a good candidate for a fifth year. With another year of eligibility remaining, it may be quite a while before a decision is reached, and the odds are good that the NCAA decision will be negative, but Miller thinks this strategy is at least worth a try.
  3. In a season chock full of transfers and dismissals, we found out the next step in the careers of a couple former Pac-12 players in recent days. First, in the next step of a somewhat surprising downfall, former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson was released on Tuesday by BC Zalgiris, a professional team in Lithuania. Nelson averaged 10 minutes per game in six appearances with Zalgiris but contributed just 2.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 28% from the field. Nelson is still eligible for the NBA Draft in June, but the odds that he hears his name called then seem to get slimmer by the day. Meanwhile, former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson has latched on at Providence. Johnson played a grand total of seven minutes in his Arizona career before been suspended by Miller for a violation of team policy and then leaving the team a couple weeks later.
  4. C.J. Wilcox is expected to be full-steam ahead for Washington’s matchup with UCLA on Thursday night, according to head coach Lorenzo Romar. Wilcox played 26 minutes last Saturday against Arizona after getting ten minutes against Arizona State on Thursday, his first game back after missing three with a stress fracture in his hip. For now, the plan is for Wilcox to skip practices during the week while playing in games, a similar scenario to the way Romar handled Brandon Roy in 2004-05 when he was recovering from knee surgery.
  5. Lastly, it may have been lost in the final outcome on Sunday, but Stanford’s redshirt freshman center, Stefan Nastic, turned in his best game of his career, scoring a career-high 11 points in a 19-minute effort that was by far also his longest stint of the year. Nastic played five games early last season and looked to be a promising prospect before breaking a bone in his foot and missing the rest of the season. Then he got sick at the start of this season and struggled to get started at the outset of the year. But now the seven-footer has put in his ticket for an increased role and could turn into an impact player for Johnny Dawkins.
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 1st, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 12th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 17-5 (7-2): The Golden Bears hold steady at number one after dispatching rival Stanford on Sunday night, 69-59. Sophomore guard Allen Crabbe led Cal with 18 points. The Bears are currently tied for first in the real conference standings with Washington, a team they beat two weeks ago. Up Next: 2/2 vs. Arizona

2. Stanford, 15-6 (5-4): Despite the aforementioned loss for the Cardinal, Stanford slides into Oregon‘s spot for a couple of reasons. One, California is slightly better than Oregon State, and two, the Cardinal’s loss came on the road while Oregon’s was at home. At this point, I don’t see either the Cardinal or Ducks pulling an at-large bid into the NCAA’s. Up Next: 2/2 vs. Arizona State

Senior forward/center Josh Owens leads Stanford with 12.9 PPG. (Credit: Paul Sakuma)

3. Oregon, 15-6 (6-3): The Ducks fall to number three after an embarrasing loss to rival Oregon State on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena. The Beavers would trail by as many as ten before mounting a huge comeback midway thru the second half. The run put Oregon State up by as many as 12, and despite great efforts from Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim, the Ducks would never completely close the gap. The final result was a five-point victory for the Beavers, knocking the Ducks to one game back in the Pac-12 standings and moving the Beavs into solid contention for an NIT bid. Up Next: 2/2 @ Utah

4. Washington, 14-7 (7-2): The Huskies moved into a tie for first in the real conference standings this week, which is good enough for a two-spot jump in this week’s power rankings. After a lackluster 60-54 win in Tempe on Thursday, the Huskies went into the McKale Center looking for first place and a signature win to add to their tournament résumé. They got it. The Dawgs were able to build a double-digit lead after playing a tight 26 minutes of basketball, but the Cats would come storming back, in similar fashion as they did against Oregon. In the end it was C.J. Wilcox who saved the day for Washington as the sophomore put home a pair of free throws with five seconds left to build the lead and final result back up to two. Up Next: 2/2 vs. UCLA

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012

  1. We’re now officially halfway through the conference season (man, does time ever fly) and after nine games we’ve got a tie at the top of the conference, with both California and Washington sitting at 7-2. For much of the season, the Huskies have been considered a significant disappointment, underachieving despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-12. But this weekend, they scored a huge road win at Arizona in front of a prime-time ESPN audience, capping a sweep of the Arizona schools and earning what is their most impressive road victory of the season. But, as is typical of the Huskies, it seems, it didn’t come easy. At the final media timeout, the U-Dub held a 62-52 lead on the Wildcats and appeared to be coasting. But, turnovers, missed free throws, blown layups and porous defense (not to mention a healthy helping of Solomon Hill) found the game tied up with nine seconds left after a Hill three. But, following the three, freshman guard Josiah Turner was called for a blocking foul in the backcourt, some 60 feet from the basket, with just five seconds left, sending C.J. Wilcox, a 90% free throw shooter to the line. He made both of them, but Turner had redemption on his mind, driving the length of the court in the final seconds, getting all the way to the cup, only to have his shot blocked by Washington freshman Tony Wroten at the buzzer. The last time these two teams played in Tucson, it was Zona’s Derrick Williams rejecting Darnell Gant in the closing moments to seal the win for UA. The loss sends Arizona two back of the leaders in the conference, and cements them in a situation where they will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to earn their 27th NCAA Tournament invitation in the last 28 years. Furthermore, they’ll have to do so without junior forward Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in the game and is out the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Huskies are tied for first place, and if nothing else, at least are in the conversation for an at-large tournament bid, even if their overall resume is lacking.
  2. California earned its spot at the top of the midway standings by knocking off rival Stanford Sunday night, using a 20-9 run in the middle of the second half to put the Cardinal away. But senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who had a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points on the night, said the game with Stanford wasn’t necessarily a rivalry game, claiming that the Golden Bears just want to win games regardless of who they’re playing. Nevertheless, the win not only keeps Cal in first place, but it knocks the Cardinal down a peg; they’re sitting at 5-4 in the conference, two games back of the leaders.
  3. Oregon now sits a game back of Cal and Washington, after blowing a nine-point second half lead and seeing their rival Oregon State run away from them with a blistering offensive performance in the second stanza. The Beavers scored 53 points, shot a 66.1% eFG and hit five of their seven three-point attempts after the half, led by junior guard Jared Cunningham who had 24 of his 27 points after the break. The win brings OSU back within a game of .500 in conference play and marks the team’s first road win in conference play. They’ll get a chance to bolster their road chops next week with a trip to the Rockies for games with Colorado and Utah.
  4. Speaking of Colorado, they’re tied with Oregon a game back of the conference leaders, but they’re coming off a shellacking by UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday in which the Buffs’ struggles on the road were highlighted. They’ve won just one conference road game in the first half of the schedule, and that was against a struggling USC team, so they’ll have to find a way to earn some road wins the rest of the way if they want to remain among the conference leaders, a task easier said than done with trips to the Oregon and Arizona schools still remaining. As for the Bruins, they’re in a pack along with Arizona and Stanford of talented teams sitting a couple games back of the conference leaders. However, much like those other two teams, they’re in win-the-Pac-12-tourney-or-else mode.
  5. Lastly, back to those Trojans for a second, as they got the job done this weekend for the first time in conference play, knocking off Utah on Saturday. Maurice Jones and Garrett Jackson each scored 16 points (the total a career-high for Jackson), freshman Byron Wesley handed out seven assists and junior Greg Allen hit three threes as Kevin O’Neill’s club broke a nine-game losing streak. But, the news was not all good for the Trojans, as sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon tore the MCL in his left knee during the team’s loss to Colorado on Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season. Dedmon’s injury means that the Trojans have now lost five different players to season-ending injuries.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

  1. One of the running themes of life in the Pac-12 this season has been important players leaving their teams, for one reason or another, in the middle of the season. There have been dismissals, academic problems, and abrupt transfers, and there have been enough of them to put together a pretty strong team: try Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Reeves Nelson and Richard Solomon on for size. Aside from the debilitating headache any coach immediately suffers upon so much as seeing those five names together, that’s an awful lot of talent that has disappeared from Pac-12 rosters just since the start of the season.
  2. Along those same lines, UCLA has been hurt by transfers more than any other Pac-12 program. Currently, former Bruins Drew Gordon, Mike Moser, Chace Stanback, and Matt Carlino are playing – and excelling – at other Division I programs. Throw in J’Mison Morgan, who is redshirting at Baylor after playing limited minutes there last season, and Nelson, who turned pro in Europe rather than transfer, and the Bruins have had a significant talent drain. BruinsNation goes through all the transfers and looks at the causes and effects of the decisions of these players to transfer out of Ben Howland’s program.
  3. As an antidote for the above two stories which may leave a bad taste in your mouth, we turn to a great story about California center Robert Thurman, a former walk-on who is making a big impact for the Golden Bears in the wake of Solomon’s academic ineligibility. Against Washington on Thursday night, the “Thurmanator” posted career-highs of 16 points and seven rebounds helping Cal spring the road upset. Coming into the year, Thurman didn’t expect to have much of a role on this team beyond just working hard in practice, but going forward he will be an important piece on the Bear team.
  4. When Washington visits Arizona State tonight, both teams will have key players regarded as questionable for action. For the homestanding Sun Devils, Trent Lockett has missed the two games after spraining an ankle early in the second half against Oregon State a couple weeks back, and although he is making progress, there is no new update on his status. For the Huskies. C.J. Wilcox has missed U-Dub’s last three games with a stress fracture in his hip. He’ll go through some tests prior to the game on Thursday and will be a game-time decision, based largely on the amount of pain he feels, but may remain out until the Huskies head to Tucson on Saturday.
  5. Lastly, a little something that has little or no effect on the play on the court: snazzy new uniforms for Arizona. Nike announced on Wednesday that they had created new uniforms for nine programs who have won national championships (Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Syracuse along with the women’s teams from Baylor and Connecticut) that those teams will wear at specially selected games this season. Arizona will wear their “Hyper Elite Platinum” unis at home against UCLA on February 25.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: California @ Washington

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

California @ Washington, January 19, 5:30 PM PST, ROOT Northwest

The Golden Bears head north to Washington tonight in a battle that should help sort out the pecking order at the top of the conference, and both teams come into the big game a little bit shorthanded. For Cal, they’ve lost sophomore forward Richard Solomon for the remainder of the season when he was declared academically ineligible, while the Huskies will be without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, whose absence is a little less final – he’s out in the short-term with a stress fracture in his hip. But there are still plenty of talented players on either end of the court who should make this an exciting game.

Washington won both games in this series last season, and by an average of over 31 points per game, so this Golden Bear team which is made up of much the same personnel, will need to prove they can hang with the Huskies’ up-tempo style. Last year, the two games between these teams averaged 75.5 possessions per game (with Washington averaging 1.33 points per possession in those games), and this year Mike Montgomery’s team has struggled in uptempo games again. So far this season, Cal has only played in four games that featured more than 70 possessions, and they’ve lost three of those – and by an average of over 20 points per game.

Mike Montgomery, California

Mike Montgomery And California Will Need To Keep The Tempo Slow Against Washington (photo credit: Associated Press)

Given that the Bears are so guard-oriented, it is surprising that they struggle so much in the open court, but really, athleticism is not the strength of this team. Defensively, they like to lock you down in the halfcourt, pack it in and make you take tough shots over their defense. They’ve got enough size on the perimeter to challenge three-point shooters, and they send all five players to the defensive glass. Offensively, they don’t really have any one player that can break down a defender on a consistent basis, but their guards – Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, especially – are excellent from long range, while Jorge Gutierrez is a guy who just seems to get it done anywhere on the floor. And they even get Brandon Smith back after several missed games due to a concussion.

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