"I knew when Santa Barbara contacted us and wanted to play that they would be a good team," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "They’ve been to the NCAA tournament two years in a row prior to this year. They have some great seniors on their team, and you could see the experience and maturity of the future NBA player Orlando Johnson and that team will probably be in the NCAA tournament."
It was a monumental win for Washington in a couple of ways; first it was head coach Lorenzo Romar's 200th win at UW in 306 games, becoming the second-fastest coach to ever get to 200 wins in UW history. The other guy - Hec Edmundson - just happens to have the building named after him where Washington basketball is played. Edmundson completed the feat in 258 games.
"It’s a blessing that there’s been longevity here," Romar said of the win. "You don’t get any amount of wins and have any success if you don’t have a lot of people around you. From Ken Bone to Cameron Dollar to Paul Fortier, Jim Shaw, Raphael Chillious. The guys that we work with all the time. And Lance LaVetter. We’ve had eight pros play for us. And then Tre Simmons and Hakeem Rollins, guys that were really good that didn’t play in the NBA. We had a lot of good people around us, and when you talk about 200 wins, that’s the reason why. The confidence from our administration has been great. The Dawg Pack as well."
The win also extended the Huskies' non-conference home winning streak to 32 games. Since December of 2004, Washington is 59-3 at home, the three losses coming against Valparaiso, Gonzaga and Pittsburgh at the buzzer. It was also a big win for Washington, who had lost their last three games - all on the road - by a combined total of 11 points. They lost to Nevada by three in overtime, lost to Marquette by two at the end, and lost to Duke by six - the last two games played at Madison Square Garden.
Despite going 19-30 from the free throw line, the Huskies (5-4) went 8-12 after the last media timeout of the game to salt things away. Johnson, who scored a team-high 24 points for the Gauchos (5-3), had the lone points for UCSB down the stretch, where they collectively went 1-6 from the field when they needed points the most.
"[Coach told us] we needed to step up, step up and take charge and told me to guard Orlando, so I just took that and accepted the challenge," UW guard Terrence Ross said. "I guarded him and slowed him down. I’m just happy that I slowed him down."
"Physically I thought we played pretty well, it was the mental part that I wasn’t too pleased with," UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. "We weren’t very sharp mentally, and we just didn’t do the things we needed to do to win the game."
It was a bit of a surprise, as UCSB had out-scored Washington 10-0 the two minutes before, including five points from Johnson and a three-pointer from T.J. Taylor after the Huskies had built up the biggest lead by either team to that point.
"We came back from being down 10 against UNLV in less than two minutes, and we have the ability if we get some stops to put some points on the board rather quickly," Williams said. "We have got enough guys who can shoot the ball well enough that we can put points in a hurry."
A quick five-point Ross flurry put UW up 77-67 with 5:26 left. But Johnson's drive and-one tied the game at 77 - the seventh tie in the game - with 3:30 remaining. It was at that time in the game where the Gauchos' shooting touch failed them and the Huskies put the clamp down on them defensively.
This was a great test for the Huskies, as UCSB had only lost twice, once in overtime to San Diego State, and the other to UNLV in double-overtime. To compound issues, Washington was without their center, Aziz N'diaye, who hurt his knee at the beginning of the second half against the Blue Devils. He's hopefully expected to be back up and practicing by the middle of next week, according to Romar. But the trio of Darnell Gant, Desmond Simmons and Shawn Kemp, Jr. filled in admirably, scoring a combined 20 points and 17 rebounds in 66 total minutes.
"Guys like Desmond Simmons and Darnell Gant, those guys were unsung heroes tonight," Romar said. "Especially Desmond Simmons. Shawn Kemp Jr. didn’t score a point except for his two free throws, but his presence was felt."
And Wroten, who made his first career start Friday after scoring 23 against Duke, did his part, driving to the cup aggressively and relentlessly, often drawing contact and a foul. And when it looked like the frosh from Garfield was content just finding a seam and pushing to the tin, he stepped back and threw up a oops three that went down with 9:30 left to cap off an extended 16-6 run during the middle of the second half after the Gauchos had drawn to their biggest lead of the second half.
"The last two days in practice, I’m not talking about productivity, it looked like he was a junior in college the way he was handling himself in practice – leading, making the right decision, making good plays, really trying to get the other guys pumped up," Romar said of the step-up in Wroten's play. "You can see him going through this learning process. I think he’s getting good grades in his class.”
"They just kept getting to the rim," Williams added. "We couldn’t stop the drive in the second half. They probably had three or four post entries this game, but their paint game is off of the dribble. We didn’t do a good job of stopping them there, and we didn’t do a good job keeping them out of the paint on offensive rebounds."
Wroten's 27 points were the most for a Washington freshman since Isaiah Thomas scored 27 versus Morgan State on Dec. 30, 2008.
“I’m going to give it a 7 because I can’t make free throws right now," Wroten said after the game, rating his own performance. He was 4-9 from the charity stripe. "Once I start making free throws it will come a lot easier because like you have seen at the end of the games I’m not able to be in at the end of the game. I feel like I played good, helped my teammates get the win, but I got to start making free throws.”
Points: Wroten 27, Gaddy 17, Ross 16, Gant 9, Simmons 9, Wilcox 7, Kemp 2
Rebounds: Gant 8, Simmons 8, Wroten 7, Ross 5, Gaddy 2, Wilcox 2, TEAM 2, Kemp 1
Assists: Wilcox 2, Ross 2, Gant 1, Gaddy 1, Wroten 1, Breunig 1
Steals: Wroten 2, Ross 2, Simmons 2, Gant 1, Wilcox 1
Blocks: Wilcox 1, Ross 1, Kemp 1