Darnell Gant (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
SEATTLE - The Saint Louis game showed the Washington Huskies aren't early risers, but South Dakota State set the Huskies' clock back a few hours more. While UW was hitting the snooze button, the Jackrabbits were running circles around them, eventually beating the Huskies 92-73 in front of 9060 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena.
With the loss, Washington (5-5) saw their 32-game home non-conference winning streak snapped. They took this game to see how their young team would fare with a quick 36-hour turnaround - especially after a hard-fought 87-80 win over UC-Santa Barbara - very much like what they would see during the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. And the coaches clearly had reason to throw this test at their team, because they weren't sure how their youngsters would react. They didn't react well at all.
"We got an adrenaline win, I think, against Santa Barbara, and it’s always been a rule of thumb with us, as a staff, just knowing that if you go seven or eight days in a row, it’s going to catch up with you," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "You need to somehow back off. I spoke before the game, to several people about our lack of energy. I spoke to our team concerning our lack of energy and [said] we better be ready to go. I thought that was only one of our issues today. That’s not to discredit what South Dakota State did. They were very, very good today."
Led by the 34 points of Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (10-4) made their first three-pointer one minute into the game, and UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar immediately called time out. He clearly sensed the team's lack of energy was going to kill UW's effort, as the Jackrabbits made their first seven treys of the day, the last of that string coming with 11:29 remaining in the first half.
"I saw it at 8:30 this morning when we met for our pre-game meal," Romar said when asked about sensing the team's lack of energy. "You know you’re team, you know the look in their eyes. You know when they just lack [energy]. I don’t think they’ve ever seen highlights on Sportscenter of South Dakota State and subconsciously, sometimes that can play in effect. We do all we can as coaches to try to make sure we understand that this team is better than we might think. We tried to help our team understand how good of a basketball player Nate Wolters was. Bottom line is, [with] energy or no energy, this is unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen."
By then SDSU was up 19 and they never looked back. They looked nothing like the Jackrabbits team that lost by 19 to North Dakota Thursday.
"We played much more like a team, we shared the ball, we got open shots, you know, we’re a good shooting team when we can do that," SDSU Head Coach Scott Nagy said. "We were very patient. I think what it did to them is it really made them work defensively. They’re a pressure team and they have got to chase and run through screens, and chase and run through screens, and it kind of wore them down. And making shots like that can cut the heart out of anybody.
There was no phase of Washington's game that wasn't either out-of-sync or gone altogether; SDSU out-shot UW 55 to 41 percent from the field and 63 to 28 percent from three. The Huskies' Terrence Ross, who had 16 points in Washington's Friday-night win over UCSB, fouled out with 11:53 left in the second half. The sophomore from Portland scored six points, hauled down two rebounds, and turned the ball over three times.
The Huskies, down 18 at half, tried to make a run. Freshman guard Tony Wroten's dunk with 16:36 left helped catalyze an extended run that thinned the Jackrabbits' lead to 11. But Wolters - who had 13 of his points via the free-throw line - led SDSU calmly through the storm, and pushed the lead back up to 19 with 4:02 left in the game after two made from the stripe.
Wroten led the Huskies for the second-straight game with 23 points. He also started his second-straight game Sunday. Senior forward Darnell Gant added 15 points and 10 rebounds, his first career double-double. C.J. Wilcox chipped in 12, the only other Washington player in double figures.
"That was a very impressive basketball team that we faced today," Romar said. "Nate Wolters is a very impressive guard. It’s interesting – I’ve never seen his name on any of these mock drafts. I know he’s a pretty good basketball player. With that being said, I don’t care who we play. We don’t lose like we did today at home. It’s just unacceptable… unacceptable. I had a concern before the game began that we potentially might lack energy."
So was this the best win in the history of SDSU basketball? "I don’t know," Nagy said after the game. "Probably, I try not to categorize them. The North Dakota loss, I don’t think of it as a good loss or a bad loss. All losses are bad losses. All wins are good wins. I think for our program and notoriety, this is certainly one of them."
Points: Wroten 23, Gant 15, Wilcox 12, Simmons 8, Gaddy 7, Ross 6, Breunig 2
Rebounds: Simmons 11, Gant 10, Wroten 4, Wilcox 3, Breunig 3, Ross 2, TEAM 1
Assists: Gaddy 7, Wroten 3, Wilcox 3, Simmons 1
Steals: Gaddy 1, Wroten 1
Blocks: Gant 1, Gaddy 1, Ross 1