Tony Wroten (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
SEATTLE – Three parties failed to show up Saturday night to the USC-Washington basketball game - the referees, the scoreboard - and especially the Trojans. USC only managed 41 points, the refs spent more time at the scorer’s table instead of letting the game flow, and the hanging jumbotron at center court was mostly out of commission.
While the Huskies didn’t play a well-polished game, they imposed their will in the second half on an under-manned USC squad, expanding a 10-point halftime lead into a 28-point win, courtesy of an 18-0 run.
The 69-41 victory moves the first place Dawgs to 16-7 overall and 9-2 in conference play, while USC drops to 1-10 in conference and 6-18 overall. The 41 points given up by the Huskies are the fewest they have allowed since February 10, 1996 when they knocked off Oregon State by the score of 50-40.
Washington’s defense set the tone from the get-go, forcing USC into shooting under 30 percent from the field for the game. The Trojans were content to cast away from the outside, only scoring five points outside the paint, including an abysmal 1-16 mark from three-point range. Washington wasn't really any better at 2-14 from behind the arc, but their defensive intensity and 42 points from inside the paint.
“I thought we played pretty good defense,” said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. “I thought we closed out quite a bit and contested a lot of their shots. We did a pretty good job of containing Maurice Jones – he’s a tough cover.”
Multiple times this season, coach Romar explained that the opposing team is not as bad as their record may indicate – USC would be hard-pressed to live up to even those meager expectations based on their play on Saturday. The Trojans could have used a few more horses Saturday night as they only suited up six scholarship players. Washington took full advantage of the mismatch, out-rebounding USC 52-23 and out-scoring the Trojan bench 29-0. Terrence Ross put in overtime on the glass, tying a career high with 14 rebounds to go along with 10 points for his fifth double-double of the season.
“Terrence Ross didn’t go off for one of his typical nights, but he pulled down 14 rebounds. It’s another indication that you’re alert and in the game,” said Romar, who praised his sophomore guard/forward.
Even though many of the statistics were wildly in Washington’s favor, the game was ugly - mostly in part due to USC’s deliberate style. “They slowed it down a lot and they tried to run a lot of clock,” said Darnell Gant, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds. “They tried to slow it down and we’re an up-tempo team. When you play teams like that they lull you to sleep and sometimes we get caught standing and not moving around. In the second half we did a better job of adjusting and moving the ball around.”
There was some question of whether star freshman guard Tony Wroten would play against the Trojans, and on Friday Romar put his chances of playing at 50/50. When asked if he was not going to play, Wroten would have given a different answer.
“No," Wroten said, matter-of-factly. "I always want to play, but in the end you have to look at the big picture and if I was unable to play I wouldn’t have played. But I knew coming in that if I knew I could play at least a little bit then I would play.”
Wroten ended up having one of his more efficient games of the season, finishing with 13 points on 5-9 shooting, eight assists, six rebounds, and a career low one turnover. During his last two games, Wroten shot 8-9 from the free-throw line, a strong move in the right direction from his .567 season average from the stripe. In the post-game press conference it was widely apparent that Romar, being a former point guard himself, appreciated Wroten’s performance
“I thought Tony played like a veteran out there tonight," his head coach stated. "It was good to see that.”
Going forward, the Huskies will play five of their final seven conference games on the road, and Romar thinks the team is prepared to handle the confines away from Alaska Airlines Arena.
“It’s been a work in progress for a while," he said. "When I looked at the big picture with our schedule, and I saw that we were home-game heavy earlier in the schedule, I thought, with our team, that’s exactly what we needed because I thought we might be able to trick a couple of teams until we started to get better. If this would have been reversed, if we would have had five out of seven on the road early, our record would be far different because we weren’t ready for that. But now I think we’re a little more prepared to handle what we’re about to face. I’m not making any predictions; I just think we’re a little more prepared to handle it.”
Points: Wroten 13, Ross 10, N’Diaye 9, Gant 8, Kemp 6, Gaddy 6, Seferian-Jenkins 5, Breunig 4, Wilcox 4, Simmons 2, Stewart 2
Rebounds: Ross 14, Gant, 7, Wroten 6, N’Diaye 5, Gaddy 4, Simmons 4, Seferian-Jenkins 3, Wilcox 3, Breunig 1, Kemp 1, Sherrer 1, TEAM 3
Assists: Wroten 8, Gaddy 6, Breunig 1, N’Diaye 1, Sherrer 1
Steals: Ross 2, Wilcox 2, Simmons 1
Blocks: Wilcox 2, Breunig 1, N’Diaye 1, Ross 1