Terrence Ross (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
SEATTLE - The question wasn't whether the Washington Huskies would beat UT-Arlington Tuesday night; it was whether they would bother to show up at all. After a sluggish start, the No. 1 seed Huskies eventually took control and downed the No. 8 seed Mavericks in the first round of the 75th National Invitation Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena in front of a crowd of 2801 fans.
Washington (22-10) will now host No. 4 seed Northwestern (19-13) Friday night at 7 pm PT, who defeated Akron 76-74.
The Huskies' lack of effort was readily apparent at times; they were out-rebounded 37-27, and they were out-hustled 12-0 in second-chance points in the first half. But despite their flaws they managed to rally in the second half and pull out the first round victory.
The game was neck and neck until the last 7:14 of the game, when Washington went on a 9-0 run to finish off the visiting Mavericks after they tried to stymie the Huskies with a full-court trapping defense that the Oregon State Beavers have used against UW from time to time.
Terrence Ross led the way with 23 points, his sixth 20-point game of the season. The rest of the supporting cast chipped in evenly, as C.J. Wilcox had 15 points, Darnell Gant poured in 13 points, Abdul Gaddy had 10, and Tony Wroten finished with nine points. Gant had his second double-double of the year with 10 boards to go with his 13 points.
Lamarcus Reed and Bo Ingram paced the scoring for UT-Arlington (24-9), as they combined for 37 of their 72 points.
The Dawgs allowed Texas Arlington to remain in the game because they were out-physicaled, especially on the glass. UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar warned the team that the Mavericks were a scrappy team, but the feeling clearly never sank in until late in the contest. The difference came when Austin Seferian-Jenkins was inserted into the game after Aziz N’Diaye picked up his fourth foul on a controversial call with 15:35 remaining.
UW changed to a 2-3 zone to protect their front court, and the physicality of Seferian-Jenkins definitely made a difference, as he was able to help the Washington defense hold UTA to six points in the paint during his stretch of playing time.
The Mavericks’ aggressiveness toward getting into the lane frustrated the Huskies all night as they allowed 36 points in the paint and 22 free throw attempts. With the zone in place however, Texas Arlington settled for more jump shots, which proved to be there downfall as they finished 5-21 from three-point range.
Offensively, the Huskies clicked all night, hitting on an astounding 68 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half. They shot 57 percent for the game. The offense was able to flow freely as everyone was involved, indicated by the balance in scoring (four players in double-figures) and an 18-assist team performance.
Washington will now have to refocus in order to beat a good team in Northwestern, as they travel to Seattle to play the Dawgs Friday in the second round of the NIT. The Wildcats beat Michigan State earlier this season, and their slow and deliberate play can give any team fits.
Points: Ross 23, Wilcox 15, Gant 13, Gaddy 10, Wroten 9, N'Diaye 7, Simmons 3, Seferian-Jenkins 2
Rebounds: Gant 10, Ross 5, Wilcox 4, TEAM 3, N'Diaye 2, Wroten 1, Simmons 1, Seferian-Jenkins 1
Assists: Wroten 8, Gaddy 6, Wilcox 2, Ross 1, Simmons 1
Steals: Wroten 2, Ross 1, Wilcox 1
Blocks: Ross 2, N'Diaye 1, Wroten 1, Kemp 1