"I've said for quite some time - none of us have to have our best our game of the year," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "We just have to play to the level we're capable of. If we're all doing that on the same night I think we can be really, really competitive with anyone. We just haven't had consistency with that this year. I think we're getting close to the way we want to play basketball. I thought we pushed the ball, but I'd like to see us push the ball a little better. We got some easy baskets but I'd like to see us do that more consistently."
Suggs tied his career-high for made threes in a game with five and both he and Wilcox were 11-12 from the free throw line the final 5:28 to seal the win for Washington (16-13, 8-8). Abdul Gaddy added nine points and six assists for the Huskies. It was Suggs' deadeye three from the top of the key with 13:40 left that catalyzed the Huskies' charge back from an eight-point deficit.
"I think I've found a little bit more of a rhythm and am playing with more intensity," Suggs said of his play these past two games. "I talked with coach Romar a couple weeks ago - playing with more intensity is the biggest thing. It seems like I play better when I'm playing harder."
Washington State (11-18, 2-14) were led by the 18 points apiece of Brock Motum and Royce Woolridge. D.J. Shelton added 11 points and DaVonte Lacy 10 for the Cougars.
Washington State got off to a hot start in both halves, scoring the first five points in the game and an 11-1 run the first 1:23 of the second half. But in the clutch it was turnovers that killed the Cougars when they needed composure. Washington ended up scoring 25 points off of 18 WSU miscues.
"I thought our guys did some good things," WSU Head Coach Ken Bone told the media post-game. "There were some good minutes of basketball that I thought our guys played. But at the end of the day we didn't take care of business down the stretch. Washington made plays and we didn't. We played hard, but at the end we made mistakes - on the offensive end especially - that were critical mistakes and gave Washington a good opportunity to have more possessions than we had, and that makes it difficult to win ball games."
The death blow for Washington State came with 43 seconds left after Gaddy gifted the Cougars with the ball in-bounds under their own basket with a blown full-court pass of his own. Sophomore DaVonte Lacy was pressured into an in-bounds pass late into the five-count, and it went right to Washington's Shawn Kemp, Jr., who quickly passed the ball to Wilcox - who was fouled. The junior guard converted both attempts to give Washington a 70-63 advantage they never relinquished.
"We had a couple of different options…the first option was Brock," Bone said of the fatal in-bounds mistake. "The second option was to Royce and I think Washington defended it pretty well. They took away those options that we had and the five seconds went quick. Before you know it he had to throw the ball in."
It was Suggs and Wilcox who kept the Huskies repeatedly in the game, scoring six of the first seven points in the final 20 minutes. And after UW was 2-6 from the stripe with eight minutes left to play, they converted 15 of 21 chances from that point on when they needed to most. Desmond Simmons did his part too. The sophomore forward played 27 minutes and put all his energy on the defensive end of the floor in an attempt to limit Motum's effectiveness on WSU's offensive end. He also came up with a couple of big buckets down the stretch.
"Desmond does such a good job defensively…we don't have a whole lot of answers for Brock Motum but Desmond does a good job of limiting his touches," Romar said. "Shawn (Kemp) was inserted into the starting lineup and in the beginning of the game that was his assignment. Brock got off quick and when he gets into a zone he'll score 40 on you, so we made a quick substitution. It wasn't a knock against Shawn as it was a compliment to Desmond. He does a good job. Desmond played 27 minutes and a lot of that had to do with his ability to defend Brock Motum. He can't take him out of the game, but he's our best option so we have to have him in there."
Aziz N'Diaye's effectiveness was limited to 13 minutes, two points and zero rebounds, but Romar said that had more to do with the matchups presented by Washington State more than anything else. "(D.J.) Shelton now is a three-point shooter," Romar said. "He took seven shots and six of them were from three - three of them went in the basket. You've got Motum as the other guy. So Jarreau played 17-18 minutes; Desmond played 27 minutes. It was a matchup issue. The last time we played them, Shelton was not as confident knocking that three down like his is now. As the game progressed we just felt we had to go to that lineup to try to do a better job of defending them."
With two-straight under their belt, the Huskies will try and close strong with home wins over USC and UCLA as they head into post-season play. "We're trying to fight for our lives right now," said Suggs. "We're trying to get to the Pac-12 Tournament with some momentum. The teams that usually go into the tournament with momentum usually tend to do pretty well. How we're playing as of late, that's what our teams tend to do. At the end of the year we find it. We started to find it later this year more than anything, but I'm hoping for the same type of success."
Romar believes the Huskies are getting closer to matching the same kind of form Romar teams are known for late in seasons. "I think we had a few defensive breakdowns, but for the most part we understand what we're doing defensively," he said. "Offensively, barring the first half where I thought early on we were stagnant against the zone and didn't move bodies and didn't move the ball…in the second half we had a better feel. We know where we're going, we know where our shots are coming from and we're not thinking a whole lot. Maybe that's why we're playing better right now and let's hope that can continue. Role definition is important too. I think guys understand now when they are coming in the game; we have our rotations set. I think that's always helpful."
Washington State suffered their ninth-straight loss. "It's hard to lose a game and lose the next game and the next game…that's difficult," Bone said. "But I think the team is handling it well, all things considered. It's not like they are like, 'Hey we lost, but we're okay, we'll be back next game!'. They aren't excited or giddy about it. They'll be back at practice tomorrow, they'll work hard and we'll go out Wednesday and they'll play hard again. They are doing the best they can."
Points: Suggs 23, Wilcox 23, Gaddy 9, Andrews 5, Kemp 4, Jarreau 4, N'Diaye 2, Simmons 2
Rebounds: Simmons 8, Wilcox 5, TEAM 3, Kemp 2, Suggs 2, Andrews 2, Jarreau 2, Gaddy 1
Assists: Gaddy 6, Suggs 2, Wilcox 1, Simmons 1, Jarreau 1
Steals: Wilcox 4, Gaddy 2, Andrews 1, Simmons 1
Blocks: Wilcox 2, Kemp 1, N'Diaye 1