Nigel Williams-Goss (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
SEATTLE - Special situations require special action, and that's what Lorenzo Romar did Sunday night. Washington's Head Men's Basketball Coach went to his special teams and they delivered big, helping the Huskies to a 92-80 win over Eastern Washington in game two of the 2K Sports Classic, held Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss led the Huskies with 22 points, while Perris Blackwell added 16 points and 11 rebounds, and C.J. Wilcox 15 in the Huskies' winning effort.
Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey led all scorers with 28 points.
"I liked our effort in the second half…I just liked the way we competed," Romar said. "When we compete…I know it's obvious, but we're a much better team. When we've put forth the effort, we've done a decent job. When we haven't we've looked putrid. That's something you can control, your effort. Our guys recognize that. This is something we can build on, that effort."
The Eagles got off to a red-hot start, jumping out to a 48-39 halftime lead, led by Harvey's 20 points on 5-8 shooting from three-point range.
With 12:30 remaining in the game and EWU up 64-55, Romar brought Wilcox back in the game for forward Shawn Kemp. That gave Washington a lineup of five 'smaller' players on the floor - Wilcox, Williams-Goss, Darin Johnson, Andrew Andrews, and Mike Anderson.
It was a group the UW coaches figured they'd be able to go to in special situations - but that was before they lost Desmond Simmons until December and Jernard Jarreau for the year with knee issues. Those two injuries completely changed the game plan, and subsequently Washington's plan of attack.
"When we went small we were able to switch the ball screens," said Romar. "We did the same thing against Seattle U. There was no one that couldn't guard a guard or a big guy because all of them were like sized. That allowed us to get more stops.
For the next three minutes they hassled the Eagles defensively and went 9-9 from the free throw line to bring the deficit to four after an Andrews and-one. During that same stretch the Huskies were also able to get the partisan crowd behind them.
Overall, Washington shot 34 free throws and made 31 of them. "The way fouls are being called, if you're making your free throws it definitely helps," Romar said. "We made one three, they made 11; that's 10 points right there. We got them back at the foul line."
By that time, Washington had also been so aggressive they had push Eastern into foul trouble. They made it into the bonus by the 13:35 mark of the second quarter, and double-bonus with 10:52 remaining in the game. When they weren't getting to the foul line, they were getting points in the paint via layin. The Huskies finished with 44 points inside, yet only 20 of those points were scored by their bigs - that meant a lot of dribble penetration and attacking of the basket.
"Coach Romar said, 'This is where it comes to our advantage, being able to attack 'em and get to the free throw line with that new rule'," said Wilcox.
No one was more aggressive than Williams-Goss, who finished the night 9-15 from the field and 4-5 from the stripe.
"Coach Romar preaches attack, attack, attack - offensively and defensively," Williams-Goss said. "We've bought into the mindset that we're going to put pressure on the defense for 40 minutes and when you do that you see the results."
Williams-Goss tied the game at 70 with 8:53 to go in the game and then continued to pressure the Eagles' defense, getting an and-one a minute later and then another layin the next trip down the floor to put the Alaska Airlines Arena crowd in a frenzy.
"Nigel showed tonight why he's been a part of so many wins," said Romar. "He just had a determined look about him tonight. He was so efficient with the basketball, constantly chattering, constantly lifting guys up, constantly instructing. That's what a floor general does."
At that point others joined in. Andrews chipped in with a couple layups and Johnson accounted for four of his 12 points to salt UW's lead away.
"When we went small and we got some stops, that energized us," said Romar. "Darin Johnson, Mike Anderson and Hikeem Stewart came off the bench and gave us a big lift. When those guys came in we had a little more energy. That allowed us to stay fairly close until that second half when we were able to make our move."
Points: Williams-Goss 22, Blackwell 16, Wilcox 15, Johnson 12, Andrews 11, Anderson 7, Stewart 5, Kemp 4
Rebounds: Blackwell 11, Wilcox 8, TEAM 8, Willliams-Goss 6, Anderson 6, Johnson 4, Andrews 2, Stewart 2, Dierickx 1
Assists: Williams-Goss 5, Wilcox 3, Andrews 2, Johnson 1
Steals: Williams-Goss 3, Andrews 3, Wilcox 1, Johnson 1
Blocks: Kemp 2, Blackwell 1, Wilcox 1, Johnson 1, Anderson 1