It was ugly like the first meeting just not as close – although in the end the score might appear that way.
The Arizona State Sun Devils need to make basketball games as ugly as possible to have any sort of chance to win. And being good hosts, the Washington Huskies felt kind enough to help ASU’s cause on more than few occasions.
But after storming to an 18-point lead at halftime, the Huskies had plenty of second-half wiggle room. So despite playing indifferently after the break, Washington still prevailed, 77-69, Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Should it have been a wider margin than eight points?
Without a doubt, but the Huskies played like a team that wanted to put the game on fast-forward and move ahead to Saturday’s showdown with Arizona.
“We played well the first half, we played bad had in the second half,” junior point guard Abdul Gaddy said. “It’s simple really. We just got bored with success and tried to get the game over with.”
It might not have been convincing, but it kept Washington tied with California atop the Pacific-12 standings. The Golden Bears rallied to defeat Oregon, 86-83, to also improve to 11-3 in conference play.
There was no such drama in the UW’s win. Unlike their 60-54 win over ASU (8-18 overall, 4-10 Pacific-12 Conference) in Tempe, Ariz., the Huskies (18-8) were able to get a lead and stretch it against the Sun Devils’ zone defense.
Washington turned a 13-13 tie early in the first half into a 44-26 halftime lead.
A healthy C.J. Wilcox helped. In the previous matchup, Wilcox was playing his first game after a three-week layoff because of a stress fracture in his femur. He looked rusty and didn’t make a field goal in 10 minutes of play.
On Thursday, Wilcox scored 14 points, including nine in that big burst.
“It helps immensely,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “When he sat out those three weeks, he didn’t play or practice. He’s now playing twice a week and he’s getting his rhythm back.”
Against a zone defense, the threat of Wilcox burying a 3-point shot commands attention. Defenders have to be aware of where he is on the floor at all times. And that helps open up lanes to get the ball inside.
“It’s good to see him knocking down shots, it’s what he does best,” Gaddy said. “We need him to win games.”
The Huskies hit just one 3-pointer in the pervious matchup with Ross and Wilcox failing to sink one from long range. On Thursday, they were 8-for-25 from 3-point range.
The first half – save for the 10 turnovers – was one of the better halves of basketball that Washington played this season. The Huskies shot 61 percent (19-for-31), scoring inside and outside.
The best sequence came when Gaddy and Wilcox buried back-to-back 3-pointers and then senior Darnell Gant scored nine points in the span of three minutes. He scored inside on a nice pass from Gaddy, sank two free throws, buried a 3-pointer from the corner and then threw down a vicious put-back dunk to give the Huskies a 42-24 lead.
“I just was trying to get in and guys were finding me,” Gant said.
And the dunk?
“I tried to put a little extra on it,” he said.
Even with Aziz N’Diaye giving the Huskies a bit of scare after leaving the court when he banged knees with an opponent, the players were all smiles coming out of halftime.
“I thought we attacked their zone as well as we ever have playing against them,” Romar said.
The smiles were quickly erased as they slogged their way through a second half, looking disinterested defensively and impatient offensively.
“We lost focus and didn’t handle that lead the way we should have,” Romar said. “I didn’t like the way we ended the game.”
ASU outscored Washington 43-33 in the second half, shooting 58.3 percent from the field and shot 6-for-11 from 3-point range.
“Defensively we had too many lapses,” Romar said. “Just as good as effort as needed.”
Romar tried to call multiple timeouts to break them out of the funk, but it didn’t work.
“It’s hard to get out,” Gaddy said. “It’s like turning a switch on. And you can’t play like that because you can’t suddenly turn the switch on every time. It was immature of us. We can bounce back from it.”
Ross finished with a team-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers. N’Diaye had 12 points and four rebounds despite the sore wrist. Gaddy had three points and a season-high eight assists.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports