Desmond Simmons told the TNT earlier in the week that he would be ready fro Brock Motum when Saturday rolled around. He said it with deference to Motum's multiple offensive skills, but also with a forward-looking confidence.
And, come Saturday, he fronted, trailed, tracked and fronted Motum some more in Washington's 68-63 win at Washington State.
The Cougars like to move Motum to the elbows and even the center of the foul line to run some high-post style actions through him. They also like to post him off the ball after he sets two screens.
Simmons snuffed out all of that, particularly in the first half. Motum's only two hoops at halftime were tip-ins. Otherwise, he was 0-for-4 from the field.
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The Huskies needed every little bit of it after blowing a 17-point first-half lead. Two big-time jumpers by Scott Suggs pulled them in front twice in the last 2:38. To be blunt, Suggs stunk in the first half. He was jogging to spots and just looked off. He played little until C.J. Wilcox was so gassed he had to come out.
But, Suggs struck at crucial times. Both jumpers were contested and his layup on the break capped three consecutive hoops for him in a 1:38 span at the end of the game.
“I was very pleased with his mental resolve when the game wore down,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He still had the mindset, ‘I’m still going to be aggressive,’ and he hit shots for us.”
As did Andrew Andrews and Aziz N'Diaye. N'Diaye finished 7-for-9 from the field. Four of his hoops were off offensive rebounds.
But, not much of that would have mattered if Simmons didn't slow Motum. In order to get away with fronting Motum all night, Simmons had to believe he would have help over the top if necessary. He also had to be made aware of pending screens and cutters he couldn't see. He said his teammates did a good job of talking to him in at times boisterous Beasley Coliseum.
"I knew they were going to have my back. We talked about it in scout practices," Simmons said. "I had all the confidence in them. They let me get out and deny and pretty much not let him catch it."
He also said that wasn't happening much earlier in the season.
Motum received little help all night, and the image of his solo work was personified when he was the only Washington State player left to speak with the media. He sat alone in front of reporters answering questions. Motum was 6-for-13. His teammates shot 34.1 percent.
More thoughts on what was an important win for Washington to open Pac-12 play:
> C.J. Wilcox had a solid all-around night. He scored 18 points, had seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. He also turned it over five times. Wilcox was clearly gassed well prior to the end of the game. He even admitted as much afterward. He scored 13 points and had six boards at halftime. Others had to step up in the second half and did.
> Lost in the shuffle here will be a pretty hard-nosed game from Abdul Gaddy. He was in the fight much of the night and finished with nine points, five assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. One interesting move from Gaddy was when he faked the UCLA cut and stepped back to come open for a clean 3 that Washington desperately needed.
> Washington went zone at different points in the game. Here's Romar's explanation for it: "When Desmond was out of the game, we didn’t feel that we had plan B to defend Brock Motum."
> Andrew Andrews has a lot of basketball killer lurking inside of him, and Washington needs it. Here's what he said about taking free throws late in a tight game: "When the crowd starts cheering, it kind of makes me want to make them even more. That kind of stuff doesn’t really bother me. It just makes me kind of mad."
Also of note was all the playing time Andrews received down the stretch in place of Gaddy. Gaddy was standing in front of the bench cheering everyone on as the game wound down while Andrews was effective at the line and otherwise. That's a win-win for the Huskies if a senior isn't going to sulk in that situation and his replacement plays well.
> Washington played just seven players, again because of Motum. Jernard Jarreau did not play because Washington did not want to match him against Motum. He'll be back in the rotation next week.
> A word about the refs: I'm loathe to blame officials for much. It's typically an excuse or cop-out to do so. Each game, no matter the sport, is made up of so many plays, that I always assess responsibility for outcomes to players. If a team loses by one point, the bad play in the first half is just as important as the bad play in the second. That said, the officials were poor Saturday night for both teams. Calling fouls is a difficult and subjective thing. Yet, when Abdul Gaddy went to the foul line with eight seconds left and Washington up 66-63, everyone except the officials realized it was an one-and-one situation. Gaddy missed the first, but Washington State rebounded the ball and handed it to the ref since it was told Gaddy was at the line for two shots. The refs realized their mistake, then settled on using the possession arrow to determine what happened next (don't get me started on the possession arrow). Luckily, the possession arrow was in favor of the Cougars, who would have rebounded the miss with no resistance had the officials correctly handled the free throws, since Washington had pulled its players out of the lane (another thing I think is a mistake. Even if you don't want your guys to chase the board, I think free-throw shooters like everyone lined up like normal when they shoot). Things like that can't happen in Div. I basketball.