Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox scored a career-high 24 points – all in the second half – in leading Washington to a 70-63 win over the Bruins tonight before a sellout crowd of 10,000 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
But after the game, Wilcox’s scoring was not the first thing UW coach Lorenzo Romar wanted to talk about.
“I’ll get to C.J. in a second,” Romar began. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well … but tonight in the second half we maintained our defensive focus and our overall focus and intensity and we were able to win a game in spite of not being able to put the ball in the basket the way we usually can.”
That message delivered, Romar turned his praise to Wilcox.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a freshman coming in and playing like C.J. Wilcox did in the second half,” he said. “… Unless he comes in and he’s one of these heralded All-American guys that’s one and done, you rarely see a freshman put a team on his back like he did in the second half.”
Early on, Wilcox was just another offensively bumbling Husky, contributing two misses to the team’s 7-of-33 first-half shooting.
“I was 0-for-2, but you know, the coaches kept harping on me to make open shots,” Wilcox said. “Luckily, they started falling.”
That they did.
Over the next 20 minutes, Wilcox hit seven of eight shots, including four of five 3-pointers. He also drained all six free throws, rarely touching iron.
“It was good to see the ball go in the rim,” he said. “After you’re missing, your confidence kind of drops. But as soon as you see the ball go in you kind of feel like you can make 10 in a row. That’s how it was.”
Wilcox allowed UW to stay with and finally pass the Bruins, who led as late as the final five minutes.UW leading scorer Isaiah Thomas didn’t score until the final four minutes. Second-leading scorer, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, managed seven points; and No. 3 scorer Justin Holiday had five.
However, Thomas rallied for nine points down the stretch, and Romar was quick to point out that the other players contributed in other ways.
“Justin Holiday is 1-for-8, but you look at the other side: Tyler Honeycutt is 0-for-6,” Romar said. “Justin Holiday gets six rebounds and passes for five assists, so he still had an impact on that game in terms of winning. Matthew Bryan-Amaning wasn’t able to convert a lot of times, but he pulled down 13 rebounds and while he was in there battled big Josh Smith, which isn’t easy at all. Venoy Overton was his old self and really, really did a good job of helping us win this game.”
Romar also credited the quiet contributions of Scott Suggs, who returned after missing three games with a knee injury.
Jerime Anderson matched Wilcox trey-for-trey for a portion of the second half and led the Bruins with 16 points. Josh Smith of Kent had a game-high 16 rebounds and added 12 points.
“Our defense played was really good tonight, with the exception of Wilcox,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “… I liked our heart, our character, and the way we played tonight. I think Washington is a very good team that could really do some damage in the NCAA tournament.”
More reaction from players and coaches:
ROMAROn how tonight was different than the loss to WSU on Sunday night) The first half, I thought, was exactly like Sunday, with the exception of the fact that we took a little better care of the basketball. But, in the second half, it was completely different from Sunday because, like I said at the outset, we maintained our focus defensively.JUSTIN HOLIDAYOn C.J. Wilcox’s scoring in the second half)Oh it was real big for us. I think the main key for us winning this game was how we defended, though. It was good that we had C.J. step up and get us points because that was our problem, but it all started on the defensive end. If we didn’t defend we would have lost this game, similar to what happened against Washington State. This game was different in that we got stops both halves and C.J. stepped up for us. C.J. stepping up was big.
On how UCLA was different the second time playing them) They seemed a little more patient. They went inside way more than they did last time. They tried to use Josh [Smith] a lot more and used Reeves [Nelson] a lot more inside, but then Jerime [Anderson] stepped up on the outside and knocked down shots. I thought they’re guard play was a little better this time around.
On guarding Tyler Honeycutt) I was making sure that I was staying in the vicinity when he had the ball. I didn’t get lost this time, except for once when he got that backdoor and the foul. Last time I got lost a couple times on the screens and stuff so I made sure that I stayed near and understood what was going to happen and tried to be there every time he got the ball and put pressure on him—make him have to make a tough shot and I think most of his shots were tough.
VENOY OVERTON On what caused the inspired defensive effort) Probably just watching ESPN a lot, just not knowing if we’re in the tournament or not. It’s our last year, and you don’t want to go out not in the tournament or playing in some other kind of tournament, so after that Washington State game everybody talked and we went back to our last year mode—stop talking about it and go out there and do it. That’s basically how set the tone by just playing defense.
WILCOXOn feelings coming into this game) We just felt like our backs were against the wall. We had to come out here, and get it rolling because we can’t lose. We want to win out, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
On poor shot selection) Yeah it’s been something that’s happened lately. We’ve taken a lot of contested threes and coaches have been saying to take good ones. Unless we’re open we try to keep the ball moving and get an open shot.
On the difference in UCLA) I didn’t get to play in that game but they’re playing better now. They’re one of the best teams in the Pac-10 so we had to come in focused and play well.
UCLA coach BEN HOWLANDGeneral Comments) "It was a disappointing loss. We had a great opportunity to come on the road and win in a tough environment. Our defense played was really good tonight with the exception of [CJ] Wilcox. If I’m not mistaken Wilcox had 24 points in the second half. We had a one point lead going into the half and we missed a shot then he came down and got them going. With a player like him your job is to make him bounce the ball. You play close enough so he cannot bring the ball up to shoot. He hit some big shots. I thought Malcolm [Lee] played great defense against Isaiah today. I liked our heart, our character, and the way we played tonight. I think Washington is a very good team that could really do some damage in the NCAA tournament.
On Joshua Smith of Kent) I thought that Josh had a great stat line tonight with 16 rebounds. I thought Josh had a great post move near the end of the game. I thought Josh played one of his best games. I was really proud of him for playing so well.
Not putting Malcolm Lee on Wilcox) That was another problem for us. Malcolm kept cramping up and that was a big turning point. Losing Malcolm for those minutes was a real problem for us.
On dealing with rocking Hec Ed) Some of it, but it is March now. We have been in some tough environments and this is one of the toughest in our conference. Not having any timeouts really hurt our ability to regain our composure.