Washington might not have found the adequate replacement for injured point guard Abdul Gaddy in their 87-69 victory over Oregon Thursday night.
But they have the sixth man they can count on the crowd.
In a spontaneous and seemingly sympathetic show of support for the struggling Huskies midway through the second half, the crowd of 9,692 stood up and gave one of the loudest and most raucous ovations of the season.
The fans clearly understood that it’s a new deal on Montlake, a personnel reshuffle after the injury to Gaddy, the starting point guard. The sophomore tore the ACL in his left leg during practice Tuesday and is out for the season.
The fans understand that even with an 11-3 record 3-0 in the Pac-10 that this team is now a work in progress. They don’t have the answer yet for Gaddy’s absence. That was apparent against the Ducks.
At the time of the ovation at 12:51, the Huskies had a five-point lead, 56-51, and didn’t look all that great. The Hec Ed student section, always standing, waved its collective hands to implore those across the court in the comfortable seats to stand up as well.
It didn’t take much prodding. As the teams huddled, the roars circled the arena and built into a deafening crescendo as they returned to action.
That was more of a credit to our fans,” said forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning. They (Ducks) started running and we didn’t settle down after that. That’s the kind of game we want to play…we weren’t giving them any more second opportunities and that got us out and running. Once we got those stops, we were able to build the lead.”
The crowd simmered anxiously. There was even a stray boo or two.
It all changed at 4:33 when Thomas found Terrence Ross on an alley-oop pass. Ross finished it with a dunk, to the crowd’s delight. Within 15 seconds, Thomas stole the ball and finished that with a layup. On Oregon’s next possession, Suggs swatted a shot into the stands and the crowd finally was fulfilled.
The Huskies closed the game with a 23-10 run to repel the stubborn Ducks.
But this was not attractive.
Overton started in Gaddy’s spot and he didn’t seem in sync. Perhaps it’s because he’s used to coming off the bench, as he had done for 81 of his 117 career games for the Huskies. He was OK three assists, no turnovers and three points in 11 first-half minutes but the team was flat.
Oregon’s press and mixing of defenses had something to do with it. But the Huskies were settling for the perimeter shot, missing more than making. They were rushing at times, playing different than the previous 13 games.
We did all right. Not good enough, though,” said Thomas, who had 20 points, 14 in the final six minutes. With him (Gaddy) not being out there, he usually controls the pace of the game and knows when to make the good pass and when not to. So it was weird.
I had to take a little control in the first half. It took a while but we got it down and played good.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said that because of the pressure Oregon puts on the ball we felt we needed two ball-handlers in the beginning of the game. Also, Venoy is a senior and in this transition we felt we’d be fine doing that.”
Overton finished with five assists, three turnovers and five points in 20 minutes. As a starter, he didn’t have the kind of impact he generally has on the game, especially defensively It was as if his usual energy was depleted.
In his defense, he has been slowed by injuries, to his hamstring, tailbone and knee, so he hasn’t had the playing time. He says he’s just about 100 percent, but he’s clearly not.
Asked if Overton will start Saturday against a faster, more athletic Oregon State team, Romar said, We’ll see. That means I’m going to be getting asked that question a lot. But I can’t say right now.”
Overton probably should start again. His quickness will be needed against the faster Beavers. And he’s going to get better as he acclimates himself.
But Romar will be using his bench more frequently, especially Ross. He’s turning into a star. He finished with a career-high 25 points. This is just a week after he had 18 points, playing a critical role off the bench against USC in a 73-67 overtime win.
Romar said about two weeks ago he saw in practice that Ross finally had a grasp of everything. He knew where to be on the court, he was in the flow and things had come naturally to him.
On talent alone, he’s right there with Brandon Roy,” Romar said.
Ross, at 6-foot-6, Scott Suggs, at 6-6, and C.J. Wilcox, at 6-5 – still bothered by a hip infection – give opponents a difficult size match-up.
Suggs and Ross played 27, 28 minutes tonight. If Gaddy was here, he’d be taking some of those minutes,” Romar said. We did not have many minutes in the game with those smaller guards (Thomas, Overton). We had a lot of time playing with a bigger lineup.”
Eventually, that’s where this team is heading. Overton is a stopgap at point. He is much better coming off the bench. Yet he’s also a better ball handler than Ross, Suggs and Wilcox, all good shooters with size. They need minutes for this team to compete.
A new mix is under way.