When Abdul Gaddys final heave sailed left of the rim, Washingtons season of fluctuation came to a close.
The Huskies spent Tuesday night playing with their season-long careening approach, and it resulted in a 68-67 overtime loss to Minnesota in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies went 0-3 by a combined nine points at Madison Square Garden this season, a microcosm of what could have been.
Washington finished a season of three steps forward followed by cliff dives at 24-11. Any label of underachievement is overzealous, considering preseason expectations. Washington was picked fourth in the Pac-12s preseason media poll, but won the conference title. No national outlet expected much from the Huskies. Most thought they would finish on the edge of NCAA Tournament consideration. They did just that.
Terrence Ross led everyone with 21 points Tuesday night. Tony Wroten had an abysmal night. Most of his drives were left short at the rim. He finished 4 for 16 from the field and played poor defense. There were rumors Wroten was sick, but head coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward he was unaware of any illness.
The questions immediately turn to the futures of those two.
Ross, a sophomore, and Wroten, a freshman, are both projected as first-round picks in this years NBA Draft. They must tell the school their decisions by April 10 to retain eligibility.
Tuesday, Washingtons first-half malaise led to a 12-point hole that was filled just before the end of regulation when C.J. Wilcox picked up a loose ball, pivoted and lofted it in from five feet out with 19 seconds remaining. It was the second time Washington had tied the game. The other was at 11-11. The Huskies never led.
Washingtons second-half awakening was a surprise. The Huskies had been 0-7 when trailing by 10 points or more at the half this season, and tail-dragged to the lockerroom down 38-26 after losing all angles of the dock fight that was the first half.
The rally was steady. A crisp start to the second half — one which started with Wilcox in the game and Wroten benched — helped. The defensive grind led to the tie and overtime.
“I thought the second half, we were a team,” Romar said. “When you’re a team and everybody’s playing together on one accord, you don’t realize you’re in the trenches as much because you’re just playing. You don’t care about anything but playing together.”
Washington floundered in overtime. It missed three shots, then Abdul Gaddy committed a turnover, followed by another miss from Wilcox.
But, Minnesota was equally inept and never led by more than three points in overtime.
Down 68-65 with 24 seconds left, Washington called timeout. Wilcox missed a left-wing 3-pointer out of the timeout, which Darnell Gant, playing his final game, rebounded and put in.
Washington fouled Minnesotas Julian Welch following the inbounds. He missed both free throws with four seconds remaining. Gant rebounded, and handed to Gaddy, who fired a runner from just behind midcourt.
It landed in the stands. Gants career ended. Washington lost another game because its second-half grit was not enough to overcome its first-half indifference.
“We played against a team that was pretty predictable,” Romar said. “They were predictable in that they were going to play tough, hard-nosed defense. They were going to share the ball, they were going to be very disciplined.
“You knew they were going to bring it, and were going to bring it the right way.”
Washington spent the first half getting pushed around. Minnesota bumped and bothered the Huskies cutters. The Gophers dominated the paint, mostly because of Washingtons lack of effort.
On one break, Ross sprinted back to contest the layup and forced a miss from Joe Coleman. But Minnesotas Austin Hollins was right there to jam in the miss and give the Gophers a 31-19 lead. No Washington player other than Ross was inside of the 3-point line when the jam occurred.
The Huskies were outrebounded 21-13 in the first half. Wroten started 2 for 9 from the field, with one of his makes a breakaway dunk. The Gophers blocked four shots, Washington blocked none.
Eleven of the Gophers 16 made field goals in the first 20 minutes were layups or dunks.
Gant finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. He leaves having participated in the most wins in school history.
Gaddy had nine points, five assists, three rebounds and three turnovers. He made two crucial baskets late.
Wilcox scored 12 points off the bench and fouled out. Aziz NDiaye was scoreless and generally ineffective.
Andre Hollins led Minnesota (23-14) with 20 points.
It’s all over.
“All in all, I thought we did a lot of good things this year, but weren’t able to finish,” Romar said.
University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results
(Rankings Are Current)
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|11/4/11||vs. Seattle Pacific||—||—||W||77-60||0-0|
|11/12/11||vs. Georgia State||—||—||W||91-74||1-0|
|11/13/11||vs. Florida Atlantic||—||—||W||77-71||2-0|
|11/20/11||at Saint Louis||—||—||L||77-64||3-1|
|11/25/11||vs. Houston Baptist||—||—||W||88-65||4-1|
|12/2/11||at Nevada||—||—||L||76-73 (OT)||4-2|
|12/16/11||vs. UC Santa-Barbara||—||—||W||87-80||5-4|
|12/18/11||vs. South Dakota St.||—||—||L||92-73||5-5|
|12/22/11||vs. Cal-State Northridge||—||—||W||74-50||6-5|
|12/29/11||vs. Oregon State||—||—||W||95-80||7-5|
|1/10/12||vs. Seattle U.||—||—||W||91-83||10-6|
|1/15/12||vs. Washington St.||—||—||W||75-65||11-6|
|1/26/12||at Arizona St.||—||—||W||60-54||13-7|
|2/12/12||at Oregon St.||—||—||W||75-72||17-8|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||—||—||W||77-69||18-8|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||—||—||W||59-55||20-8|
@=Jimmy V Classic; #=Carquest Auto Parts Classic; ^=Pac-12 tournament; *=NIT