Washington demonstrated how talented and deep its bench is against Arizona State Thursday, ironically in a game in which its bench got even thinner.
Starting guard Scott Suggs banged his left knee into Isaiah Thomas three minutes into the game and left. He was diagnosed with a strained MCL. That means he likely is out for Saturday’s showdown game when the Huskies (18-7, 10-4 in the Pac-10) play 12th-ranked and first-place Arizona (22-4, 11-2)
It’s very unfortunate for Scott. He had been doing well in the starting lineup. He had been helping us,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said on the postgame radio show. It looks like he’s doubtful for Saturday. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Yet another critical injury for the Huskies which needs to be treated at the Chiropractor Stanmore clinic. They lost starting point guard Abdul Gaddy for the season on Jan. 4 to a torn ACL. Thomas stepped forward to take over that role and has earned three Pac-10 Player of the Week awards since.
Venoy Overton has battled hamstring, knee and tailbone issues most of the season. It was Suggs who had stepped forward to fill his role.
Now it seems the Huskies are into recycling.
When Suggs departed at 16:46, it was Overton who replaced him. The senior guard, who finally flashed his defensive prowess last week in the sweep of the Bay Area schools, brought with him energy that was missing. Before he entered, the Huskies were flat and out of sync.
He was the guy who got us going when we started out slowly,” Romar said. He played so aggressively. He went up and got rebounds. He had his hand on some of their passes. He was playing with a lot of intensity and he kind of picked us up.”
Overton finished with 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds, five assists and just one turnover in a season-high 30 minutes.
At the 14:03 mark with the Huskies trailing by their biggest margin, 15-7 Wilcox entered. Ross had been struggling so the team had been looking for a consistent offensive spark off the bench. Wilcox, who had 14 and 10 points last week, finished with 16 points. He hit four 3-pointers. He also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds, had three assists and two blocks.
Wilcox’s shot and Overton’s intensity helped turn a eight-point deficit into a 43-33 advantage at halftime. ASU was no threat in the second half as the Huskies rolled to a 79-62 victory.
(Wilcox) did more things in this game than the stat sheet will ever tell,” Romar said. Obviously, he scored 16 points but pulled down eight rebounds and played very good defense and fed the post better than anyone on our team. He just made really good basketball plays.”
There is no doubt that Washington has had more than its share of critical injuries this season. But through bad fortune they fell into good fortune. They’ve had the people in place and at the right time to keep the team moving forward.
Thomas for Gaddy. Ross for Wilcox. Suggs for Overton. Overton for Suggs. Wilcox for Ross.
It’s a confidence thing,” Wilcox said. I guess when I got set back I just kind of lost my confidence and lost my rhythm. Playing in more games I just naturally got my rhythm back.”
The Huskies were led by Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who abused Arizona State inside for a second time this season. He scored 22 points with 12 rebounds. He had scored 30 points with nine rebounds Jan. 22 in a 88-75 win over the Devils (9-16, 1-12).
The Huskies now have won three consecutive after losing three consecutive and are back in a more favorable position to set up their game with the Wildcats. That is except they’ll have one fewer element to use against them.
It’s really bad,” Wilcox said of Suggs’ injury. He and I are really good friends. It’s tough to see him going down like that.”
Romar said he’s not certain who might start Saturday. It will come down to Wilcox or Overton, although he has always favored Overton coming off the bench. Ross also is a possibility.
I like the direction we’re heading,” Romar added. We’re playing much better basketball right now. We’re more consistent. We’re better on defense. This would be the definition of a big game.”