At some point in this whipsaw of a season, the Huskies might figure themselves out. They might land on a starting lineup, find some composure on the road, and calm down enough to chill on offense and drill on defense.
Kinda like what happened in the second half Wednesday night at Hec Ed against a good Stanford team.
Losers of three road games in a row and fumbler of 12 turnovers in the first half, the Huskies (6-6, 14-11) changed the lineup and may have changed their seasonal fortunes after a 64-60 triumph over the Cardinal (6-5, 15-8). Then again, who knows? Team Shrug.
To start the second half, coach Lorenzo Romar benched flailing Andrew Andrews and inserted 6-4 junior guard Mike Anderson, who in the first three minutes hit back-to-back threes — he had two treys all season — to drain the lethargy in the half-filled barn (a paid count of 6,981) and instill energy.
“That might have been the turning point in the game,” Romar said. “Mike played the best basketball he’s played in a while.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of our guys.”
Anderson had 13 points, three assists and three rebounds in a productive 28 minutes that featured the kind of aggression from him the Huskies have sought all season. Freed from the inside play he’d been forced into because the Huskies are way too short this season, Anderson seemed to be a better fit in the backcourt alongside Nigel Williams-Goss.
Andrews picked up two quick fouls and played five minutes, none in the second half. Asked whether the Anderson-for-Andrews exchange might work to start the noon Saturday game against Cal, Romar hedged.
“It might,” he said. “It might.” Of the decision to keep Andrews on the bench, he said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
After grim road losses to Washington State, Utah and Colorado — the latter a listless 91-65 beatdown Sunday in Boulder — the Huskies looked broke. They looked fixed Wednesday, particularly down the stretch when Stanford managed just one field goal in the final 4:27.
“The coaches have been telling me to be more aggressive,” said the laconic
Anderson. “It helped the team today, so it was good.”
His teammates picked up on the theme late. Crucial was a final defensive play by the ever-unsung Desmond Simmons. Trailing 62-60 for the previous 45 seconds, Stanford’s ace guard Chasson Randle passed up an open three and poured down the lane only to find Simmons firmly planted. The block-charge call looked close, but when the official signaled an offensive foul as Simmons sprawled to the floor with six seconds left, the game was sealed.
“Charge all the way,” said Romar, smiling. “Those are the plays we expect Desmond to make at the end of that game, taking that charge. Those are the things he does that help you win ball games.”
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was in agreement.
“The young man stepped in and made a big play and took charge,” he said. “Huge play by Simmons.
“We got what we wanted. Chasson was actually open for the three and he turned it down. That was fine, but I thought he was going to stop and try to take the pull up after that. He just kept trying to be a little too close.”
After a brutal first half, the Huskies were fortunate to be anywhere close by the end, after giving up the ball a dozen times, mostly on unforced errors.
“We didn’t throw the ball; we didn’t catch the ball,” Romar said. “We were in too big a hurry.”
With only six confernce games left, urgency remains upon them. They just need to learn the difference between urgency and haste.