The Huskies can’t keep their hands to themselves. The 14-7 University of Washington men’s basketball team (6-3 Pac-12) are the most frequent foulers in Division I basketball, committing 24.8 personal fouls per game, and opposing teams are cashing in big.
Entering the 8 p.m. Wednesday night game (ESPNU) at Arizona State (2-7, 12-10), Washington has committed 521 personal fouls. Only five teams in Division I have committed more: The Citadel (570), Bradley (531), Portland (528), Chicago State (526) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (524). All have played at least two more games than the Huskies.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said that while the Huskies have to stop giving up easy fouls, such as after surrendering offensive rebounds, or far away from the basket, his freshman-heavy team has to strike a balance between aggression and apprehension.
“We have to continue to address it, because there is a balance of the aggressive ‘go, go, go’ (offensive) attack, and ‘Show your hands, don’t attack,’ ” said Romar Tuesday. “To defend the way we want, we feel, ‘OK, I am guarding the ball and he makes one quick move, I’m going to foul him. If I really get up and deny, I may foul.’ So we might back off subconsciously a little bit.”
A little backing off would help the Huskies, who have surrendered an average of 22.5 points per loss from the free throw line. In all seven losses, the only margin not covered by that average was a 99-67 shellacking by Arizona Jan. 14.
The other concern from the foul-a-palooza is foul-outs. Washington is nearly lapping the field in D-I for disqualifications. The Huskies have 36. No. 2 Northern Colorado has 23.
If the Huskies roster were deeper, the DQs might not be so great a concern (nor as plentiful, with more numbers to thin out foul accumulation). But Washington has only three traditional forwards, freshmen Marquese Chriss and Noah Dickerson, along with junior college transfer Malik Dime. The three account for 21 disqualifications, often leaving the paint vulnerable late in the game, as what little size they have watches from the bench.
Senior guard Andrew Andrews, the conference’s leading scorer, becomes cautious offensively once he picks up his third or fourth foul, since his favored in-traffic drive to the hoop could lead to charging fouls. Notably, in a close win against UCLA Thursday, Andrews was forced to sit for long stretches in the second half after picking up a fourth foul.
Once Andrews returned, he sank four, game-deciding free throws, highlighting the necessity of keeping Washington’s key players on the court.
What Andrews’ performance also highlights is the success the Huskies enjoy, even as they foul at rates that would make the Legion of Boom blush.
The other five teams with a greater foul total than Washington are a collective 31-87, a win percentage of 26.3.
Washington’s name is already in the mix for the 68-team NCAA tournament in March. Whether the young Huskies can learn to keep their hands to themselves will determine whether they have more in them than one-and-done at conference tournament in Las Vegas, and the big dance.