The Washington Huskies found themselves in a curious position for this season, just a few minutes (it seemed) into their game at cross town rival Washington State on Saturday night. Up 17 and dominating, the purple clad Dawgs found themselves gnawing on an opportunity to finally blow somebody out this season and return to the form of their Pac-12 regular season title ways of 2011. However, whether it was the fact that this team hasn’t been real good at that, or the fact that rivalry games in this state rarely go unchallenged, Washington State suddenly found themselves in front late.
Before getting to the outcome, let’s back up. 21-4 and WSU on the ropes against a hot-shooting NBA prospect in Chris Wilcox and the size of the Huskies, in particular the 7 ft plus Aziz N’Diaye. It did not look good, but this is the Apple Cup and anyone who watched the football game knows that comebacks are very real in this rivalry. Such was the case Saturday, as the Cougs clawed to within 7 at half, then 3 at 34-31 before falling behind again.
Brock Motum struggled and as he did the Cougs failed to jump the hurdle, till about 8 minutes to go, when a run was sparked by WSU’s swarming defense. The run led to a couple of late 3 point leads, fueled by a three by Motum and unlikely hero-t0-be Will DiIorio who hit 2 very big second half threes at a time when normal three point specialist DaVonte Lacy couldn’t buy a wishing well to throw the ball into.
But Washington had the secret weapon of Scott Suggs, who hit some level ten difficulty shots as he always seems to the last couple of seasons. His layup to put the Huskies up 3 and eventually wrap it up with less than 30 seconds to go came off of a Cougar turnover, their 12th of the game.
The story for me though, can be summed up in the final relevant shot taken by DaVonte, with about 12 seconds to play. The Cougs ended 5 of 21 from the arc, and in their need to erase their 3 point deficit in one play instead of put the pressure back on Washington with a quick duece, they set a pick for Lacy. He didn’t get around it cleanly and essentially threw up a prayer from 26 feet away while being challenged. It went “clang” and the Cougars watched UW knock down clutch free throws to seal it.
Interesting notes, Motum still has double figures in every game this season, but he and Shelton both struggled mightily against UW’s size factor. Mike Ladd free throwed his way to a team leading 15 points. The Cougs go to 9-5 and take on Cal/Stanford next weekend in the Bay.