Beach's Bits

The Washington Huskies are now three weeks removed from Abdul Gaddy's devastating season ending ACL injury. Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar continues to audition potential starting replacements, and though there's certainly enough depth to make do without the talented sophomore point guard, it's become pretty clear they've lost a step or two.

In the weeks leading up to Gaddy's injury, the Huskies had really started to click on both ends of the floor. The rotation looked dialed in and the bench had settled into various roles, allowing Romar with enough lineup flexibility to ride the hot hand. That all changed when Gaddy was felled, thrusting Washington's trio of talented wings unexpectedly into the spotlight. Premature or not, their moment to shine had come just two games into Pac-10 play.

The Venoy Overton experiment was doomed to fail from the start, no pun intended. Not because Overton isn't capable of starting for the Dawgs – he is. But Overton's biggest asset is his aggressiveness and intensity, and a starting role clearly diminished his effectiveness. Coming off the bench, Overton provides a palpable energy lift when the Huskies need it, as their opponent's legs start begin to wilt after the initial surge of tip-off adrenalin. He simply doesn't have that same effect on the game as a starter.

Romar then inserted junior Scott Suggs into the lineup for the California game, initially to take some of the Bears' defensive heat off of Isaiah Thomas. As a three-year system veteran, Suggs is the safe bet; a steady defender who rarely makes mistakes, and has the ability to hit the occasional big shot, given limited opportunities. With a laid back court demeanor similar to that of Gaddy, Suggs was the logical choice.

Thus far, the verdict is still out on Suggs' future in the starting lineup, though a clutch three-pointer in the closing minutes against Arizona State should keep him in Romar's good graces. His defense has improved as much as any player on the team this season, another encouraging sign. Certainly he's no longer the defensive liability he once was. But at times he's unassertive and inconsistent with the ball in his hands. Washington needs a steadier scoring hand from their shooting guard as opponents collapse the post to stop Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Suggs potentially fills that void, but definitely hasn't taken the position by the scruff of the neck and made it his to lose.

The fan favorite for the fifth spot in the starting lineup is freshman Terrence Ross. The gifted guard certainly has the scoring pedigree to earn him the starting nod. He's been brilliant at times, as evidenced by his scintillating 18-point performance at USC, his first ever Pac-10 road test. He subsequently torched the Oregon schools for 39 points a week later. But like most freshmen, his defense is improving at a snail's pace. As the least experienced member of the Huskies Three Amigos, he's the weakest in that department and the most likely to be caught out of position. In the end, his sheer offensive firepower may leave Romar little choice but to start him, but he hasn't connected consistently enough to force the issue yet, and Romar has shown a quick trigger in the past when it comes to players that can't defend, especially along the perimeter.

C.J. Wilcox has been the biggest head-scratcher for the Huskies thus far. He started off the season on fire, scoring double-digits in five of their first eight games, culminating in a blistering 17-point performance against Virginia in the Maui Invitational. In their next game, Wilcox played just three minutes against Michigan State, airballing a last-second three pointer in the Huskies 76-71 loss to the Spartans. He hasn't been the same since, limited by a nagging staph infection, and that has affected his confidence. But his non-conference performances suggest he's capable of getting white hot from outside. When he decides to show it in conference play, UW fans will know that their sharpshooter is back.

The steady play of the Huskies big three – Thomas, Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday - has limited Washington's exposure to a major let down in the absence of Gaddy. But as the Stanford, USC and ASU games all demonstrated, they aren't going to score 60 points every game. Romar continues to substitute Suggs, Ross, and Wilcox liberally in the hopes that one of them will step up and permanently take ownership of the starting role. But it hasn't happened yet. As dependent as the Huskies have been on the three pointer, they need a couple of the other guys to step it up – consistently.

Against Arizona State, the minutes were distributed pretty evenly – 21 minutes to Suggs and 17 to Ross and Wilcox. Suggs scored 10 points, shooting 4-5 from the field. Ross scored six and Wilcox five. So that's 21 points, four rebounds, three steals and zero assists in a combined 55 minutes; a decent combined performance, but it isn't going to get Washington to a Final Four.

Fortunately, there's still enough time left in the season for them to figure it out. And when they do, the Huskies will again find that sixth gear they lost less than a month ago.


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