Another winnable game, same result

Forget moral victories. This game was too important. Sure the Washington Huskies looked the best they have this season against No. 11 Marquette, and it was at Madison Square Garden to boot, but this was a winnable game. The Dawgs had a golden opportunity to get their season back on the right track but they fumbled it out of bounds.

For the second game in a row, poor late game execution was responsible. No amount of rationalizing changes the fact that the Huskies are now a 4-3 team in a bad league.

In typical Husky fashion, the game was entertaining as all get out, and watching the Dawgs batter Marquette on the glass was particularly enjoyable – but bittersweet. In most facets, Washington's play was improved. They handily won the hustle battle, blocking seven shots while manhandling Marquette on the offensive glass. The Huskies dominated the physically overmatched Eagles in the paint, while holding them just 42 percent shooting from the floor – eight points lower than their average - yet they still managed to lose.

The fault lies with their offensive chemistry. The Huskies have been spoiled by a steady stream of quality point guards over the years. Maybe we've all forgotten what mediocre point guard play looks like, but that's what we're getting now. It cost them tonight.

The offense is spinning its wheels as the point guards struggle to find traction on the floor. Tony Wroten played better this evening, which is a good sign, though his free throw shooting stunk and he has yet to establish any semblance of leadership.

Tonight the problem lay with Abdul Gaddy. After starting the season in impressive fashion, Gaddy's play has deteriorated considerably. Closing minute blunder aside, the normally poised junior is playing more and more timidly with each passing game. The Huskies need his excellent decision making, but his lack of confidence is causing split second delays in his actions – just enough time for opponents to react – and they're making him pay.

At least Terrence Ross got to put on a show.

Ross continues to be the Huskies' shining star, finding creative ways to score, even as the rest of the offense staggers around him. Because the Huskies lack a reliable post scorer, the UW offense tends to look pretty ugly when the three balls don't fall. That is, except when Ross has the ball in his hands. Watching the Portland native put on his aerial display on one of basketball's biggest stages was proof that he has officially found the national spotlight. What he still has yet to do though, is win the big one on the road that catapults him to stardom. To put the team on his back and will them to victory, ala Quincy Pondexter on the road against USC in 2009. He really had a chance, putting UW up one with less than 20 seconds tonight with a tough basket that really should have been an and-one.

But we're still waiting for that moment. Ross has had a couple of opportunities to do that this season, but hasn't risen to the occasion. The moment feels awfully close though.

The crazy thing about this group of players – the thing that really sticks in your craw – is that this team is so close to being really good. They have so many great athletes and quality players – yet they don't play all that well together, or at least right now. Is this going to be one of those teams that simply doesn't mesh in spite of all of that raw athleticism and ability? Could be.

The Huskies play Duke on Saturday in what will be their final opportunity to make a splash on the 2011-2012 season until the Pac-12 Tournament. Nobody nationally is going to be paying attention to conference play. The Pac-12 is too weak to be relevant, and likely to be a blood bath for even the best teams – whoever they end up being. A 7-4 non conference record means the Dawgs are going to have to win 14 or 15 games in conference play to be guaranteed a trip to the NCAA tourney. That's not going to happen.

Right now it's Duke or nothing. Beat the Blue Devils and the proverbial lights stay on for this season. Lose Saturday, and it could be a long winter and early spring in Seattle for the Washington basketball team.


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