Huskies drop third in a row on the road

NEW YORK CITY - Washington's first half struggles continued Saturday, and not even the Tony Wroten Show could bring the Huskies back from a 14-point intermission deficit, as the Duke Blue Devils defeated UW 86-80 at Madison Square Garden in game one of the CARQUEST Auto Parts Classic.

Washington (4-4) out-dueled the Blue Devils (9-1) 54-46 in the second half, and they had to do it by playing small. Huskies center Aziz N'diaye apparently hurt his knee after a dunk with less than a minute off the second-half clock and never made it back to the game, so for the next 19 minutes senior forward Darnell Gant and redshirt frosh forward Desmond Simmons played as their lone bigs. Gant, one of UW's tri-captains, fouled out with 6:34 remaining, meaning Simmons was given the responsibility of handling Duke's Plumlee family and Ryan Kelly the rest of the way.

When asked about the status of N'Diaye's knee, Romar said they would know the extent of any injury on Monday.

The Huskies rotated Wroten, Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox, and Abdul Gaddy for their four guards, at least until Wroten - UW's heralded true frosh phenom from Garfield High - fouled out with 1:06 left. But Wroten left a huge imprint on the game, scoring seven of Washington's first nine points, and a team-high 23 overall. Not only that, his dribble-drive and penetration to the rim put Duke's guards in foul trouble, and two of them - Austin Rivers and Tyler Thornton - fouled out before he did.

Both Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar admitted after the game that they were trying to pick the right poison. In the first half, both teams were trying to take away the other's ability to shoot from three, and both were successful - Duke was 2 of 10, while Washington was 2 of 9.

"One, we wanted to concentrate on Ross and Wilcox," Krzyzewski said. "I thought Wroten had a great game for them. He really broke us down. Early in the game he had all their points. We played very well defensively, because we didn't give up the three. I thought we rebounded well with them, we out-rebounded them. That was one of the key things for us. Wroten, I've watched most of their games, and I thought that was one of his best performance and he was terrific. I even told him, we shook hands, I said, 'you played a great game today, son.' He's a big-time talent."

The difference, at least in the first half, was inside the arc, where the Blue Devils were able to find some scoring punch despite not finding their range from deep. Andre Dawkins scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half. But it was the play of Rivers and the Plumlees - Mason and Miles - that pushed Duke's advantage when Washington couldn't find the bucket.

A tip-in by Ryan Kelly with 5:14 left in the first half gave Duke their biggest lead at 34-15, and UW - behind Ross, Wilcox, and N'Diaye - cut that lead to 14 by the half. But the damage had been done.

"We dug ourselves into a big hole in the first half," Wroten said. "Being down seventeen, eighteen points. We were a little bit shellshocked. I don't know what it was but we jest were not playing like we usually play, and once we got into our groove it was a little bit too late. We just buckled down and started playing University of Washington basketball. We knew that if we pressure them and everybody plays together that we are a hard team to contain. Unfortunately, we lost but we actually played our style of basketball in the second half."

Wroten was the catalyst offensively, taking the ball and attacking Duke with the dribble when the three-pointers weren't falling. Wilcox and Ross followed suit, eventually scoring 22 and 16 points respectively. To compound issues for the Blue Devils, they lost their touch at the free throw line, especially Mason Plumlee, who finished the game 2-11 from the stripe.

The Huskies wouldn't give up, and kept chipping away with Wroten and Abdul Gaddy leading from the point. Gant's scrambling laying and-one with 15:59 left cut Duke's margin to 11, and that's as close as they would get until the 2:48 mark, when Wroten sank two free throws to bring the game to 74-66.

The Blue Devils, having been in the bonus from the 11:34 mark of the second half, shot free throws the rest of the way. Despite their stumbles from the stripe up to that point, Duke kept their cool. Led by Kelly, Dawkins and Cook, they made nine free throws to salt the game away. Wilcox made a three for the Huskies at the buzzer to give the final margin of victory.

"I'm proud of our team," Krzyzewski said. "We beat a really talented Washington team, a team that was two possessions away from being 6-1. They played really good basketball. Today, one of the stories was our missed free throws. If we make our free throws it wouldn't have been that close at the end. When you miss free throws like that, the result can be different at the end. You can lose. The fact that we did that and still won doesn't negate the really good performance that we had. The last couple minutes I thought we were flawless. Quinn Cook really gave us some huge minutes in handling the ball and he was 4-of-6 from the line. We did hit a good percentage of free throws in the last couple minutes, and didn't give up threes until that last one. Overall, with foul trouble and missed free throws and playing a good opponent, I thought this was a heck of a win for us."

"Duke is a versatile offensive team and you kind of have to pick your poison," added Romar. "We wanted to try our best to limit their three-point production and I thought we did a pretty good job of that but their guys inside just did a great job. Inside scoring, especially when Aziz (N'Diaye) was out it made it very difficult to contain them on the inside. They are a great team, a great program. I was proud that our guys didn't quit. They hung in and they battled, scrapped and I think this concludes a very long road trip where our team has really learned some very valuable lessons."

So what did Romar learn these last three games? "That we're capable of being competitive with just about anyone," he said. "Being capable and potentially being good doesn't mean a thing. We're 4-4 being capable. We've got to get over the hump, and I think we will."


Statistics:
Points: Wroten 23, Wilcox 22, Ross 16, Gaddy 7, Gant 6, N'Diaye 4, Simmons 2
Rebounds: Ross 7, Simmons 6, N'Diaye 5, Wroten 5, Gant 4, Wilcox 3, TEAM 3, Gaddy 2, Breunig 1
Assists: Gaddy 7, Simmons 3, Wilcox 2, Ross 2
Steals: Simmons 3, Gaddy 1, Wilcox 1, Ross 1
Blocks: NONE


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