Wroten's Jam Powers Huskies over ASU

The Washington Huskies apparently are huge fans of Charles Dickens. But Thursday night in Tempe, it wasn't a tale of two cities; it was a tale of two halves. UW used a 14-1 run to start the second half to eventually wear out Arizona State 60-54 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Led by Tony Wroten's team-high 22 points - including a thunderous tomahawk jam and-one that he would later call a 'back-breaker' with 5:35 left in the game - Washington (13-7, 6-2) went on their post-intermission jaunt to build a two-point half-time deficit into a 36-25 lead with 14:11 left. From that point on, the Huskies did their best to keep the hapless Sun Devils (6-14, 2-6) in the shade.

A couple of Ruslan Pateev layins and the shooting of Jonathan Gilling helped to stem the tide and make the game interesting for the 6794 fans that did show up, but the run had already been made and the damage had already been done. Washington asserted themselves on both sides of the ball, mixing their defenses with some smart play on the offensive side of the ball.

"We were hardly contesting any of their shots," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "On the defensive end we had better position. We didn't leave their shooters wide open. Offensively we were able to work some things out of the corner and get some stuff below their zone that loosened us up a little."

Up by as many as 12 with 13:26 left to play, Washington couldn't buy a jumper to help extend the lead. ASU chipped away, led by the 20 points of freshman Gilling, who was 5-12 from three-point range en route to a team-high 20 points.

The first time the Sun Devils got the lead down to four points, that was the scene of Wroten's dunkalicious masterpiece, the one he'd been gunning for all year long. He found himself at the top of the key, and as soon as his man went to guard Terrence Ross, a lane to the bucket emerged - and the freshman didn't have to be told twice. He rose up to stuff it one-handed, and earned an and-one courtesy of Gilling - which he made.

"That might have been the best dunk I've ever had," Wroten said. "And I wasn't expecting that to happen. He just moved over, and I dunked on him. I haven't gotten one highlight dunk this year. It's a great one to get on the road, and hopefully it'll make ESPN top plays. That one was a momentum-breaker for them. Plus I made the free throw! That was the big thing."

The Sun Devils kept coming, and a Gilling three made it 50-46 with 1:46 left. During the ensuing possession, Wroten missed a shot inside, but a lucky bounce off an ASU defender got the ball right back to him, where he was able to quickly put the ball back in. He was fouled in the act by ASU's Carrick Felix, and Wroten made the free throw to give UW another 7-point cushion.

The return of C.J. Wilcox was a bright spot, entering the game with 12:57 remaining in the first half, but never saw a shot opportunity to impose himself on the game and missed the only shot he took. It's the first game he played since Seattle, but that doesn't mean he didn't have an impact on the game.

After the Sun Devils made their last run, with Gilling hitting another three with 36.5 seconds left, UW needed to salt away some free throws at the end. So they went to their sophomore sharpshooter, who went 4-4 from the line. From that point on, UW went 5-6 to give themselves the final margin of victory.

"When the game is on the line, we're getting better and better each game," said Wroten. "We know what it takes to win, and that's what we're doing."

And they were able to do it without the normally reliable Terrence Ross, who shot 4-13 for the game and 0-2 for the second half. The sophomore from Portland did make the four free throws he was asked to shoot, but the Huskies as a team made only one three-pointer all game and had to manufacture every possession and point they got.

"I think it's beautiful," Lorenzo Romar said afterward. "C.J. was able to spell some guys and get some minutes, but Terrence goes 0-2 in the second half and couldn't get his shot to fall, and yet we found a way to win one on the road. I could care less what the score is; I'm looking for improvement every time down the floor. I'm just proud of our guys and the progress we've made. Earlier in the year, I don't think we win the last two road games."

You wouldn't have thought they were going to have a chance watching the first half, where Washington fans had to endure yet another slow start, one that saw Washington score only four points before the first media timeout with 15:14 remaining before half. Overall, they shot only .385 from the field and missed all three of their opportunities from three-point range. They were out-rebounded 18-17, and gave up four three-pointers, which was the biggest reason they led going into halftime 24-22 in what was really one of the ugliest halves of basketball Washington has played on offense this year. It was a season-low for points scored during the first 20 minutes of play.

"If you're fortunate enough to make it to the NCAA Tournament, you're going to play against teams that might grind it out," Romar said. "You have to be able to pull those out. You have to find a way. Sometimes you can't impose your will in terms of the tempo that you'd like. When that's the case, you have to do what we did tonight." With Aziz N'diaye saddled with two fouls in the first half, Austin Seferian-Jenkins ably filled in, even scoring his first points as Husky hooper with 7:10 left off a Wroten feed. While Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski seemed to have their way with N'Diaye, Seferian-Jenkins' physicality and doggedness made life tougher for the Arizona State big men.

But Wroten was the one that was able to get them key buckets at key times, especially the six points in a row he scored as part of Washington's extended second-half run to give the Huskies the impetus they needed to push through.

"He's much more selective now," Romar said of Wroten, noting that of his nine made field goals, none of them were shot from outside. In fact, he didn't take one outside jumper the entire game. "Earlier in the year, he would have tried to crash into that zone and may have turned it over or forced shots. But he's really matured a lot and picks his spots. That lane was open when he went in for that dunk and he saw it. He didn't see it any other time, but he saw it then and he seized the opportunity."

For his part, Wroten talked about the patience it took to finally unlock ASU's zone. "They run a good matchup zone, but they don't play defense all 35 seconds," he said. "So if you're patient and you get the ball to the middle and get it to the bigs, things are going to open up. And that's what happened."

Points: Wroten 22, Ross 12, Gant 8, N'Diaye 5, Gaddy 5, Wilcox 4, Seferian-Jenkins 4
Rebounds: N'Diaye 8, Ross 7, Wroten 6, Seferian-Jenkins 5, Gant 5, Simmons 2, Gaddy 1, TEAM 1
Assists: Gaddy 5, Wroten 3, N'Diaye 1, Seferian-Jenkins 1, Gant 1
Steals: Gaddy 3, N'Diaye 2, Wroten 2
Blocks: N'Diaye 1, Gaddy 1, Wroten 1, Ross 1, Seferian-Jenkins 1

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