Tale of two halves as UW beats ASU

SEATTLE - As sloppy as it may have been, Washington went on a 17-4 run to end the first half and never looked back as they beat Arizona State 77-69 Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena. Playing in his penultimate home game, Darnell Gant scored nine of the points during the run, which included a thunderous put-back dunk.

The Dawgs may have only won by eight on the scoreboard, but the final score was not an indicator of how much better the Huskies were than the Sun Devils. At one point, Washington led by as many as 24 points.

The win moves Washington to 18-8 overall and 11-3 in the Pac-12, while the Sun Devils begin to close out a disappointing season, falling to 8-18 overall and 4-10 in conference.

"We're one step closer to finishing this up the right way," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar after the game.

Terrence Ross led four Washington players in double-figures with 18 points. C.J. Wilcox came good with a couple of three pointers, eventually scoring 14 points, while Tony Wroten and Aziz N'diaye scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. N'Diaye played with a heavily taped left wrist, the result of an injury sustained during UW's road win Sunday at Oregon State. The Huskies' center looked to leave the game permanently with 6:29 left in the first half after a fall caused N'Diaye to hurt his already damaged wrist. But he came back in with just under two minutes left before intermission to a thunderous ovation.

"We need him," senior tri-captain Darnell Gant said of N'Diaye. "He's our anchor. We need him in the middle being a presence. He's a force down low, and when he's scoring with his back to the basket that helps us a lot too. He's active; he's an active big man. We really need him. We need to make sure we keep him healthy. He's a warrior; he plays through pain and he tries to fight through adversity."

The result of the game was what the Huskies were looking for, but the way in which it ended was not.

"We played well the first half, played bad the second half, it's simple really," said junior guard Abdul Gaddy, who had three points and eight assists on the night. "We didn't play as physical as we did in the first half, got bored essentially, and tried to get the game over with. We just have to mature a little bit better and handle success a little bit better."

Both the Sun Devils and the Huskies were careless with the pill, combining for 34 turnovers. However, Washington was the team that took full advantage of the carelessness, scoring 30 points off of the turnovers to Arizona State's just 10.

Ross continued his stellar play, adding five rebounds, an assist, and a steal to his 18 points. The stellar sophomore finished in double-digits for the 15th time in his last 16 games. Wilcox seemed to get back in rhythm Thursday, finishing 6-11 from the field.

Romar expressed how important Wilcox is to the team afterward. "Playing without C.J. changes the dynamic of how you can approach offense," he said of the sophomore sharpshooter. "He's getting his timing back because he's playing in games and not totally sitting out. His volume of shots in practice have gone up a little bit more."

At times the 2-3 zone befuddled Washington as they settled on offense for quick jump-shots, but everything worked inside and out in the first half Thursday night. The Dawgs shot 61 percent in the opening period, including 4-9 on threes before perhaps becoming a bit distracted. They finished the game shooting 49 percent from the field.

As has been the case when a lead grows, Washington became lazy with the basketball, resulting in turnovers, uninspired defense, and questionable shot selection.

"In the second half we got in a hurry too much, we rushed things, but defensively we had too many lapses," said Romar. "Just not as good an effort as needed – we weren't physical at all in the second half."

The Sun Devils nearly took full advantage, closing the lead to just 11 behind 13 points from Aziz N'Diaye's former teammate at College of Southern Idaho, Carrick Felix. The Dawgs eventually woke up midway through the second half and pushed the lead back out to over 20 points on a couple of Ross three-balls. The lead collapsed near the end as Arizona State ended on a 19-7 run to finish within eight, but by then Romar had cleared the bench.

Now that Arizona State is in the rear view mirror; Saturday sets up as an intriguing final matchup at home against the Arizona Wildcats. The 'Cats remain just one game back of first place after a win over Washington State on Thursday.

"It's a big game for both teams," said Romar. "I can only state the obvious; I'm not going to be able to say anything profound about that. It's a big game for both teams, and if this game is like the last three, it should be an exciting game."
Statistics:
Points: Ross 18, Wilcox 14, Wroten 13, N'Diaye 12, Gant 9, Kemp 6, Gaddy 3, Simmons 2
Rebounds: Simmons 6, Gant 5, Ross 5, N'Diaye 4, Wroten 4, Breunig 2, Wilcox 2, Gaddy 1, Kemp 1
Assists: Gaddy 8, Wroten 4, Wilcox 3, Gant 2, Ross 1
Blocks: Kemp 1, Simmons 1, Wilcox 1
Steals: Wroten 6, Gaddy 1, N'Diaye 1, Ross 1, Wilcox 1


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