Cross thinks UW has what it takes

SEATTLE - Scott Cross knew his team had their work cut out for them. His UT-Arlington Mavericks, despite a Southland Conference regular-season championship, got blown out by 20 to McNeese State in their conference Tournament. In that way, the Mavericks and the Washington Huskies had something in common; they fumbled and stumbled their way into the post-season.

"I'm sure they felt they had better games, especially in the first half," Cross told Dawgman.com Tuesday night after the No. 1 seed Huskies took down No. 8 seed UT-Arlington 82-72 in the first round of the 75th National Invitation Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena. "Everybody wants to win their championship and then win their tournament championship, so anything less than that is a letdown. It's not so much NCAA or NIT - it's just a letdown because you didn't win the tournament championship."

In the case of the Mavericks, they are still looking for that first post-season tournament win in school history. "The crowd made a difference there in the second half when they went on that (9-0) run," said Cross. "We knew it was going to be tough; they won the Pac-12 for a reason. They have a good basketball club.

"I'm proud of our guys for what they did tonight. We won the battle of the boards, out-rebounded them by 10. Some of that's the fact that they shot such a high percentage on us, but even with that being said to win that battle is a tribute to our guys. They played as hard as they possibly could. I'm glad that our guys performed well. They do have a big size advantage and strength advantage on us. For our guys to go in there and compete, that bodes well for the future. We've just got to continue to get bigger and faster and stronger in the weight room and keep working. We're not far off; we're getting closer and closer and hopefully we can build upon this."

"They hit some big shots. Ross…some of those shots were just unbelievable that they were hitting. Great basketball players, great team…hopefully they go on and win it all."

Cross revealed UT-Arlington's scout against Washington. "We needed to try to limit the touches on Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox obviously, make everything difficult for them," he said. "For (Tony) Wroten, we just wanted to pack it in a little on him, not let him -- he's so relentless getting to the basket -- try and make everything difficult. Play (Aziz) N'Diaye straight up, not let him score over us, don't dig off the shooters. Take care of the ball, we were just going to play fast in transition, and if we didn't get anything, milk the clock and work the ball around the best we could."

That scout was working too, at least early on before the Huskies woke up around half-way through the second half, along with the partisan crowd. When N'Diaye was called for his fourth foul with 15:35 remaining, the 2801 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena showed their disgust for the call and began to insert themselves into the game. That's when the light went on for the Huskies. In the second half UW shot a remarkable 68 percent from the field. "When you have a size advantage, you're going to shoot a higher percentage; you're going to get layups, you're going to get dunks and those things," Cross said of the Huskies. Of course we always know that we want our defense to be better, but you have to give them credit for that. To get back up…you could see that they gradually got fired up, and hey - we're here to play. We want to go win another championship. And hopefully they do."

Cross believes the No. 1 seed Huskies have all the pieces in place to make a winning run through the NIT, but it didn't take him the full 40 minutes to find UW's achilles' heel. "I would think if they are motivated to play, I don't see any reason why they wouldn't (win it all)," he said. "They have a couple of guys that look like they could be potential pros on the team; they've got size, they can rebound. I don't see any reason why they couldn't compete for the championship."


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