Impact Report - Minnesota

NEW YORK - It wasn't pretty, and at times it was gut-wrenching, but Washington's 68-67 overtime loss to Minnesota in the NIT semifinals was a fitting microcosm for the Huskies' season as a whole. They started out having to play catchup after going behind early, rallied back to make something of the game, only to come up short at the most crucial moments with their season hanging in the balance.

Here were Washington's impact performers of the game.

Terrence Ross: From the opening tip, Ross was the go-to guy offensively for UW, and everyone in MSG knew it. He scored early, as his 14 points helped to keep the Huskies afloat in the first half. Husky fans have wanted him to take over games offensively, and he tried to - but it really wasn't out of necessity Tuesday. It was because no one else was able to effectively tally against Minnesota's stubborn man-to-man defense. There's no question Ross is ready for the NBA, but does he have the toughness and mental fortitude to stick it out? Sometimes it has a tendency to manifest itself in cheap, needless fouls, which is even weirder to think about considering how much better his on-ball defending has gotten in just one year. He went to a freshman that had the ability to defend but not the desire to a sophomore that could lock down the other team's best player if properly motivated. That appears to be his only weakness at this point, because when it comes to scoring - even against defenses set to try and take him out of a game - he can make shots, even contested ones. But can he consistently stop the guy in front of him without resorting to the nickel and dime stuff? So far he hasn't been able to on a regular basis.

Quotable: "I never went into the game thinking we were going to lose. You know, playing in that last five minutes, there's some things I wish we did differently, but I mean, there's nothing we can do about it now."

Stat line: 41 minutes played, 21 points (7-19 from field, 3-7 from three), 4-4 FT, Six rebounds (all defensive), Four personal fouls, Two assist, Four turnovers, One block, Three steals.
Darnell Gant: This game was a rough one to call his last, because the team didn't rally around him from the opening jump. It has become an all-to-common theme for these Huskies during the 2011-12 season, and UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar remarked on it during his post-game comments, noting how the team was frankly immature for too much of the year. And when you approach big games like Tuesday's with an immature frame of mind, you can't seem to shake off what Romar has famously called the 'cool jackets'. For much of the season, even if the Huskies fell behind, they had a belief that it would be okay because they were confident in their ability to bounce back and pull their fortunes out of the fire. Much of that belief was placed in the hands of Gant, who was the team's heart and soul as their lone playing senior captain. He helped them dig out of the hole that would eventually see them atop the Pac-12 at the end of the regular season, but he didn't have enough to muster the focus and mindset required to treat the games as importantly as they needed to be taken. His legacy is near-spotless, but in his mind he'll always wonder about the NCAA Tournament appearance that slipped out from UW's grasp during the Pac-12 Tournament, as well as an NIT Championship that was there for the taking. He had a very strong game against Minnesota, but it was the early-game lapses that ultimately reared their ugly head. Like I said, it's a tough way to end a career, knowing what was right in front of you and within your control.

Quotable: "Darnell said it, he hit the nail on the head; we started to guard. We played better defense the beginning of that second half. That was the difference." - Lorenzo Romar.

Stat line: 36 minutes played, 12 points (5-7 from field, 1-1 from three), 1-2 FT, Nine rebounds (Five offensive, Four defensive), One personal foul, Zero assists, One turnover, One block, One steal.
Abdul Gaddy: There's no question that while Gant was the heart and soul of this year's UW team, it's already Gaddy's for next year. The way he ran the team at the end of the season, and especially during their early three-game run to the NIT semifinals - the junior from Tacoma was finally showing all the promise that had him just behind John Wall in the 2009 national point guard rankings. He was aggressive, he was smart, he was tough with the rock when required - he really ran the team well on the offensive end. At the end of the Minnesota game, he appeared to be the only one able to effectively get to the rim for easy baskets or foul shots. The only thing missing from his repertoire was a consistent jump shot, something I'm sure he'll be working on this summer in earnest. As Gaddy matures, we'll see if there's an inner toughness that starts to develop; it would be nice to see him not fade in and out of games like he did earlier in the season. Something clicked about midway through, and he was able to keep that edge. Here's to hoping that edge never goes away, because the Huskies are really going to need it, as well as his vocal presence in 2012-13.

Quotable: "I thought Abdul, I know he didn't have as good of a game tonight, but I thought Abdul made a lot of strides." - Lorenzo Romar.

Stat line: 35 minutes played, 9 points (3-10 from field, 0-1 from three), 3-4 FT, Three rebounds (One offensive, Two defensive), Two personal fouls, Five assists, Three turnovers.
Tony Wroten: Wroten looked like he came out ready to play; after all, Washington was playing in one of the meccas of basketball, and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year always does his best to try and shine when the lights are their brightest. But Minnesota wasn't having any of it from the get-go, effectively shutting down Wroten's patented dribble-drive game and eliminating his ability to rebound his misses. His inability to go right back up for an easy two is one of the main reasons why he is considered a volume shooter; the Golden Gophers made sure they did their best to limit him to one shot per trip. That, and the consistent physical pressure put on Wroten took him out of his game, and it took him away from what he was supposed to do on the defensive end. Wroten has a knack for playing what looks like lazy defense to begin with; he's more apt to stand flat-footed and look for a chance to steal the ball from the backside than stop dribble penetration by trying to get in front of someone (although he's perfectly able to do so). It's just one of the many things that make you wonder when it's going to click in his head that defense is what catalyzes everything else. His inability to make short shots, coupled with an inability to draw fouls from Minnesota in the attempts proved costly to Washington as they took a 12-point deficit into halftime.

And his display on the offensive end wasn't the reason why Romar kept Wroten on the bench for at least the first 5-6 minutes of the second half; it was because he had let his defense suffer to the point where he was hurting the team. Is Wroten NBA-ready? I thought Tony had all the intangibles it would take to get drafted fairly high, and then he would work on the clear deficiencies of his game once he got to the pro game, most notably a jump shot. It's amazing to me that Wroten would even get a sniff of the first round without having taken 10 actual jump shots (not 3-point set shots around the perimeter) for the entire season, but that's how gifted he is. He's a rare player with some extraordinary gifts - but Tuesday's game exposed him for the young, confident player he is that also has some fundamental holes he needs to fill in order to take his game to where it should be - and no doubt will be in time.

Quotable: "They're a physical team, they came out and tried to bully us on the boards."

Stat line: 30 minutes played, 9 points (4-16 from field, 0-1 from three), 1-2 FT, Five rebounds (Two offensive, Three defensive), Two personal fouls, Zero assists, One turnover, Three steals.
C.J. Wilcox: I know C.J. isn't happy the season is over; like Aziz N'diaye, who has had to power through the last half-dozen games or so with a busted-up wrist, the sophomore from Pleasant Grove, Utah dealt with a painful hip issue for the greater part of the year, something that wouldn't necessarily improve unless given a lot of time off to recover. So he was relegated to playing spot duty here and there to make sure he could withstand the rigors of a full season. But on Tuesday Romar asked him to play for more than 30 minutes for only the second time since missing three games in the middle of January. And Wilcox performed as well as could be expected but wilted down the stretch when he wasn't able to contain Minnesota's Andre Hollins from driving to the basket. I chalk that up to simple fatigue and pain threshold, nothing more. It was clear that Romar was going to ride his experienced horses as far as he could, and Wilcox was one of those horses. But he was going to break down at some point no matter how careful they were with him - and they were. That's why he eventually fouled out, because he resorted to reaching when the healthy Wilcox would have been quick enough to jump to the spot and pick up charges. In that sense, it's hard not to give him a pass for gutting the season out and giving what he could - especially in light of Scott Suggs' redshirt. But the future is bright for Wilcox, assuming he's able to come back this fall at 100 percent health and without any lingering hip issues.

Quotable: "Well, he had taken one shot in the first half and I thought our guys did a better job of getting him the ball, so we got more looks in the second half. A lot like Terrence, you give C.J. Wilcox looks, he's going to make you pay for them." - Lorenzo Romar.

Stat line: 35 minutes played, 12 points (5-12 from field, 1-6 from three), 1-2 FT, Four rebounds (One offensive, Three defensive), Five personal fouls, Three assists, Two turnovers, Two steals.


Dawgman.com Top Stories