Huskies outlast Montana

SEATTLE - It's been a rough month for the Washington Huskies. They lost two players to injury, had another one transfer, and another player was diagnosed with an illness. It's not the formula Lorenzo Romar drew up, but his guys gutted out an 83-79 win over the Montana Grizzlies Tuesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena anyway.

The Grizzlies (1-3) gave Washington (3-3) problems all the way to the final horn. Up eight after a Perris Blackwell jumper with 1:29 remaining, it appeared the Huskies were out of reach. But Tinkle drew up a trapping defense that forced a couple turnovers, and the Griz found themselves down only three with 56 seconds to play.

A jumper by Montana's Chris Kemp with 12 seconds to play put them only down one, and Kemp also drew a foul from UW's Blackwell. But he missed the and-one and the ball was rebounded by Andrew Andrews, who gave the ball to C.J. Wilcox.

The fifth year senior was fouled, and he capped off his game-high 28 point scoring effort with two free throws to give UW a three-point lead. The Huskies waited until the Grizzlies had the ball past half-court, and then they fouled Keron DeShields.

"We wanted to pick up…we wanted them to use as much time in the back court before they were in shooting range," Romar said of UW's strategy to foul instead of letting UM try a three-pointer. That's why we picked up earlier."

Again, the Grizzlies missed the free throw and Washington was able to grab their 34th rebound of the night, compared to Montana's 14, to salt the game away. Blackwell hit the second free throw of two to give the Huskies their final margin of victory.

Besides Wilcox's 28 points, Nigel Williams-Goss had 20 for the Huskies and Blackwell chipped in 13 and nine rebounds. Jordan Gregory had 27 for the Grizzlies, while DeShields added 20 and Kareem Jamar added 16 points, six below his season average.

"That's a good team," Romar said after the game. "Coach (Wayne) Tinkle and his staff do a great job. I know Jordan Gregory had a monster game, but Kareem Jamar is…I think he could play anywhere in America. He's probably the most unselfish offensive scorer that I've seen. He had seven assists to one turnover, and when you surround a great scorer like that with shooters and he's picking you apart and he's not selfish - they can give you problems."

The Huskies have been trying to deal with the loss of Jernard Jarreau for the year and Desmond Simmons for at least a couple more weeks, as well as Tuesday's news that Shawn Kemp has been diagnosed with Graves' Disease, a thyroid condition. And finally, it was also revealed Tuesday that junior guard Hikeem Stewart would transfer.

"We've been through a lot of adversity, but I think we've handled it well," Wilcox said. "Obviously it would be a different story if we had some of our guys. We've been sticking together and we know that we have to play harder and do more than we normally would because we have two of our key guys out. We're learning on the fly since the season started, and hopefully we'll get it down by Pac-12."

Washington was also working on a new defense Tuesday, one designed to pack in closer to the basket and take away driving lanes. It was learning on the fly again, something the Huskies have gotten used to a lot this year, but it wasn't quite like the adjustments they had to make when Jarreau was hurt five minutes into the season.

"We were re-arranging furniture during the banquet, so to speak," Romar said of the earlier moves. "This was different. We had changed…tweaked…a system across the board. Everyone was learning this for the first time. So that was a little different than before."

The change was effective in not allowing Montana to get a lot of looks inside early, but they took advantage of some UW errors to shoot lights out from three. By the first television timeout the Griz had made four-straight three pointers, and nine overall in the first half, shooting a ridiculous 71 percent from the field before intermission.

"We'll play more good teams this year and we'll play Pac-12 competition and I'm close to betting someone a pack of red vines that no one shoots 71 percent in a half," Romar said. That was an impressive, impressive display of shooting.

"If you looked at how they shot the ball you'd say (the new defense) wasn't effective at all. But based on the number of layups we gave up tonight, it was the first time teams didn't score as much in the paint. We had been giving up far too many laying in transition, not containing the basketball, offensive rebounds and putbacks…I thought we did a better job of not giving those up. They shot the ball extremely well in the first half from three - and that made a big difference for them."

"I've been doing it one way for five years, so it's different," Wilcox added when asked about the move to pack in the defense more and do more switching. "It's more packed in. We're just trying to contain the driver. It's an adjustment. We started it two days ago, so we're kind of learning it on the fly."

But Washington, down only six at half, stuck to their guns and only allowed Montana one offensive rebound all night long. That meant one shot and done, and when the Huskies were able to string together stops, they cut into the deficit.

"That was the main thing we got chewed out for after the New York trip - just getting out-rebounded," Wilcox said. "So we knew we could take advantage of them rebounding in this game and I think we did a good job."

Conversely, while Washington was packing it in defensively they were attacking on offense. They went to the free throw line 31 times, out-scoring the Griz by 18 at the stripe. Wilcox was 9-10 from the line, and Williams-Goss - dealing with a quad contusion suffered in the loss to BC - was 7-8.

"I'm alright," Williams-Goss said of his injury. "Just have to do a little rehab and hopefully get it right by Saturday. It was pretty sore the whole game."

NOTES: Here's what Wilcox said of Stewart's transfer - "I knew a while back that he was on the fence. I think it's good for him. We're going to miss him, enjoyed having him here and he'll stay family always."

Points: Wilcox 28, Williams-Goss 20, Blackwell 13, Andrews 6, Johnson 6, Anderson 5, Kemp 5
Rebounds: Blackwell 9, Anderson 8, Andrews 4, Wilcox 4, Williams-Goss 3, Johnson 2, Kemp 2, TEAM 2
Assists: Williams-Goss 6, Anderson 4, Wilcox 3 Andrews 2
Steals: Wilcox 2, Anderson 1, Andrews 1
Blocks: Blackwell 2, Wilcox 2 Top Stories