In opening Pac-12 play 4-0 the Washington Huskies defended far better than they did during the non-conference portion of their schedule. In conference games entering their home tilt against Utah the Huskies ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to 37.4% shooting from the field.
For a program that’s had some great scorers over the years, it’s expected that the Huskies uphold their end of the bargain on the defensive end as well.
“I think there’s some pride here. I think the culture here, the way we go about things, eventually someone wants to be one of those guys that they want to defend,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said on Friday.
Unfortunately for the Huskies (12-6, 4-1) they got away from defending at the level established in their first four games on Saturday night, and the end result was a 74-65 loss to Utah. Brandon Taylor provided a spark off the bench for the Utes with 19 points and six assists, and as a team the Utes shot 60.4% from the field.
Before Saturday’s defeat Washington hadn’t allowed a single team to shoot better than 50% from the field, but Utah’s patience proved to be too much to overcome with leading scorer C.J. Wilcox going scoreless in the first half.
“We just weren’t determined enough early. Throughout parts of the game, we just weren’t determined enough,” said Romar following the defeat. “We’ll go back and look at the film. We’ll be embarrassed at times about our lack of coverage.”
Utah (9-9, 1-5), who picked up their first conference road victory since joining the Pac-12, was able to consistently find quality looks either for Taylor at the end of the shot clock or for forwards Jason Washburn (18 points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Loveridge (17 points, five rebounds and four assists).
Given how well Washington defended leading up to last night’s loss, the more important aspect of the outcome is their perimeter scoring. Averaging 19.1 points per game, Wilcox is one of the Pac-12’s best scorers and still managed to finish with 14 points after going scoreless in the first half.
Utah essentially face-guarded him and forced Abdul Gaddy (2-of-9 FG, five points) and Scott Suggs (4-of-16, 12 points) beat them, and those two were unable to do so despite getting 17 off the bench from Andrew Andrews. As the conference season wears on Washington should expect similar defensive strategies.
“They did a nice job on C.J. I would have to say it’s pretty close to [how they guarded] Brock Motum,” said Romar. “They just kind of face guard and try to take the guy. They seemed to make a decision as to who they’re going to allow to shoot the ball and who they’re not.”
Washington will bounce back defensively. But if they’re to be a contender for the Pac-12 title they’ll need better offensive performances from Gaddy and Suggs to go along with the dependable Wilcox.
Quotes courtesy of University of Washington Athletics