Thursday, November 29, 2012
SEATTLE — The new normal at Washington doesn’t look like anything any other team since Lorenzo Romar took over 11 years ago.
But then these are strange times for the Huskies, which is still adjusting to injuries that left them short-handed and an exodus of talent that’s pushed former supporting cast members into starring roles.
The new normal is C.J. Wilcox spinning in the lane, contorting in the air and lofting a high-arcing shot over a defender.
It’s Aziz N’Diaye taking over offensively for stretches and feathering in jump hooks on the block.
And it’s Abdul Gaddy charging into the lane for a series of acrobatic layups.
Powered by its three emerging stars, Washington surged past Saint Louis in the second half to claim a 66-61 victory that snapped a two-game losing skid and two consecutive losses at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Wilcox, who scored 28 points Saturday, followed that with 27 against the Billikens on 11-of-13 shooting. He was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
Gaddy rebounded from an off performance in the previous game and finished with 16 points and N’Diaye had 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Those guys right now are showing they’re the most capable until we get our other guys back,” Romar said. “When we have such a short bench, you count on those guys to bring it every game.
“If one of those guys don’t play as well it will be tougher because we don’t have a lot of options because of injuries right now.”
It was a positive step for Washington (3-3), which hadn’t won at home since the Nov. 11 opener and had lost three of four.
Maybe it was the late 9 p.m. start — the latest tip off this season — but the Huskies slogged through the first half and the crowd of 6,928 gave them very little energy.
Tied at 33 early in the second half, Gaddy sparked a 6-0 run with a block and a dribble drive layup on the ensuing possession. It was UW’s first lead since the opening minutes.
The Huskies pushed their advantage to 59-48 when N’Diaye powered in a dunk with 6:51 left.
Saint Louis (3-3) responded with a slew of 3-pointers. Cody Ellis drained 5 of 12 shots behind the arc for a team-high 14 points.
The Billikens never got closer than four points in the final eight minutes.
Gaddy put the finishing touches on the Billikens when he flushed a fast-break layup with 1:22 left.
Washington’s five-point win was a marked contrast from the 18-point defeat to Colorado State on Saturday.
So what was the difference?
“Toughness and grit,” Gaddy said. “We boxed out more and just played more physical. That’s always been a trademark of our team.”
With Wilcox leading the way, Washington shot 51.1 percent from the field.
“I just took it upon myself to be aggressive. Tonight was just one of those nights when my shot was falling.”
Redshirt freshman guard Andrew Andrews made his first start in place of fifth-year senior Scott Suggs, who missed his second game because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
But it was Washington’s other redshirt freshman, Jernard Jarreau, who made an early impact for the Huskies.
The 6-10 forward came out firing and sank three of his first six shots, all midrange jumpers, in the thick of the Billikens defense. He finished with six points.