BY Todd Dybas 02:36PM 03/20/2011

Huskies done in by little things and one big one

When stake are so high, minor lapses become crucial.

Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 12 points and added eight assists in his final game of the season. / Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

CHARLOTTE — Georgia coach Mark Fox is the prescient deliverer of explanation for Washington’s loss to North Carolina’s behemoths in baby blue.

Friday night he lamented losing to Washington this way:

“Once you understand the consequences of little things, you realize there are no little things.”

Throughout the season, this Washington team swelled with talent committed peep-hole-sized errors. No rotation on the backside. Not being strong with the ball. Too much there, not enough here. A mistake by an older player, a mistake by a younger.

Sunday, it happened again in an 86-83 loss to second-seeded North Carolina.

Chances in the first half. Washington blew out to an 11-point lead, but Venoy Overton launched into the air and fouled a mediocre jump-shooter, Dexter Strickland. That calmed Carolina. Two free throws and Overton’s second foul.

Isaiah Thomas was called for a carry. Wasted possession. His pull-up air ball three-pointer, wasted possession.

The pile of minuscule things leading to defeat during the highest stakes began.

“There were times we were up 10 and we could have extended the lead to 15,” Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. “We didn’t do that. That hurts.”

Late in the second half.

Just 1:58 left, Terrence Ross, spectacular all day, reminds of his grade. The freshman leaves the ball out front of him, right under the nose of Harrison Barnes as opposed to the side or tight to his body.

“I wasn’t really paying attention to him at the time,” Ross said. “I was looking to see the play develop and I wasn’t strong with the ball.”

Barnes strips him. Wasted possession. North Carolina scored and elevated the lead to six, 84-78.

Ross’ misguided drive seconds later to the basket trying to force the spectacular is recorded as a missed shot, but in reality is a turnover. Same goes for Overton’s drive with eight seconds left.

Then the crowning blow. Senior Justin Holiday had everlong John Henson in front of him for a baseline out of bounds play. Scott Suggs’ three-pointer had just brought Washington within one, 84-83.

Holiday later explained he had shooters on the wings or Thomas out top. He chose Thomas, despite that being the most difficult pass.

“I was trying to get the ball to Isaiah so he could finish it,” Holiday said. “We’ve seen him hit a game-winning shot and I felt comfortable going there.“

Holiday’s intention was to loft the ball when Henson came to the floor. Henson tipped the pass, pushed the ball to a guard, and that was it.

“I felt like I didn’t hold up my end,” Holiday said.

As far as Overton’s midcourt heave? He anticipated a foul coming. Roy Williams told his players to foul. Thomas told Overton to watch for the foul, and if it comes, shoot it to get three shots.

“I misjudged his reach,” Overton said. “I thought he was going to really reach and I got in the air and I had to throw it up.”

Romar said if he had to do it over gain, the ball would be in Thomas’ hands.

Once talent is leveled, it’s a finger-tip difference that changes the outcome.

It’s an applicable explanation to all Washington losses against power programs this year.

The losses to Michigan State and Kentucky in Maui. Here.

The power programs Washington is trying to be like. Along with the commonality of not managing nuance, those games had another interwoven aspect: The most relieved winning coaches in the country.

Tom Izzo labeled his team lucky. John Calipari said Kentucky escaped and he wasn’t sure how. North Carolina’s Williams?

“I was scared. Scared to death.”

Washington had the talent to provide fear. Former Washington State coach Tony Bennett labeled this the team Washington coach Lorenzo Romar had been waiting for.

This wasn’t the result he was waiting for. All those little things during the season added up to a big, bad situation. It was North Carolina in Charlotte. Not Washington as a three seed in Denver. Blame a three-game losing streak starting at Stanford and extending through the state of Oregon.

As a result, Washington’s chartered flight left shortly after the game filled with another group of almosts. A layered roster more was expected from.

“Things happen,” Thomas said.

Indeed.


YourThoughts

  • Bill Segesser

    I wondered in the game (& against Georgia too) why the ball kept ending up in Overton’s hands. It looked like he was pressing – and has this whole second half of the season & small wonder why – and not the clutch player he’d been before. After the PAC10 tourney, it was obvious IT is the MAN!