BY Art Thiel 05:27PM 02/18/2012

Thiel: Huskies’ big fella drops the big hammer

N’Diaye’s breakaway slam ignites Washington and infuriates Arizona’s coaches, but their laments did them little good in the face of complete hoops craftsmanship by the Huskies.

Aziz N'Diaye gets a breakaway dunk off his own steal Saturday against Arizona. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Recent hoops tradition between Washington and Arizona says that the games come down to down to final seconds and final plays, then madness ensues.

Saturday afternoon the madness broke out just eight minutes into the disagreement.

Aziz N’Diaye, the seven-foot center known for his offense like Black & Decker is known for its desserts,  blocked a pass, recovered the ball and saw nothing ahead of him but open floor. The sellout crowd rose to its feet, anticipating a glimpse into infinity.

N’Diaye tipped the ball over a defender to himself, broke free and in two dribbles and about six strides, tomahawked a dunk whose concussion bent Hec Ed’s girders as well as the minds of the Wildcats’ coaches.

Furious that traveling was not called at three or four points in the big fella’s gambol, the coaches yelled so much that head coach Sean Miller drew a technical foul. Two free throws later, Washington had a four-point play and a 21-14 lead.

Even though Arizona had some fire left, that play was pretty much the game. The teams stayed close, but Arizona did not streak and Washington did not falter. The 79-70 win meant a sweep for the Huskies of their toughest rival and a blow to Arizona’s NCAA tourney hopes for an at-large berth.

“We put together 40 minutes today,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “We did a really good job. That team is tough to play. They are physical and aggressive. I thought our guys did a good job.”

And of N’Diaye’s semi-Jordanesque burst from coast-to-coast?

“He tells me all the time he can do all of this stuff,” said Romar, smiling. “Maybe we aren’t using him right.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Put N’Diaye out on the wing and tell him to go all Tony Wroten over the pitiable fools who would deny him.

Laughs came easily and often Sunday as Washington closed out its home season with a Senior Day salute that went Hollywood.

“You can only hope that Senior Day ends up like it did today,” he said. “From my standpoint it was great to see how we did it.”

As is customary, Romar started his only seniors, Darnell Gant and Brendan Sherrer, the latter a three-year refugee from the Dawg Pack student rooting section, even though it was an important game and no small risk. Sherrer never plays when the game is in doubt, and 0-0 represents doubt.

But in his two-minute, 13-second stay, he defended well, grabbed a rebound and came nowhere close to spitting up on himself.

“I was nervous,” he said, grinning. “I think the other guys were too (for him), but in warmups they saw I was OK.”

So was Gant, a Pac-12 veteran warrior who nevertheless was expected to get a little weepy after a five-year stay that could make him the only player in UW history to play in four NCAA tourneys.

“I told you all — the more you said I was going to cry, the more I wasn’t going to cry,” he said in mock indignation. “I’m an actor, I can hold it in if I need to.”

Indeed the drama major was cool, as were all of his teammates. There was little of the lapses and mindlessness that have pickled the season, which at 19-8 and 12-3 is gaining credibility by the half.

“I think this weekend was some of the most complete basketball we’ve played,” Romar said. “If you look at the first half against ASU (Thursday when UW was up 44-26 at halftime) and this game, so that’s three out of four halves of complete basketball.”

Looking pretty on national TV won’t hurt Washington when it comes to NCAA selection Sunday. As has been chronicled throughout the winter, the Pac-12 is mostly a vortex of mediocrity, and an honest look at Arizona probably includes the Wildcats, who were led by the 20 points of guard Nick Johnson, in the mess.

Compared to recent UA teams, they aren’t all that talented, and aren’t all that deep.

“One of the things I think we’re dealing with right now is the reality of playing seven players,” said Miller. “At first you can get some additional chemistry and experience good play, but one week becomes two, two weeks become three. And we played really hard at Washington State on Thursday night.

“With everything we did in that game and the quick turnaround on Saturday at noon, I believe it favors the home team. We wore down physically. I feel like when you’re playing against a team as talented, deep and hard-playing as Washington is, we started to wear down physically.”

The Wildcats really don’t have anyone the caliber of Wroten or Terrence Ross, who had 25 points, five steals and and five assists, and that’s despite missing seven of eight trey attempts. Wroten also short poorly, missing 15 of 22, but he had a pair of gym-rattling dunks and a bevy of clever plays that kept the Huskies from falling back.

“It’s very difficult,” said Miller of matching up on Wroten. “He is so different because he gets his own miss about as well as any player I’ve seen. It almost sounds funny to say that, but if you watch him, he can get to the basket, miss his shot and get a second shot.
“He puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”

So does a seven-footer on a breakaway. Even the officials don’t have the imagination for it.


YourThoughts

  • Soggyblogger

    I was hoping you had more on the Ross interview, Art. You failed to mention the chant “one more year, one more year….” while Ross was at the line with a minute to play, when Ross shook his head…..someone interviewed Ross about that and he explained the head shake as saying this isn’t the time for that….then he went on to say he had not made his mind up about another year. He added something about how the rest of the season turns out might influence his decision….like Barnes of NC, who says if they play for the championship he is definitely turning pro…..obviously, being in the final will raise anyone’s stock, and if that is what Ross means, I think we can all understand why he might go under those conditions.

    Someone who claims to have spoken to Ross and Wroten claims Ross is 99.99% going and Wroten is staying….

    • Artthiel

      Soggy, probably should have, but I was planning on addressing the topic next week. Can’t save these news items when they happen in front of a large audience.

      The person you cite is repeating the conventional wisdom around the team, and it makes a lot of sense.
       

  • Soggyblogger

    I was hoping you had more on the Ross interview, Art. You failed to mention the chant “one more year, one more year….” while Ross was at the line with a minute to play, when Ross shook his head…..someone interviewed Ross about that and he explained the head shake as saying this isn’t the time for that….then he went on to say he had not made his mind up about another year. He added something about how the rest of the season turns out might influence his decision….like Barnes of NC, who says if they play for the championship he is definitely turning pro…..obviously, being in the final will raise anyone’s stock, and if that is what Ross means, I think we can all understand why he might go under those conditions.

    Someone who claims to have spoken to Ross and Wroten claims Ross is 99.99% going and Wroten is staying….

    • Artthiel

      Soggy, probably should have, but I was planning on addressing the topic next week. Can’t save these news items when they happen in front of a large audience.

      The person you cite is repeating the conventional wisdom around the team, and it makes a lot of sense.
       

  • RadioGuy

    Can any of those Samoans he roomed with at Mt. San Antonio play offensive line?  We could use some O-liners who can stay healthy.

    Seriously, if Irvin can be an effective pass rusher and special teams monster for Carroll, he’ll help.  Sacks and forced fumbles never hurt.  Everyone’s concern is that Irvin won’t be able to stay out of trouble, and Pete doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement over Mike Holmgren in the enablement department.  We’ll all see soon enough.

    In the meantime, if I own a bar (or sandwich shop) in Pioneer Square, I’m making sure my insurance is paid in full.

  • Artthiel

    Carroll knows him, which counts for something, and yes, he has grown up. But success is such a hard thing to manage for someone with no grounding in it. Hell, it’s hard to manage even when you’re surrounded by it. Ask Bernie Madoff. He is saying all the right things, and the Seahawks will coach him to keep doing it, but when no one is looking, he’ll face the crucible, and there’s no track record yet of what he will do.
    But hey, every player has risks. This one will be high-maintenance. 

  • wabubba67

    Are you aware of any organizations in any sport hiring, in essence, an adult baby sitter for a kid in Irvin’s situation?  A guy that is paid to live with, cook for, provide supervision and transportation for an athlete until he has seemingly adapted well to his surroundings.  With the millions invested in athletes (along with the reputations of GMs and Head Coaches), it seems paying someone an additional $100,000 to fill this role and ensure the success of that investment would be reasonable.