Now that the Huskies have lost three conference games in a row — two to winless teams – the fire-Lorenzo-Romar crowd should be emerging from under the mud and leaves of winter. This is, after all, major college basketball, where you’re only as good as your previous half of hoops.
Before that happens, there might be some merit to tinkering with the lineup. Right now a move worthy of consideration is to supplant senior point guard Abdul Gaddy with his freshman backup, Andrew Andrews.
That’s mostly because Andrews, playing in his home state for the first time as a collegian, popped for 15 points Saturday in Eugene against a good Oregon team in an 81-76 loss. Two games earlier, the Portland native had a career-high 17 points against Utah.
Naturally, Romar was aghast at the very thought.
“Why would you do that?” he said to reporters at his weekly presser Tuesday. “He had 27 minutes last game. He played more than he had been playing, and we’re going to make sure he continues to do that.”
But Romar wasn’t THAT aghast. He finished his thought by saying, “He’ll get more minutes, and maybe before it’s all said and done he will be starting.”
There you have it. Shock and dismay followed by a potential solution.
It likely won’t happen Thursday at Hec Ed against eighth-ranked Arizona (17-2, 5-2), the annual visit by the Wildcats that draws the first red circle by die-hard Huskies fans whenever each season’s schedule is released.
This game is not the game to mess with the lineup, not after a three-game skid and the cactus-country bad boys in town. The Huskies haven’t had a top-25 team in the house since No. 23 Texas A&M Dec. 23, 2009, and haven’t beaten a top-10 team at home since a 71-61 win over UCLA since Feb. 10, 2008.
So the clarion call went out to the student body — help!
“We need to play at our highest level and we want our crowd to be at their highest level,” Romar said. “It’s the same thing that allowed us to win 32 straight home games. I know what that’s like. We need everything we can get.”
The home-court advantage from which UW has benefited in the Romar era is not what it was. There’s been no sellouts this season; the biggest crowd was 8,598 for Utah Jan. 19, almost 2,000 short of capacity.
Part of it has been the ridiculous 8:30 p.m. start times dictated by the Pac-12 Network, the conference’s cash cow that has trampled the football and basketball schedules. Part of it is UW’s lame preseason schedule full of Albanys and Cal State-Fuller Brushes. And part of it that this year’s team hasn’t been all that fun to watch.
The defensive grit that has been a Romar hallmark has been spotty, and the Huskies’ offense largely has been about whether they can get C.J. Wilcox open for a jumper. Given the shortcomings, it’s a little surprising that the Huskies are 12-8, 4-3 in conference.
The offense is just weird. It’s operating with one flat tire offensively in Desmond Simmons. The 6-7 forward is a rebounding machine, but he has taken nine shots in the past four games, missing seven. In 22 minutes against Oregon, he didn’t shoot once. Given how much he is around the action, odds are by now at least one ball would have banged off his head into the basket. But no.
They have the conference’s leading percentage shooter in seven-foot Aziz N’Diaye at 63.2 percent, but he averages a little more than four shots per game. Nobody expects the Senegalese galoot to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but the man has developed a little hook shot that deserves more than one or two tries a game.
Nearly everyone else is a perimeter jump shooter. As a result the Huskies are relatively easy to defend; as Romar put it, “if any team really wants to take out a player (like Wilcox), they can.”
Which brings us back to Gaddy. To be blunt, he plays too soft too often. He definitely has his moments and his games, but he seems lost between the job of scorer and the job of distributor. Against Oregon State in a 74-66 loss in Corvallis a week ago, Gaddy shot well, scoring 14 points, but had no assists in 29 minutes. And he’s the conference’s career active leader and No. 6 all-time at UW in assists.
In that game, Andrews had six assists in 23 minutes. He’s an aggressive driver who forces defenses to pull in, opening the perimeter. Overall, he plays like he’d break the arm of the guy reaching to steal lunch money.
Since Romar described Arizona’s perimeter players Tuesday as “junkyard dogs,” it would seem useful for the Dawgs to have one of their own. No one has ever called Gaddy a junkyard dog.
Of Andrews, Romar said he is finally getting back in condition after missing three games with a sprained ankle.
“He definitely brings attitude,” he said. “The question of starting . . . that’s another dynamic. Maybe he could be. He’s learning. He’s playing more like what we saw all last year (his redshirt year).
“Some players come out of high school thinking you’re Superman, because you were. In college, Superman plays on the other team too. But I love players who are aggressive every time down the floor, as long as they’re making good decisions. We can tolerate kicking the ball out of bounds now and then.”
Asked before Tuesday practice what prompted the scoring burst against Oregon, Andrews said, “I knew they would key on C.J., Scott (Suggs) and Aziz. I was just trying to make them think a little bit more.
“It just comes with being aggressive.”
Asked who among NBA players he found most worthy of emulation, he said Deron Williams, the $100 million All-Star point guard of the Brooklyn Nets.
Andrews has a ways to go for that level, but the direction is true. And since the offense is already mostly haywire, it can’t hurt to give the ball to a point guard who can be the leading scorer. Instead of being caught between, Andrews can do both.