College Hoops Thursday Recap: Wilcox Saves Washington

March 4th, 2011
Trailing by just one point (25-24) at the half but mostly stifled offensively (21.2% FG) the Washington Huskies needed someone to step up and change the flow of the game. Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning struggled to find clean looks, which is to be expected given how prominently they figure in the Husky attack. Enter freshman CJ Wilcox, overlooked by some who chose to focus on the loss of Terrence Jones and the anticipated impact of Terrence Ross. Wilcox scored all of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead the Huskies to a 70-63 win that may put a halt to the talk of them possibly slipping onto the bubble with an 0-2 weekend.

"I don't think I've ever been a part of a freshman coming in and playing like CJ Wilcox did in the second half," said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar. "I've been a part of a team that won a National Championship and I've never seen a freshman do what he did tonight in the second half.

"You rarely see a freshman, unless he comes in and is one of these heralded All-American guys that's one-and-done, you rarely see a freshman take a team and put them on his back like he did in the second half." (quote courtesy of Washington Athletics)

Wilcox was outstanding as he made seven of ten shots from the field in addition to all six of his free throw attempts. Add in 10 points off the bench from Venoy Overton, who played much better than he did in Sunday's loss to Washington State, and an excellent defensive effort from Justin Holiday and the end result is a big win for the Huskies and a share of the Pac-10 title (at least) for Arizona. Holiday made just one of his eight shots from the field but his true impact is seen in the stat line for UCLA wing Tyler Honeycutt. Honeycutt finished 0-for-6 from the field, scoring all six of his points from the foul line. Bryan-Amaning contributed in other ways as well, grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds in 26 minutes of action in addition to helping limit Reeves Nelson to 10 points and eight rebounds.

The good news for the Bruins in defeat was the play of reserves Jerime Anderson and Joshua Smith. Anderson knocked down some critical shots in the second half, finishing with 16 points to lead the team in scoring. Smith, who comes off the bench in a move to avoid early foul trouble, finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds in 31 minutes of action. If these two reserves can build on on their performances last night look for UCLA to be a serious threat to win the Pac-10 Tournament; Honeycutt and Nelson will have better nights than Thursday. But maybe it's time to include the Huskies in that discussion with regards to next week, as they went on a similar run to finish last season by winning the conference tournament. At the very least an unheralded freshman did his part in ensuring a return to the NCAA Tournament.

Other Notable Happenings

1. Have fun trying to slow down Jordan Taylor this month.
When you're struggling on the road in a game you're expected to win, it's always good to be able to call on one of the best point guards in America. Jordan Taylor added another chapter to an outstanding season on Thursday night, scoring a career-high 39 points as the Badgers hung on to beat Indiana 77-67. Taylor went off for a portion of the second half, scoring all 14 points in a 14-4 Badger run that turned a one-point game into a 60-49 lead. With players either struggling offensively or benched with foul trouble the junior stepped up as he has all season long. According to Ken Pomeroy's numbers, Taylor has the best offensive rating in the Big Ten (24% of possessions used) with a rating of 130.4 and it's not even close (Jared Sullinger is second at 122.8). That number also places him second nationally (Wofford's Noah Dahlman), and with how important guard play is this time of the year Taylor's an incredible asset to have on your side.

2. Seton Hall gets hot from three and beats St. John's.
Seton Hall certainly isn't bashful about putting up three-pointers, attempting 318 in conference games this season. But they also aren't the best at knocking them down, making just 27% of their shots from beyond the arc. That's what made their performance in an 84-70 win over St. John's all the more impressive. The Pirates knocked down 12 of 18 shots from distance, outscoring the Red Storm 36-9 from three. Jeremy Hazell led the way with 31 points, combining with freshman Fuquan Edwin to make nine of twelve from three and Jordan Theodore made both of his attempts as well. As a result of their marksmanship Seton Hall was able to navigate 18 turnovers in addition to some first half foul trouble.

Dwight Hardy led the Red Storm with 23 points but they were unable to assume control of a game that became heated late. Steve Lavin was ejected for arguing with an official, and Justin Burrell would join him shortly thereafter due to a hard foul on Anali Okoloji (it would be fair to argue that in the final seconds of a game that's essentially over there's no need to attempt a dunk). St. John's now needs DePaul to beat Syracuse on Saturday (in addition to taking care of USF at home) to grab that final double-bye, but more than likely they're looking at the five-seed in the Big East Tournament. And with Seton Hall locked into the 12/13 game against Rutgers, these two could meet again on Wednesday afternoon.

3. Both lower seeds win in the second day of the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.
With Mercer beating Lipscomb on Sunday there wasn't much surprise that they were able to repeat said accomplishment last night, beating the Bisons 73-63 thanks in large part to 27 points and six rebounds from Brian Mills. The Bears, who have the fortune of playing the tournament on their home floor, did a good job of neutralizing All-Atlantic Sun forward Adnan Hodzic, who finished with nine points on 3-for-7 shooting. Josh Slater led Lipscomb with 18 points but it's tough to win when shooting 33.9% from the field and 27.6% from three, especially when 29 of the 56 field goal attempts come from three.

North Florida's win wasn't a huge shock either, considering that despite sweeping the season series Jacksonville won those two contests by a combined three points. Jerron Granberry paced UNF with a game-high 23 points and the Ospreys outscored the Dolphins by 14 over the final 11-plus minutes of the game. Andres Diaz added 19 points and seven rebounds, and their assist-to-turnover ratio (8-to-15) wasn't as bad as Jacksonville's, who finished with six assists to 19 turnovers while shooting just 40% from the field. The task gets even tougher for North Florida and Mercer today as the top two seeds in the A-Sun await (ETSU for North Florida, Belmont for Mercer), but anything is possible.

Washington State guard Klay Thompson arrested and charged with possession of marijuana following Thursday's win over USC Thompson will not play in Saturday's regular season finale against UCLA per release from the school.

Top Three Games

1. Bethune-Cookman 73, Florida A&M 71 (OT)
The Wildcats knocked off the Rattlers at home thanks to an Alexander Starling steal and shot (off glass) in the final seconds. C.J. Reed led the MEAC regular season champions with 23 points and five assists, and Avery Moore paced FAMU with 16. The win also secures Bethune-Cookman's first 20-win season since 1980-81.

2. Texas-Pan American 75, South Dakota 74
A Brandon Provost layup in the final seconds gave the Broncs a one-point home win in Edinburg. Provost's basket answered a Louis Krogman three that put the Coyotes ahead by one with 12 seconds remaining. Provost finished with 22 points and Kendall Cutler posted the same to lead South Dakota.

3. Washington 70, UCLA 63

Three Notable Performances

1. G Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin)
39 points (11-19 FG, 7-8 3PT) in the Badgers' 77-67 win at Indiana.

2. G/F Troy Huff (North Dakota)
31 points and 12 rebounds in the Fighting Sioux's 74-70 win at Houston Baptist.

3. F Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac)
22 points (11-15 FG) and 16 rebounds in the Bobcats' 78-59 win over Mount St. Mary's in an NEC quarterfinal.