Washington's second-half rally comes up short
NEW YORK — After a horrendous first half in which Washington was admittedly “shell-shocked,” “intimidated” and “scared,” the Huskies turned a blowout into a thrilling finish.
They received plenty of help from Duke, which missed 16 of 35 free throws in the second half.
Still, the Huskies used a four-guard trapping attack that pressured the seventh-ranked Blue Devils into turnovers and turned those miscues into baskets in their second-half rally.
Washington reduced a 19-point deficit to single digits, but ran out of time and players before falling 86-80 Saturday in front of 17,046 at the Carquest Auto Parts Classic at Madison Square Garden.
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“We dug ourselves a big hole being down in the first half 17-18 points,” freshman Tony Wroten Jr. said. “We were a little bit shell-shocked. I don’t know what it was, but as a whole we weren’t playing like we usually play.
“Then, finally, we got into our groove, but it was a little too late.”
Washington’s leading scorers and best shooters — C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross — launched uncharacteristic air balls on their first attempts and UW’s offense grinded to a halt.
Wroten scored UW’s first six points while Duke raced ahead 13-6 after seven minutes.
“Some guys probably got a little stage fright,” junior guard Abdul Gaddy said. “It happens. We just had to bounce back from that and we did. But I wasn’t expecting us to come out like that.”
Before the Huskies could get on track offensively, they trailed 34-15 at the 5:14 mark of the first half. By that time, Washington had missed 14 of 20 shots and appeared heading to an embarrassing defeat.
“I think we were a little bit intimidated because of the stage we were on and the team we were playing,” Wilcox said. “It kind of got us doing weird stuff.
“It was the team that we were playing. It’s those letters across their jerseys. We played kind of scared, but in the second half we realized that they were beatable.”
Washington fell behind 40-26 at the break and lost Aziz N’Diaye early in the second half.
He crumpled to the floor after a dunk with 19:16 left, spraining his knee. Supported by trainers, N’Diaye limped to the locker room and didn’t return.
Without their 7-foot enforcer, the Huskies played a four-guard lineup that included Darnell Gant, a 6-8 senior forward, or Desmond Simmons, a 6-7 freshman forward, in the middle of a 2-3 zone defense.
“It was different being the tallest guy on my team out there,” Simmons said. “That’s my first time ever playing in the middle of a 2-3 zone since I was in high school. It was just something I had to adjust to.”
Duke overpowered the shorter Huskies with Mason and Miles Plumlee, 6-10 brothers, and 6-11 forward Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils won the rebounding battle 41-36 and had 13 on the offensive glass, which led to 17 second-chance points.
Kelly finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, Mason Plumlee added 12 points and nine rebounds and Miles Plumlee had nine points and seven rebounds.
Duke (9-1) looked as if it was going to cruise to an easy victory when it led by 19 points (71-52) with 7:11 left.
“I was proud that our guys didn’t quit,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They hung in and they battled (and) scrapped.”
Wroten took over in those final seven minutes.
The backup guard scored 10 of his game-high 23 points during a 20-7 Washington run.
Not only did Wroten hurt Duke with a series of dribble drives, but Blue Devils freshman Austin Rivers (18 points) and Seth Curry collected their fifth fouls trying to defend him.
“I did whatever I needed to do to get us back in it,” said Wroten, who also had five rebounds and five turnovers in 24 minutes. “I thought we had a chance to come all the way back.”
Wilcox scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half and Ross had 14 of his 16 after the break.
Gaddy converted a layup to cut Duke’s lead to 78-72 with 58 seconds left.
Washington never got any closer.
Three Huskies fouled out as UW intentionally fouled, hoping the Blue Devils’ struggles at the line would continue. Duke converted seven of its final nine free throws and was 27 of 44 overall.
“We make free throws, it wouldn’t have been that close at the end,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “You miss free throws like that, the result can be different at the end and you can lose.”
Despite the defeat, the Huskies took solace from outscoring the Blue Devils 54-46 in the second half.
After a three-game road trip that included a 76-73 overtime defeat at Nevada and a 79-77 loss Tuesday to No. 11 Marquette in New York, Washington has lost three consecutive games by a combined 11 points.
The Huskies (4-4) have dropped four of their past five games, but think they can win the Pac-12 title and make a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament trip.
“I learned we’re capable of being competitive with just about anyone,” Romar said. “Being capable and potentially being good doesn’t mean a thing though.
“We’re 4-4. We got to get over the hump. And I think we will.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com. On Twitter @percyallen.
Percentages: FG .477, FT .565. Three-point goals: 5-17 (Gant 0-1, Gaddy 0-2, Wilcox 2-7, Ross 2-5, Wroten 1-1, Simmons 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 0. Turnovers: 14 (Gant 2, N’Diaye, Gaddy, Wilcox 3, Wroten 5, Simmons 2). Steals: 7 (Gaddy, Wilcox, Ross, Wroten, Simmons 3). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .474, FT .614. Three-point goals: 5-17 (Kelly 1-2, Rivers 2-5, Curry 0-1, Dawkins 2-9). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 7 (Kelly 2, Ma.Plumlee 2, Mi.Plumlee 3). Turnovers: 14 (Kelly, Ma.Plumlee 2, Rivers 3, Thornton 3, Curry 5). Steals: 7 (Kelly 3, Ma.Plumlee 3, Mi.Plumlee). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 15,525. Officials: Les Jones, Karl Hess, Roger Ayers.