An 11-0 second-half run helped UW to a 75-62 win over the Mustangs.
Lorenzo Romar knew the answer, but he asked the question anyway.
“Are we there yet?” he said following Washington’s 75-62 win over Cal Poly. “No. But what we did and the way we went about our business is more of what we want from our team.”
The Huskies posted their third straight victory and their fifth in the last six games, which is something of a significant achievement for a team that started 2-3.
But, truth be told, the Huskies needed more than a win Thursday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
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They needed an all-around game from leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who finished with a team-high 21 points and six rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
They needed solid contributions from veterans Scott Suggs (12 points), Aziz N’Diaye (11 points and nine rebounds) and Abdul Gaddy (10 points).
And they needed to disprove Romar, who levied stinging criticism this week when he questioned his team’s response to prosperity.
“Too often, we get bored with success,” Romar said, attempting to explain why Washington has been so inconsistent this season.
Leading 31-23 at the break, the Huskies never let up and outscored the Mustangs 44-39 in the second half.
They found ways to solve Cal Poly’s 2-3 zone, often with N’Diaye punishing smaller Cal Poly defenders beneath the glass.
They also used harassing defense to force turnovers and create points. The Mustangs average nine turnovers, which was the fewest in Division I.
However, Washington forced nine turnovers before halftime, and 12 overall.
“We wanted to be in the passing lanes, but we didn’t want to come out too high,” Gaddy said. “The main thing was to keep those guys in front and get as many deflections as possible. Make it tough for them to score, but not extend ourselves.”
The Huskies delivered the knockout blow when they held the Mustangs scoreless during a 6:26 stretch early in the second half and pushed their nine-point lead (38-29) to a 20-point advantage.
During the spurt, Wilcox swiped a pass at midcourt and raced ahead for a two-handed dunk before Gaddy capped the run with a flush that thrilled the 7,874 in the stands and gave Washington a 49-29 lead with 10:16 left.
Cal Poly (4-6), which received a game-high 23 points from junior forward Chris Eversley, never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“We had that (six)-minute drought, but the baskets that really drained us came from their offensive boards,” Cal Poly coach Joe Callero said. “N’Diaye, the 7-foot kid, just went over the top of us and snatched four offensive boards. Those were critical ones.”
Washington dominated on the glass and won the rebounding battle 30-17. The Huskies also took more than twice as many free throws (24 of 32) than the Mustangs (10 of 14) and shot over 50 percent from the field for the second straight game.
It’s all positive signs for a team that was laboring just weeks ago.
“You could see some good things,” Romar said. “We take the Seattle U game. We take the first 12 minutes of the Jackson State and now we take this game; now there’s a pattern going the other way. That’s a positive way. This makes us head in the right direction.”
• Backup guard Andrew Andrews returned from a three-game layoff due to a right sprained ankle and finished with eight points in 14 minutes.
• Gaddy is one of 85 candidates and one of seven Pac-12 players named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list that’s given to the NCAA’s top point guard. The winner will be announced April 8.
|CAL POLY 62|
Percentages: FG .440, FT .714. Three-point goals: 8-21, .381 (Odister 3-6, Eversley 2-4, Royer 2-8, Morgan 1-2, Johnson 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 0. Turnovers: 12 (Royer 3, Eversley 2, Johnson 2, Bennett, Morgan, Gordon, O’Brien, Odister). Steals: 8 (Morgan 3, Johnson 2, Bennett, U’u, Eversley). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .511, FT .750. Three-point goals: 5-17, .294 (Wilcox 3-6, Gaddy 1-3, Suggs 1-6, Stewart 0-1, Simmons 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Wilcox 2, Simmons). Turnovers: 13 (Gaddy 5, Wilcox 3, N’Diaye 2, Suggs 2, Stewart). Steals: 3 (Wilcox 2, Kemp, Jr.). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 7,874. Officials: Tony Padilla, Michael Greenstein, Ken Ditty.