By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Watching fifth-year senior Scott Suggs return from a three-game layoff to shoot 53 percent from 3-point range while averaging 20 points per game should be pretty sweet for University of Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar.
But somehow, the self-described “glass-half-full” coach has come away with a taste of bitterness.
“It goes without saying, I wish we had him for those other games,” Romar said.
It’s possible that the Huskies (6-4) could be looking at a much better record had Suggs been healthy all season. He missed a three-point home loss to Nevada with a sore foot and played just 90 seconds in a one-point loss to Albany before suffering a concussion on an inadvertent elbow to the head. But UW is just happy to have Suggs back now.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard is finally filling the role he has long coveted as a go-to scorer, and he’s provided one of the few consistent scoring options for the Huskies.
“Scott’s a good player,” said junior C.J. Wilcox, who leads UW in scoring at 19.2 points per game. “He’s a really good scorer, and it’s showing.”
The return of Suggs has given UW a formidable 1-2 scoring punch on the perimeter. Not including the Albany game that saw Suggs go scoreless before taking the elbow to the head, he and Wilcox have each hit double digits in every game they’ve played — combining to average 36 points per game. In the six games in which Suggs and Wilcox have both been healthy enough to finish, the Huskies are averaging 78.3 points per game — a full 14 points per game higher than UW has scored while Suggs has been nursing injuries.
“C.J. and Scott definitely need to be aggressive,” Romar said, “and I think they’ve been aggressive.”
Wilcox’s scoring numbers have dipped since Suggs returned to the lineup, but the junior wing has put up better shooting percentages and welcomed his teammate back.
“It’s just another option — a really good option,” Wilcox said after Saturday’s win over Jackson State. “It takes the pressure off me.”
After missing all of the 2011-12 season with a foot injury, then taking another three full games off earlier this season because of unrelated foot soreness, Suggs re-entered the lineup for the Dec. 8 game against Nevada and looked anything but tentative. He took a team-high 17 shots in the Nevada game, scoring a career-high 19 points.
Suggs missed his first five shots in that game but has gone on to make 18 of 32 — a percentage of 56.3.
“He’s shooting the ball extremely well, he’s putting the ball on the floor, he went to the foul line eight times the other night,” Romar said, referring to a Saturday win over Jackson State that saw Suggs score 17 points — all of them in the first 28 minutes. “He makes a huge difference to our team. Not to mention, (he is) another guy that can go out and defend someone on the other team.”
While the return of Suggs has given UW one of the top scoring wing combinations in the Pacific-12 Conference, it has left few options for other scorers. That’s just fine with Romar.
“They’ve had the big numbers, but we have four guys in double figures,” Romar said, referring to the scoring contributions of point guard Abdul Gaddy and Aziz N’Diaye. “… If we have four, five guys in double figures, that’s fine — it doesn’t matter how we get there. In most situations, you’re going to have a couple that stick out more than the others.
“… I like where our balance is.”
What Romar doesn’t like about this team is its lack of a killer instinct. Suggs and Wilcox are laid-back, friendly guys who reflect the overall personality of the team. After UW failed to put Jackson State away with a knockout punch Saturday, Romar is spending this week trying to find an edge in his players.
“We hopefully have to get out of our comfort zone,” Romar said, adding that this year’s team might be too nice. “… I see a little changing in our attitude (this week) in that regard.”
Romar has tried to light a fire under his team by making the practice sessions more demanding. He’s hoping the Huskies will come out of it with some spit and vinegar.
“I think it’s good to be irritable out there,” he said, “as long as you’re under control.”
Romar said that guard Andrew Andrews (ankle) should be cleared to play sometime this week. If Andrews isn’t able to go against Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) today, Romar said he was pretty sure the freshman would be available for Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois.