First-half struggles plague Ross, Huskies men’s basketball team

  • Fri Jan 20th, 2012 9:15pm
  • Sports

By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer

SEATTLE — The past two times it played at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the University of Washington men’s basketball team brought the fans out of their seats with exciting second-half rallies.

This afternoon, the Huskies are hoping for no such theatrics.

When UW (11-7 overall, 4-2 in the Pacific-12 Conference) plays host to Stanford at 3 p.m., the primary objective is to jump out to a lead, thereby eliminating the need to make a big run in the second half.

The Huskies trailed by 10 points midway through the second half of Sunday’s game against Washington State, only to storm back for a 75-65 win. Two days ago, UW found itself in a 10-point hole at the half, fell behind by 13 early in the second half, and made another push down the stretch before falling 69-66 to Cal.

“It’s definitely hard to come back,” sophomore Terrence Ross said after the Cal game. “I know if we come out the same as the last two games, this is going to be the outcome. We just have to come out with the right mindset and take care of things in the first half.”

It’s not a two-game aberration, either. The Huskies fell behind 40-26 at halftime to Duke in a Dec. 10 game at Madison Square Garden and had to put on a furious second-half rally just to avoid getting blown out.

Since the start of that Duke game, UW has been outscored 396-391 in first halves while holding a 452-410 advantage after halftime. Only three of UW’s past 11 opponents — South Dakota State, Colorado and Seattle University — have outscored the Huskies after halftime.

“When you get down like that,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said after the latest slow start, “it’s tough.”

The Huskies haven’t necessarily been slow coming out of the gates in recent games. The pattern has been that UW plays close for a few minutes, then loses momentum when it has to go to a paper-thin bench that’s missing Scott Suggs for the season and C.J. Wilcox for at least another game. UW and Cal were tied 8-8 in Thursday’s game before Cal went on a 14-4 run — mostly against a UW lineup that included freshman reserves Hikeem Stewart and Shawn Kemp Jr.

In that game, the Huskies shot 34.5 percent in the first half and 45.7 percent after halftime. Four days earlier, in the win over WSU, UW saw its shooting percentage go from 29.0 through 20 minutes to 46.9 after halftime.

The worst culprit has been swingman Terrence Ross, who has made just 2 of 14 shots and scored six points in the opening halves of the past two games, then exploded for 39 points and 13-of-22 shooting after halftime.

After the Cal game, Ross said: “The first half, I don’t know what was wrong. Things weren’t falling, and I had to gather myself at halftime.”

The Huskies will need to be focused coming into today’s game against a Stanford team that will be motivated to make up for Thursday night’s loss to WSU in Pullman. In that game, the Cardinal (15-4, 5-2) led by as many as 13 points early in the second half before getting pounded over the final 10 minutes.

WSU’s road to victory, on that night, seemed all too familiar to a Huskies team that has made a living battling from behind.

“I have no idea,” senior Darnell Gant said when asked to explain UW’s recent deficits. “I really couldn’t tell you. All our next games, we have to be prepared from the jump.”