SEATTLE — With a big win under its belt and a 4-1 record in Pacific-12 Conference play, the University of Washington men’s basketball team comes into this week with a lot about which to be excited.
But Sunday’s win over rival Washington State and the surprisingly fast start to conference play can only carry so much optimism as the Huskies prepare for a stretch without sophomore C.J. Wilcox.
The 6-foot-5 wing, UW’s second-leading scorer, is not expected to play this week when the Huskies host Cal (on Thursday night) and Stanford (on Saturday afternoon). A sore leg has hampered him for about three weeks, and over the weekend the Huskies found out that he has a stress fracture to his femur.
Wilcox did not play in Sunday’s win over WSU, and there were long stretches over the first 30 minutes of that game when the Huskies couldn’t seem to find an option on offense. The Huskies trailed 31-25 at halftime and fell behind by as many as 10 points in the second half before Ross came alive.
“C.J. is a great player, and we definitely needed him — especially to knock down shots,” senior Darnell Gant said of a first half that saw UW make just 9 of 31 field goal attempts. “But in the first half, I felt like we just didn’t do a good enough job of moving the ball.”
Wilcox carried the UW offense through the first month of the season, proving that he’d added driving skills to his remarkable outside shooting, while also being relied upon to guard opponents’ top scorers. Once freshman Tony Wroten Jr. emerged as a go-to scorer, Wilcox’s deadly accuracy from the outside proved even more valuable.
But he’s struggled with consistency over the past month, with three games below double-digit scoring and a problematic hip and upper leg that slowed him on both ends of the floor. After scoring a career-high 25 points in last Tuesday’s win over Seattle University, Wilcox admitted that he’d been battling the injury. He underwent an MRI late last week, at which time the stress fracture was revealed.
“He is very doubtful for (this week),” coach Lorenzo Romar said Sunday night. “We are hopeful that when we go to Arizona (next week) that he’ll be able to give us something.”
In Wilcox’s absence, the Huskies needed more than a half of basketball for another lead scorer to emerge from the wing. Sophomore Terrence Ross, who has always had the game but hasn’t always been able to take charge on the offensive end, took control on the way scoring 26 of his career-high 30 points after halftime.
“He’s as streaky a player as I’ve seen,” Romar said afterward. “When it starts to go for him, it’s just very difficult to guard him.”
The Huskies are hoping for similar things from Ross, a projected first-round NBA draft pick, in the future. With Wilcox temporarily sidelined by the injury, the Huskies will need points however they can find them.
“It changes the makeup of our team,” Romar said. “But if we can defend, it creates other scoring opportunities for us so that we don’t have to just worry about going to one or two individuals. If we guard, it just opens up everything for everyone else.”
For another week, the Huskies will likely let Wilcox just sit back and recover.
“He has to rest it,” Romar said Sunday night. “His leg actually feels better today (Sunday) than it did against Seattle U., and he played against Seattle U. thirty-plus minutes. But if he continues to do that, (the injury) is only going to progress on the decline; it’s not going to get any better. So he has to rest it.”