Time for Terrence Ross to be Washington's go-to guy
For the last decade Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has had veteran leaders who stayed cool when the games got hot. It's Terrence Ross' turn now.
Seattle Times staff columnist
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Which team would show up for this desperately important Sunday matinee? Could Washington recover from its Thursday slumber in Eugene? Who would be the playmakers? Who would be the heroes?
In other years, with other Huskies, the answers came easily. By mid-February, we knew who would step up at winning time. We knew who wanted the ball and what they would do with it.
For the last decade Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has had players who were as consistent as metronomes, veteran leaders who stayed cool when the games got hot.
He has had a galaxy of go-to guys — Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Isaiah Thomas. These were players whose late-season stat lines Romar practically could ink into a box score.
But this season, as the 25-point loss to Oregon on Thursday attested, nobody is a sure thing.
"That wasn't the Huskies," Romar said of his team's performance against Oregon.
But sometimes this season, that has been his Huskies.
This team can get punched in the mouth, fall behind 8-0 and stay down for the count, as it did at Oregon. Or it can hang tough in a hostile environment like Arizona and snatch a win.
Sometimes this team fights. Other times it fades.
Which team would show up Sunday in the classic old barn, Gill Coliseum?
"I thought we'd show up today," Romar said after the tense 75-72 win over Oregon State. "I didn't know if we'd win or not, but I felt we'd play a lot better basketball than the other night.
"To see our guys bounce back from that loss, play with a lot more energy, make big free throws down the stretch, do some of the right things to win a road game, I'm very pleased to learn that our team is not a horrible team. And in my mind, I think we can find a way to get better."
In an ugly, physical fistfight of a game — the kind of games good teams have to win this late in the season — Washington played with the kind of resolve that wins conferences.
Oregon State (15-10, 5-8 Pac-12) had its largest home crowd of the season (8,027), and the fans stayed loud throughout the game.
It was a tough place to play and a tough game to win, but this time the Huskies were resilient. They were the steadier, more consistent, better team.
Abdul Gaddy made plays down the stretch. C.J. Wilcox made shots. Desmond Simmons hit clutch free throws. Tony Wroten stayed relentless on offense.
But sophomore swingman Terrence Ross was the leader.
"Terrence Ross has hit a couple of speed bumps in a game here and there, but I think he's stepped up and been huge for us down the stretch of games," Romar said. "He had 21 points and 13 rebounds today. If you look at our games, he's been stepping up.
"It's not unlike Matthew did in the second part of his junior year. And not unlike Quincy did in his junior year. And I think we're seeing Terrence stepping up like they did."
In this escape from Corvallis, Ross had 11 points and eight rebounds in the second half. He caught a lob pass from Wroten and scored to give Washington an early second-half lead. He followed a miss by Shawn Kemp Jr., giving the Huskies a 48-46 lead.
And after Ahmad Starks exploded a three to cut Washington's lead to two, Ross drained a silencer of a jumper in the Gill Coliseum din with 1:56 left. It was the kind of shot team leaders make, a Brandon Roy jumper.
"Terrence is an amazing player. He can go in and get 30-and-10 every game if he wants to," said Wilcox, who had 17 points in 27 minutes. "He's a talented player, and we're really lucky to have him on the team."
When he was asked after the game how teams should defend Ross, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson suggested he might not be the best person to ask.
"I don't think you necessarily slow down a guy like that," Robinson said. "I'm not an NBA guy, but I've heard that guy is good enough. What we had to do was change defenses. We tried smaller guys on him and he still had a great game."
Ross has to be the player who forces the opposing coach into uncomfortable defenses. He has to be the dependable calm in the storm in not just some games, but every game from now through the middle of March.
He has to ascend the Husky throne. From Roy to Jones, from Brockman to Pondexter, from Thomas to Bryan-Amaning, there has always been a player to lead Washington.
It's Terrence Ross' time.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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