Simmons’ defense helps Huskies survive Cardinal

Simmons Stanford

Simmons Stanford -

Forward Demond Simmons made several big plays for the Huskies on defense, including drawing a big charge in the final seconds against the Cardinal. The game-tying basket was waved off en route to the UW’s win.

Photo by Andrew Tat

Desmond Simmons is not known for a pretty shooting stroke. Nor is he known for explosive offense. The junior is known for scrap, heart, and hustle. Wednesday, he showed why.

Down by two with less than 18 seconds to go against Stanford, Simmons slid in front of a driving Chasson Randle and drew a charge that denied the Cardinal the game-tying dunk. The Huskies stayed alive after two free throws from guard C.J. Wilcox for a 64-60 win. Simmons only finished with four points and seven rebounds, but his presence on the game went beyond the box score.

“Dez just did what he does,” Wilcox said. “He saved us.”

The win keeps the Huskies (14-11, 6-6 Pac-12) undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and snapped the team’s three-game losing streak. 

The Huskies opened the second half on a 12-2 run to erase a seven-point deficit, fueled by junior guard Mike Anderson. The junior from Hartford, Conn., who was removed from the starting lineup in favor of Simmons, drained back-to-back 3-pointers as he scored eight straight points for the Huskies and gave them a three-point lead with 17:09 left to play.

Anderson played inside as a 6-foot-4 power forward for much of the season, but has moved back to his natural guard position since Simmons has returned to full health, which has helped the guard find his role in the offense.

“We’ve been talking to him all year about being more aggressive,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Mike is the most selfless player on our team. In this day and age when everybody has to play the perfect position. He didn’t care, he just did it. I think it wore him down.”

With the game tied at 41 with 13:28 left, freshman Nigel Williams-Goss got bumped on a drive to the lane and came up holding his hip, which forced him into the locker room. The freshman suffered a hip pointer in practice last week and missed practice time due to the injury. In his place, Romar sent in freshman Jahmel Taylor in favor of a struggling sophomore Andrew Andrews, and in the three minutes the Huskies were without Williams-Goss, they went scoreless and committed two turnovers with the Cardinal grabbing a five-point lead.

Williams-Goss’ return to the court spurred the UW offense back on as it scored six points on three straight possessions, all from forward Shawn Kemp Jr., eventually tying the game at 52 with less than seven minutes to go.

“He is so heady, so focused on impacting the game the right way, I think it just brings a calm,” Romar said of Williams-Goss.

Williams-Goss sparked the Huskies early, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points, but the Cardinal’s balanced attack slowly overpowered the UW freshman. Randle, who scored 33 points in the UW’s loss to Stanford earlier this season, attacked from all over the court while Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis exploited their size advantage inside to grab a seven-point lead at halftime.

The Huskies shot 44 percent in the first half, but trailed due to 12 turnovers, which was one more than the number of field goals they had. Every Husky who played in the first half had at least one turnover.

“We were trying to speed up a little bit, we were playing [in] a little too much of a hurry,” Wilcox said. “We were just playing a little too fast and it translated to turnovers.”

In the second half, the Huskies only had four turnovers and turned up their defense, holding the Cardinal to 30.8 percent shooting from the field compared to the first half’s 48.4 percent. Much of the UW’s defense comes from the energy Simmons gives the team. Wednesday night, his final defensive play gave the Huskies their biggest lift, as he lay flat on his back after taking the charge. He pumped his fist three times with a smile on his face.

Only Simmons can make defense look so good for the Huskies.

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21

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