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March 6, 2013
Believe it or not the game of basketball is supposed to be fun. On a beautiful afternoon in Seattle the Washington State Cougars and Washington Huskies were clearly enjoying themselves.
Players are different during pre-game warm-ups. Some prefer to stay loose; others shut-down and mentally prepare themselves. Senior guard Abdul Gaddy took an approach that nobody has seen from him for a long time.
While the Huskies were going through a lay-up drill music was blasting from the speakers of Alaska Airlines Arena. Gaddy was feeling it. Once the song got to its climax, Gaddy started to bob his head up and down as he mouthed the lyrics, all while warming up for the game. Soon Andrew Andrews joined in and both players were smiling and laughing.
The upbeat mood lasted for the entire game, and for both teams. Royce Woolridge got to the basket with ease, drawing fouls and putting pressure on the defense.
After knifing through the lane and drawing a foul, Woolridge looked out to the corner where Davonte Lacy was standing wide open for a corner three. Even though the play was over Lacy acted as if he had caught the ball, shot it, and drained the shot. He went on to put on his three goggles and give a little jab with his fist to the crowd. After his performance, Lacy looked at Woolridge and again, there were laugh.
These little occurrences in the game of basketball are why the best athletes in the world play the game. They all started as little kids just for the fun of it. There was no pressure when they were a kid. Of course as these players grew from boys to men, the pressure increased and the fun decreased. The moments where you realize you're actually playing a game and having fun are some of the best.
Of course, scoring is fun, too. Scott Suggs enjoyed himself in that way.
Even with a successful game against Arizona State, scoring 16 points in 33 minutes, Suggs had been struggling for the past couple of weeks. After sitting down with Coach Romar prior to the ASU game, Suggs said that Romar told him to play with more intensity. Any Husky fan knows that Suggs isn't a very emotional guy and really keeps to himself on the court.
However, Suggs vows that he always plays hard and leaves it all on the court. Romar really wanted to bring out this emotion in Suggs and that is why he challenged him to play with a greater level of intensity. Romar was pleased about Suggs' performance in the Arizona State game and he was hoping he would see that same kind of performance in the hardwood edition of the Apple Cup.
Well, Romar got what he wanted and more. Suggs was red hot from three-point range and tied his career-high for threes made in a single game with five. Overall, Suggs scored 23 in the game and always seemed to make that crucial shot when the Dawgs needed it, helping the team break ties and take the lead in numerous occasions.
Not only was Suggs displaying the skill that he possesses in the game of basketball, he was also displaying the emotion and intensity he can play with. After hitting a three which gave the Huskies a lead at the time, Suggs waved his arms up and down and of course formed the circle around his eye with his thumb and index finger, leaving three fingers left to display the value of the basket. This was a rare display from Suggs and it only fired the crowd up even more. Suggs looks to have the same success against the Trojans as he did against the lowly Cougars.
USC comes into Wednesday night's matchup with a 14-15 record, but they're 9-7 in league play. The Trojans come into Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday with a current two-game win streak after sweeping Arizona and Arizona State at home. The Trojans are tied for fifth in the Pac-12 and have won six of their last eight games.
USC won the first meeting between the two teams as they knocked off the Huskies 71-60 back on February 10th. J.T. Terrell scored a game-high 18 points in the victory and Eric Wise added 12 points for the Trojans. The Dawgs got down early and couldn't find a way to claw back in the matchup. C.J. Wilcox was held to 8 points in the game and didn't score at all in the second half.
The Huskies will need to make it a point to not have one of their customary slow starts against the Trojans. They got man-handled the last time they did this against USC and can definitely not afford it now as the post-season is quickly approaching.
The Dawgs did a nice job of containing Jio Fontan in the first meeting and will look to do so again, as well as containing J.T. Terrell. Lorenzo Romar's team played porous defense throughout the whole game and was not much better on the offensive side of the ball.
Everybody on the Huskies team needs to find that ideal niche. It is always a smart decision to be serious and fully dialed in pre-game, as well as during the game, but there needs to be a sense of fun around the team as well. For the first time, this happiness is bursting at the seams and the Huskies are playing together towards the end of the season, typical of a Lorenzo Romar team.
Athletes play their best when they are loose and sometimes not even thinking, relying solely of their instincts. This Husky team has shown they play best this way and the Dawgs will look to continue their recent success in a game against the Trojans. They will only find success if they have fun and play loose. After all, it is called playing the game, isn't it?
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