Updated Dec 22, 2012 - 7:40 pm
Washington defeats Northern Illinois 67-57
SEATTLE (AP) - On a night in which Washington struggled to put the ball into the basket, C.J. Wilcox came through with another high-scoring output.
But it wasn't just his 22 points that helped Washington get a 67-57 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon. Wilcox also added seven rebounds and spent considerable time guarding Abdel Nader, the leading scorer for Northern Illinois.
"C.J.'s playing at a high level," Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He goes out and ... grabs seven rebounds again, tonight. He's doing a lot out there on the floor. When he defended Nader, he did the best job on him of anyone tonight.
Wilcox topped the 20-point mark for the seventh time in eight games and got help from Aziz N'Diaye, who added 13 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Abdul Gaddy had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Troubled by inconsistent play during the nonconference portion of its schedule, Washington (8-4) has now won four consecutive games.
Washington looked like it was going to run away with the game early, using a 13-2 run to put it ahead 23-12 with 7:28 left in the first half, but Northern Illinois stormed back to bring it within six points, 31-25. Washington scored the next six to go into halftime with a 36-25 advantage.
But it wasn't easy for Washington, which grabbed its largest lead _ by 15 points _ midway through the second half. Northern Illinois (2-9) refused to concede, and cut the deficit to eight with under 3 minutes to play.
Nader was a key player in the comeback, scoring 13 of his team-high 18 points after halftime. The Northern Illinois guard was held to just three points in the final 10 minutes, with Wilcox covering him for most of that time.
Washington helped Northern Illinois come back with sloppy play on the offensive end, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field, as it struggled to find a rhythm.
"You don't ever want to take away from what they're trying to do, they're a hard-working team that practices every day like we do, but for whatever reason, we got out of sync during that period," Romar said. "Sometimes you really test your patience and your resolve as that ball continues to not go in the basket, and I think that maybe led to us being out of sync there in the second half."
Romar said it was one of the worst shooting nights his team has had in his 11 years at Washington.
"I can't remember a game where we shot 31 percent from the field," he said. "That hadn't been a pattern for this team. You go back and look at the 11 years that we've been here ... we've been shooting a high percentage, then tonight, all of a sudden, with a lot of open looks, the ball didn't go down."
Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery had other ideas as to how his team got back into the contest.
"We guarded tonight," he said. "You have to give Washington credit, because they have size and length, but we definitely checked a lot better. That is why you see a lower shooting percentage by Washington."
Northern Illinois also took advantage of Washington's carelessness, scoring 19 points off turnovers.
Washington helped itself, though, by going 22 of 24 from the free-throw line, with Wilcox going a perfect 8 of 8 from the line.
Even though Washington was unable to pull away with the win, Gaddy, a senior, said the team is headed in the right direction as it prepares for one of the tougher games on its schedule, a Dec. 29 meeting at Connecticut.
"Got it done, we got the win," he said. "We did all right. Knew we got to get better at some things, but we're making progress."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)