He left Las Vegas two years ago a talented player with much potential. Saturday, Nigel Williams-Goss returned to town a player much closer to reaching that potential.
The 6-foot-3-inch sophomore point guard from Findlay Prep has helped lead Washington back to national prominence and he was a key factor in the No. 16 Huskies’ 69-67 win over No. 15 Oklahoma at the MGM Grand Garden in the MGM Grand Showcase benefiting Coaches Vs. Cancer.
Williams-Goss compiled eight points, eight rebounds and six assists with four turnovers as the Huskies improved to 10-0. But along with the numbers came the type of leadership coach Lorenzo Romar is looking for in Washington’s attempt to be part of the Pacific-12 elite.
“I think we had a year we didn’t want to have last year and facing defeat is something none of us want to go through again,” Williams-Goss said, looking to move forward after a 17-15 record during his freshman season. “Everyone worked together over the summer and we became closer as a team.”
Much of that was on display Saturday. The Huskies, nationally ranked for the first time since 2011, had blown a 20-point first-half lead and were holding on for dear life down the stretch as Oklahoma threatened to take over, trailing 68-67 with a minute to play. But Washington managed to get a couple of late stops and held off Lon Kruger’s Sooners, who dropped to 7-3.
“I thought we did what was necessary to win,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. “I thought we’ve been growing up all along through this season and this was another part of that resume.”
Credit Williams-Goss with helping the Huskies mature. Yes, he’s just a sophomore, but having played at Findlay Prep and represented his country as a member of the U.S. Under-19 men’s national team in 2013 has allowed Williams-Goss to accelerate his own personal development on the court.
“I always said going to Findlay Prep was the best decision I ever made,” Williams-Goss said. “The schedule and the competition we played really helped prepare me for college. And anytime you can represent your country, it’s a huge honor. That was my first experience in college basketball when I trained with the Under-19 team and I learned so much playing for Coach (Billy) Donovan.”
Williams-Goss said he’s not going to force his offensive will on his teammates. Saturday, he took three shots in the first half and missed them all. It was a different story in the second half as he was 3 of 5 from the floor while also making a couple of nice passes, including a lob that Robert Upshaw converted into a spectacular one-handed alley-oop dunk with 12:40 remaining.
“I’m always trying to be aggressive offensively,” he said. “In the second half, I saw some openings in their defense and was able to get better looks at the basket.”
Romar said he puts no restrictions on Williams-Goss.
“We want him to be aggressive,” he said. “That’s what a point guard does. He does what we need him to do. You read what the defense is doing and he does a great job of that.”
Romar said guys like Williams-Goss make Washington more experienced than the class listings on its roster. And it allowed the Huskies to survive a game they might not have managed to win a year ago.
“I talked about us being sneaky old,” Romar said. “You’ve got some guys who’ve played college basketball for more than one game and when you are in positions like this and if have a belief in one another you’re capable of pulling off something like what we were able to do.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.