Photo credit: Seattle Times – Cliff DesPeaux
During his post-game interview, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar explained why he hasn’t fully embraced the preseason platitudes, rankings and predictions which has the Huskies winning the Pac-10 title and making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
He didn’t need to look a the box score of tonight’s 97-76 win over Division II St. Martin’s to understand the Huskies aren’t ready for UCLA, Arizona and Virginia.
Romar said: “Sometimes when people talk to me about our team because of our ranking and all and I say we’re not ready yet, you think I’m just trying to be a coach and downplay everything. No. We’re not ready. We still have some work to do. We’ll get there, but we still have some work to do.”
At issue is Washington’s commitment to rebound. The Huskies had a considerable size advantage, but they were outrebounded 42-32 and they surrendered 20 second-chance points.
UW had no answer for 6-foot-5 Blake Poole, who weighs 265 pounds and used every ounce of his girth to bully his way to 21 points and 13 rebounds, both game highs. The Huskies also had difficulties with 6-7, 225-pound Jeremy Green who added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
If the Huskies struggled against Poole and Green, what are they going to do against UCLA’s Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith or USC Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson? Of course Romar doesn’t have to worry about that now, but he said he’ll address the team’s commitment to rebounding.
My guess, plenty of rebounding drills Monday.
It would also help if junior forward Darnell Gant were available, but he injured his left groin 10 days ago and re-tweaked it last week. Gant said he’s unsure if he’ll be available next Saturday when UW opens the regular season against McNeese State.
If Gant can’t go, then Washington will need to address the issue with the guys who played tonight and everyone is going to have to chip in to rectify the problem.
Isaiah Thomas (above) put it best when he said: “We got a lot of work to do.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Justin Holiday was the MVP tonight. If this first game was any indication, he’s ready to make that big step forward like so many Husky seniors have done in the past. Holiday looked like a different player, especially offensively. He sank all four three-pointers and slashed to the rim for layups on his way to 18 points. Holiday also had four rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and a turnover. That’s a complete game.
— One concern I have going forward is Holiday will have to defend the second biggest player when Romar goes with the small lineup as he did tonight. Bryan-Amaning started on Poole, but sometimes the Huskies were forced to switch because of their harassing defense and whenever Holiday defended Poole it was mismatch. Holiday was giving up 60 pounds and he was no match for Poole or Green. That type of disparity may not matter against St. Martin’s, but it’s going to be a problem down the road.
— Everyone else had an uneven night, including Bryan-Amaning. He did whatever he wanted offensively and finished with a team-high 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Bryan-Amaning collected six rebounds, blocked two shots and collected two steals, however, he didn’t control the paint defensively the way you might have expected against a D-II opponent. Romar talked to the media last week about guys who score a lot of points and give up a lot of points tend to find themselves on the bench. It’s unfair to blame Bryan-Amaning for Poole’s big night, but someone had to step up and shut him down and that didn’t happen.
— Big night for Scott Suggs,who made his first collegiate start. He was nonchalant about it after the game and talked more about his one rebound than he did about his 11 points and three three-pointers. “I got to get more boards than that,” he said.
— Other than team-high five turnovers, it was a really nice performance from Abdul Gaddy. If he’s going to be as aggressive as he was offensively tonight, then the Huskies are going to be very happy. Gaddy used his size and strength to power to the basket for a pair of scoop layups. He also knocked down two open jumpers, dished out five assists and collected two steals while playing a team-high tying 29 minutes.
— When was the last time Thomas didn’t take a shot in a half? Never. At least Romar couldn’t remember and no one else could either. Thomas failed to take a shot in the first half, however, Romar said he was one of team’s MVP along with Holiday. Romar raved about Thomas’ game-high 11 assists. I’m sure he also liked the five rebounds. Personally, I was impressed with Thomas’ defense. He was credited with two steals, but I had him for four. And don’t worry about those three turnovers. He committed a couple of bad passes on fast breaks to teammates. Those miscues are easily corrected.
— Aziz N’Diaye turned out to be everything the Huskies said he was. He’s got presence, especially defensively. It’s going to take him awhile to learn how to play and not collect fouls. He managed just 11 minutes before fouling out with four rebounds, four points and no blocks. Four of his five fouls came away from ball.
— It was a very nice debut for Terrence Ross, who proved he isn’t gun shy. The freshman took 11 shots – the second most on the team – and converted five for 12 points. Still I’m not sure if he should pull up just inside the arc for a jumper on a 3-on-4 fast break. I’m sure Ross impressed Romar with six rebounds, including two on the offensive glass. No other guard had an offensive rebound. Romar also said he liked a grouping that included Ross, Holiday and Thomas.
— C.J. Wilcox saved his best for the second half. He played a forgettable first half, but finished with 12 points, including two three-pointers. Wilcox also had a team-high three steals.
— Freshman Desmond Simmons and walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Antoine Hosley did not score in limited minutes.
— Washington made more than 10 three-pointers just once last season and it ranked seventh in the conference with a 33.6 percent three-point percentage.
“I think this is the best shooting team we’ve had,” Romar said. “The best shooting team up to this point was ’05. But this team I think has more shooters.”