Seriously who plays an exhibition game this early? It’s the first game for a major Division I team in the country and the first time Washington has played a game in October.
At times during their 88-78 win over Western Washington, the Huskies looked a bit out of sync and rusty, especially when you consider they’re breaking in a new high-post offense.
Still, coach Lorenzo Romar gave UW passing marks and said there was only two or so plays when the players looked rattled.
Washington committed just 14 turnovers, which is about the number that Romar generally accepts. The Huskies shot 45.5 percent from the field, 40 percent (6 of 15) behind the arc and a whopping 78 percent at the free throw line. If you remove Aziz N’Diaye’s 3-for-8 shooting, UW was 87.9 percent at the charity stripe.
Keep in mind, the Huskies shot 62.4 percent last season and 67.4 in 2010-11.
You might expect the accuracy at the line to continue, but it’s unlikely the Huskies will continue make 41 free throw attempts like it did tonight. Still, Romar said the new offense will put players closer to the basket which in turns puts them in a better position to be fouled.
The biggest areas of concern was the perimeter defense and defensive rebounding. Western Washington, which didn’t have a player taller than 6-8, had 15 offensive rebounds and 34 total.
The Vikings also attempted 15 more shots (70-55) than the Huskies. WWU players weren’t shy behind the arc and shot 30 three-pointers. They made eight.
As exhibitions go, this one gave Washington everything it wanted.
Western Washington led the first six minutes before the Huskies took the lead for good. But they never led by more than seven until the 1:45 mark in the first half. Washington had a 46-37 halftime advantage.
The Huskies looked as if they would blow the game open early in the second half and led by 13 points (52-39) with 18:32 left. However, Western stormed back and made it a game. The Vikings tied it at 65-65 with 9:58 left and it was no more than a two-possession game until the final three minutes.
Washington played spirited defense in the end and held Western to just two baskets in the final 4:49. Husky fans didn’t breathe easy until C.J. Wilcox (above) swiped the ball and raced for a breakaway dunk that pushed the lead to 11 with 1:15 left.
Here’s video (below) of Romar’s post-game press conference.
Photo credit: Dean Rutz – Seattle Times
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— The Huskies might have had an inkling Wilcox would lead them in scoring, but he was better than many believed tonight. His game-high 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting were nice, but his seven rebounds had a greater impact considering Washington doesn’t have a consistent rebounder after N’Diaye. Wilcox said it will fall on him and Scott Suggs to pick up the slack and Wilcox certainly did his job. He had four boards on the offensive glass.
Wilcox has a nice play in the offense when he runs the baseline like Reggie Miller before curling off of a double screen for a jumper just inside the arc at the elbow. It’s a beautiful play, which produced two open looks and one basket.
Offensively, it was surprising to see Wilcox back his man under the glass in the second half for a baby hook. He also had two nice passes to N’Diaye for alley-oop layups. However, N’Diaye only converted one play because he bobbled the first pass.
Wilcox also played well defensively. He took at least one charge and collected four steals to offset three turnovers.
“The first game is always kind of off,” he said. “You are always pretty nervous the first game, a lot of expectations for where this team is going to be. I thought we came out and got to see where we are at and see what we need to work on.”
— Tale of two halves for Abdul Gaddy. He was forced to foul on the first possession to prevent a layup after a WWU player grabbed an offensive rebound. The foul was a harbinger of his early troubles. He had three fouls, three assists and four points at the break. But the key number was free throw attempts. And Gaddy had none in the first half. In the second half, Gaddy was much more aggressive. Whenever he could turn his shoulders and knife into the lane he did. He only made 1 of 3 field goals, but he put tremendous pressure on the WWU guards and forced them to foul. Gaddy finished with nine free throw attempts and made eight. He had 14 points, four assists, three rebounds and three turnovers in 27 minutes.
— When Gaddy struggled early, Andrew Andrews took over and for awhile it looked as if he would be the star of the game. One thing about the redshirt freshman is his poise. He has remarkable composure and experienced decision-making abilities for someone so young. Maybe Gaddy put it best when describing Andrews over the summer when he said: “He just makes the right play.” Andrews scored 14 points on 3-for-6 shooting. He was 2 for 3 on three-pointers and perfect at the free throw line in six attempts. He also had five rebounds and just one turnover in 25 minutes. Andrews was the second person off the bench, but it looks as if he’ll have a prominent role this season.
“I just take what the defense gives me, that is always how I have played, if something is open I will take it and also try and get these guys shots,” Andrews said. “I am aggressive, so I expect to score, but at the same time I just take what is there.”
— Slow start for Scott Suggs, whose early problems mimicked Gaddy’s. In the first half he was 3 for 5 shooting and had seven points, which is good. But he wasn’t being aggressive. Case in point, Suggs broke free on a back-door-cut, but had what should have been a basket blocked at the rim because he went up without forceful intentions. After the play, he gestured to the bench as if acknowledging it was a mistake. Later in the half, he sank a layup after another back cut and backed his defender beneath the rim before elevating for a baby jump hook. Suggs was 0-4 in the second half, but he made six trips to the line and made every shot. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 32 minutes.
— Solid, but unspectacular game for N’Diaye who had nine points and 10 rebounds. His hands are still somewhat suspect and if he could catch passes cleanly, he would be difficult to defend. His free throw shooting has not improved and you wonder if the Huskies can play him in a tight game. N’Diaye was 3 for 8 at the line. WWU’s Chris Mitchell finished with 17 points, but it was a difficult matchup for N’Diaye because Mitchell was 3 of 9 on three-pointers.
— Desmond Simmons started at power forward, but there’s no guarantees he’ll keep the job when the season begins Nov. 11. Simmons unveiled a good-looking three-point shot. He attempted two and made one for his only points. But he’s got to rebound and he only had two in 21 minutes.
— It’s interesting to note that when Washington led 75-72 with 4:27 left, Romar subbed redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau for Simmons, who checked minutes later for N’Diaye. Jarreau responded with a defensive rebound and a game-clinching steal and dunk with 1:36 left. He only played 13 minutes and just four in the second half, but Jarreau apparently has Romar’s trust to make plays in crunch time. He had four points on 2-for-3 shooting and two rebounds.
— Romar also noted Shawn Kemp Jr. played well at power forward and center. Aside from two turnovers, Kemp did all the little things right. He had five rebounds and three offensive boards. He was 2 for 2 at the line en route to six points. He also had a steal in 17 minutes.
— Martin Breunig showed flashes. He drew applause from the fans after an expressive first-half dunk. But he played just one minute in the second half and finished with four points, two rebounds and a steal in six minutes.
— Sophomore Hikeem Stewart played all five minutes in the first half. He provided a defensive spark and forced at least one turnover.