At times it wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. Not as dominating as the 6,351 fans at Alaska Airlines expected. Not as satisfying as the Huskies had anticipated. And not as complete as coach Lorenzo Romar had hoped.
However, the Huskies did outlast Mississippi Valley State for a 95-80 victory that pushed their record to 7-5. And just maybe Washington generated a little momentum before next Thursday’s all-important Pac-12 opener at Arizona State.
Of course, the Huskies will face Hartford (5-8) at 6 p.m. Sunday in the non-conference finale. Maybe then they’ll get the complete performance that was lacking once again Friday.
When asked what he hopes to see Sunday, Romar said: “The same thing we wanted … in this game. A sustained effort for 40 minutes. I keep saying effort – focus. A sustained focus.”
Considering they’re relatively short and rely on a four-guard lineup, it’s difficult to understand why the Huskies aren’t more relentless and passionate on the defensive end. You’d think they would play with a chip on their shoulders. Instead, they were listless and seemingly disinterested on the defensive end.
Give MVSU credit, the Delta Devils sank a few improbable shots in the first half. But Andrew Andrews admitted, Washington also gave up several easy buckets that could have been avoided.
“First half, we were playing semi-good defense and they made a lot of tough shots,” Andrews said. “In the second half, we kind of dialed in and they were missing the tough shots and we weren’t giving them easy shots, which kind of led us on a run and they were kind of getting frustrated.”
Washington led by 10 points (22-12) with 9:40 left in the first half, but Mississippi Valley State closed to within two (25-23) at the 6:20 mark. The Huskies were up 39-35 at halftime.
Washington built another 10-point lead (52-42) with 15:40 left in the second half, but MVSU tied the score (56-56) at the 12:40 mark.
The third run was the charm for Washington.
The Huskies used an 18-0 spurt to break the game open. They led 74-56 with 7:49 remaining. This time, MVSU never recovered.
Things did get a little hairy in the final five minutes. Romar replaced two starters with reserves with the Huskies holding a 16-point lead. Washington increased its advantage to 18 before the Delta Devils cut its deficit to 82-71 with 2:57 left. That’s when Romar turned to C.J. Wilcox, who came out of the game at the 9:05 mark, and put him back into the contest.
“He’s a good free throw shooter,” Romar later explained.
Wilcox sank a layup, made an assist and capped the scoring in the game with a pair of free throws.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they were less than stellar at the line (27 of 41, 65.9 percent) and even worse behind the arc (2 of 10). And yet, Washington scored more points than any game this season.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Washington outrebounded Mississippi Valley State 51-29 thanks in part to Perris Blackwell, who collected 10 rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. The UW forward dominated inside against the Delta Devils’ soft interior defense. He sank 7 of 8 shots for 17 points. Blackwell would have eclipsed his 20-point personal scoring best if he was a little better at the free throw line. He was 3 for 7 on free throws. Blackwell also had three assists to offset two turnovers in 26 minutes.
— Very solid performance from Andrews, who finished with a team-high tying 18 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He was 0 for 2 on three-pointers, but he was sensational at drawing fouls and converting at the line. He was 8 of 9 on free throws, which raised his percentage to 76.7. Andrews was also one of two UW starters who did not commit a turnover. He played 30 minutes.
— Looks like the Huskies are going to live with Nigel Williams-Goss’ turnovers. The freshman point guard has committed at least three TOs in each of the past six games. On Friday, he had six. The turnovers marred what was otherwise an outstanding outing for Williams-Goss. He finished with 18 points, a career-high eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in 34 minutes.
— Quiet game offensively from Wilcox, who recorded a career-high 10 rebounds and captured his first double double. He also had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting. He was 0 for 3 on three-pointers. Wilcox also had four assists, a block and a steal. Wilcox is ninth on UW’s all-time scoring list with 1,536 points and 13 to move past James Edwards (1,548) into eighth place.
— Mike Anderson scored six of his seven points during Washington’s 18-0 run. He also had six rebounds and two turnovers in 22 minutes.
— Darin Johnson was aggressive offensively. He’s so much better when he’s attacking the rim than he is when he’s settling for jumpers. Johnson is 8 for 34 (23.5 percent) on three-pointers and Friday he was 0 for 2. He finished with seven points, two assists and two turnovers in 20 minutes.
— After playing 12 minutes in his season debut, Desmond Simmons logged 17 minutes and had six rebounds. However, he also had four turnovers and was 0 for 3 from the field.
— Shawn Kemp Jr. played a season low eight minutes. He scored two points.
— A few weeks ago, it seemed as if Jahmel Taylor found a spot in the rotation. However, he played a minute last Sunday against Connecticut and checked in during the final five minutes Friday. He had three points.
— Say this about Quinn Sterling, he’s not shy. The walk-on junior guard from Mercer Island High had seven points in two minutes of mop-up duty. He connected on two free throws with 1:59 left for his first collegiate points. On UW’s next possession, Sterling drained a three-pointer a few steps behind the arc at the top of the key thanks to an assist from Wilcox. And on the next possession, he made two more free throws. That’s getting it done.
— On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s Gilles Dierickx, who tallied five scoreless minutes. The 7-foot sophomore center is still looking for his first points with the Huskies.
— Walk-on Connor Smith checked in during the final minute.