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.
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