The University of Washington men’s basketball team had at least two goals on Thursday night: beat Oregon State, and don’t get caught sneaking a peek at the Alamo Bowl updates being flashed on the scoreboard at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
They accomplished both.
Washington improved to 7-5 this season and got off to a 1-0 start in Pacific-12 Conference play with a 95-80 win over the Beavers (10-3, 0-1).
The win played out before an announced crowd of 9,592, and the fans saved some of their loudest cheers as for video highlights of the football game in San Antonio.
“It got really loud one time,” said UW forward Desmond Simmons. “I don’t know what they showed on the Jumbotron, but at one point it got really loud.”
There also was plenty to cheer on the floor of Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington never trailed and led by as many as 20 points late in the first half. The game, though, did tighten up late.
The Beavers cut their deficit to three points – 83-80 – less than three minutes from the end before UW delivered the knockout punch.
“They’re so explosive, you can’t hold that team down too long,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said of the visitors. “Sooner or later there’s going to be a leak somewhere, and tonight the leak was (Angus) Brandt and (Joe) Burton. I thought we did a decent job on (Jared) Cunningham and (Ahmad) Starks. But it’s so hard to contain all of them, and I thought during that stretch they kind of got loose on us.”
Cunningham – who came in as the top scorer in the conference – ended with 15 points. However, only two came in the second half, and Romar singled out Abdul Gaddy for his defense on Cunningham.
Forward Joe Burton led OSU with 18 points, 14 in the second half.
Six Huskies scored in double digits. Freshman Tony Wroten led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds.
“First things first: I had more assists than turnovers,” he said. “Then, I made my free throws. When I do those things, I feel like I am doing what I need to do to help my team win. “
Wroten wasn’t the only Huskies player to excel in those areas.
“Two statistics that stand out to me are that team forces so many turnovers and we only committed nine for the game,” Romar said. “And then also our ability to make free throws: We were 17 of 20. Those are two areas that make a big difference in the game.”
Seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye returned to the starting lineup for the first time since suffering a knee injury Dec. 10 in a loss to Duke. C.J. Wilcox went to the bench – a move that he said made sense.
“I think it’s a chemistry thing – especially when we had the matchup with Oregon State,” Wilcox said. “They came out and started big, and it was good to have Aziz down there protecting the paint (so) the guards can get up and try to deny the ball and try to get the game going up and down more.”
Wilcox checked in after three minutes and ended up playing 30 minutes and scoring 15 points. N’Diaye also played 30 minutes, contributing 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies return to Pac-12 play at 7 p.m. Saturday, when Oregon visits.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports