Proximity and history are the hallmarks of the basketball series between Washington and Seattle University. Though it was internal history that the Huskies turned to leading up to the crosstown showdown.
Washington needed a ship-righting win and got one by surviving a game-long press from the Redhawks for an 87-74 victory on Thursday night in KeyArena in front of a mere 6,137 witnesses.
Prepping for the scrappiness that comes attached to every Seattle U. team headed up by former Washington assistant Cameron Dollar, the Huskies dug out film of past Washington teams led by Will Conroy when he was at Washington from 2001-05.
Abdul Gaddy and Desmond Simmons watched those teams zoom around the floor, pressure the ball and play a brand of defense that the Huskies (5-4) had not put forth yet this season.
“There was an intensity that we haven’t even seen in practice and they were playing like that in games,” Simmons said.
Washington was able to carry a semblance of that into the early part of its controlling win over Seattle (3-4). From the start, the Huskies were more energized on defense than in recent games. Five-second calls resulted in a standing bench. Loose balls on the floor put multiple Washington players on the wood in the midst of a scrap. Dollar, who taught just that approach when he was at Washington, noticed.
“First time there was a loose ball, they dove on the ground, reached a hand in,” Dollar said. “And then on the flip side, we got spooked a little bit early on.”
Washington seemed to score with ease.
Seattle presses with four players on one side of half court, which can result in the Redhawks’ preferred manic style. But, Washington sliced through the press for repeated layups, dunks and shots middle school players could make, despite the piranhas-in-the water approach from the Redhawks.
“That’s how they play,” Gaddy said. “They play physical. They do cheap shots. They press the whole game. That’s how Dollar’s always coached. We knew if we beat the initial pressure, we’d get easy layups.”
Those open shots helped get Scott Suggs rolling. He scored a career-high 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field despite dealing with recurring cramps that forced him to the bench multiple times in the second half. He said his right side locked up on him in the end, but he expects to be fine for Saturday’s game against Jackson State.
Suggs was one of five Washington players in double figures. Desmond Simmons had his third double-double of the season and second in three games with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Aziz N’Diaye jammed in most of his 14 points. Gaddy added 11 and C.J. Wilcox scored 12 points on 10 shots. Even Hikeem Stewart got in the act. He came into the game 0-for-4 this season and 5-for-21 in his career before going 3-for-3 Thursday night.
The efficiency helped the Huskies to a 46-19 lead with 2:49 to go in the first half. A brief Redhawks run early in the second half and shrunk Washington’s advantage to 13 points. Following a timeout, the Huskies were able to push back in front by 20 and take over.
“With Seattle U, the game is never over,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “You’re sweating the entire time you’re playing against them. Just so scrappy.”
The Huskies came in knowing this would be a mental test for them, particularly Gaddy, who played all 40 minutes and survived four fouls.
They also knew, history and rivalry aside, they needed to win. It came with a little inspiration from the Huskies’ past.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas