In the end, the scoreboard showed the right numbers for the Washington Huskies. But they weren’t happy about how they got there.
Just ask them.
“That wasn’t our team out there tonight, with the exception of about six minutes,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said of UW’s 76-69 victory over University of the Pacific on Sunday night at KeyArena as part of the inaugural Marv Harshman Classic.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to play,” sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. “We kind of jumped out early, they cut the lead down, and from there on we kind of played sluggish and did things that weren’t us, were uncharacteristic of us.”
Three games into the season, it’s hard to know just yet what to expect from the Huskies (3-0). But they made it clear after Sunday’s lethargic, uninteresting game in a mostly empty arena that such an effort isn’t the kind of performance with which they’d like to identify.
Aside from those first five or six minutes, anyway. Washington scored the game’s first seven points and held a 14-1 lead before the Tigers made their first field goal with 15:12 left in the first half.
Mike Anderson made a 3-pointer. Shawn Kemp Jr., who again led the Huskies in scoring with a career-high-tying 18 points, made an easy layup and slammed down a dunk. Andrew Andrews hit a 3-pointer. Williams-Goss tossed in a couple buckets.
It was 14-3, and five minutes later, it wasn’t. Pacific ripped off 13 points without a UW basket, took a 16-14 lead, and the struggle was permanent thereafter.
“I thought we came out with a lot of intensity, we were together and then we dropped off,” Romar said. “We began to make substitutions and we weren’t able to maintain that level of intensity, and Pacific did a good job of coming back, being relentless and being aggressive, and got right back in the ballgame.”
The Huskies led 36-29 at halftime thanks to three buckets in the final two minutes of the first half, and opened a 49-35 lead after two Kemp free throws with 14:08 to play.
But the paint became a frequent destination for the Tigers, who shot only 40.4 percent from the field but made more easy baskets than the Huskies wanted. T.J. Wallace, Pacific’s leading scorer, finished with a game-high 24 points. Wallace made only 6 of 19 from the field, but was able to navigate his way to the rim often enough to earn 15 free throws. He made 10 of them.
“We’ve just got to communicate more on defense, just knowing where our man is and just being in driving lanes,” senior guard Anderson said. “They drove us a lot and got to the hoop.”
Dulani Robinson, a 5-foot-9 guard, also gave the Huskies trouble and finished with 14 points. It didn’t help that 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, who blocked 14 shots in his first two games, fouled out and played only eight minutes.
“(There were) too many layups we gave up tonight,” said Williams-Goss, who had 17 points and six assists. “We had been doing a really good job of keeping people out of the paint, and tonight it just wasn’t us. We’ve just got to get back right.”
“The thing we talk about is consistency, and just day in and day out being able to bring it,” Romar said. “...sometimes if we don’t do that, you play against a team, they may not be more talented than you but you can get exposed.”
UW’s lead extended to 10 points after a pair of free throws and a jumper by Andrews with 6:25 to play, but Pacific sliced the margin to 66-61 with 1:39 to play.
Donaven Dorsey, the former Timberline High star, hit a big 3-pointer on UW’s next possession to push the lead back to three possessions. The Tigers didn’t get closer than six points after that.
But, Romar said, “even down the stretch, there were mistakes that we made where I just — if I had hair, I’d have pulled it out. And I don’t have any hair, so win-win, I guess, in that regard.”
Andrews finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. The Huskies play next on Thanksgiving against San Jose State in the first round of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California.
Adjustments are on deck before they make that trip.
“We need to shore up some things heading into (the Wooden tourney),” Williams-Goss said, “but we felt good moving to 3-0.”