Abdul Gaddy and Desmond Simmons had talked to and practiced with former Washington point guard Will Conroy in the past and Conroy has stopped by again this year.
After listening to him on the practice court, the two current Huskies watched film of how Conroy teams played defense and what they saw was eye-opening.
"We wanted to get back to the way we play defense of the old Huskies," Gaddy said. "Pressure defense. In the lanes, deny the wings.
"Them guys, they’re the tough, but they move on to the next play, no matter. They keep playing. That’s part of toughness. Forgetting the last play and moving on to the next play."
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For Simmons, he was surprised at the general ferocity.
"Man, they were pressuring the ball like crazy and they were flying all over on defense," Simmons said. "There was an intensity that we haven’t even seen in practice and they were playing like that in games."
For all the highlights and draft picks under Lorenzo Romar, the backbone of the better Washington teams has been a scrappy, in-your-face defense. We haven't seen much of that this year.
According to Ken Pomeroy's majestic computations, Washington's adjusted offensive rating ranks 40th in the country. Its adjusted defensive ranking is 197th. For all the consternation about the high-post offense, it's Washington's defense that has lagged severely.
It was better Thursday night in an 87-74 win (game story here) over Seattle U that was more dominant than the 13-point final margin would indicate. And, the improvement was apparent early.
The Huskies (5-4) were up and into Seattle U. The first possession of the game resulted in a Scott Suggs steal and layup. C.J. Wilcox swatted a shot on the second possession and whooped about it. The bench had more fervor when Washington had defensive success.
All of which were things head coach Lorenzo Romar had been searching for. He's said for the past two weeks that if the Huskies respond to taking a charge the same way they do to a dunk, then they would be getting somewhere.
Progress was made in that regard Thursday night against Seattle U. Former Washington assistant Cameron Dollar approaches basketball the way the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail approaches having his arms and legs chopped off. Dollar would still try to beat you by gnawing at your ankles. Pushing back at that was a small, but positive sign for Washington.
> Washington never trailed, and its biggest lead was 27 points. That was mainly a result of taking care of the ball. Washington had just four turnovers in the first half and 12 for the game. Seattle U averages 18 forced turnovers per game.
> Simmons had another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He started once again and appears to have control of that spot no matter the health of Shawn Kemp Jr. Kemp played 13 minutes, was 1-for-3 from the field and continues to work his way back from a knee injury. Simmons' play has been crucial in multiple ways, not the least of which is giving Kemp time to work his way back in as opposed to being forced back in to major minutes.
> Suggs scored a career-high 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He had problems with cramps during the second half, but said afterward he's fine. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said it was Suggs' best game as a Husky. To make another KenPom reference, those numbers show that Suggs' efficiency and scoring ability is on par with Wilcox's. If Washington can keep both of them on the floor, it will have a potent duo.
> Hikeem Stewart played his best game at Washington, too. He was 3-for-3 from the field after entering the game just 5-for-21 in his career. Stewart was a detriment in the Albany loss when he was a -13. He's incrementally improved each game since. Any offense from him is a bonus. He slightly hyper-extended his knee late in the game after coming down straight-legged and having a Seattle U player bump into him. He said he'll be fine for Saturday.
> Seattle U was 14-for-27 from the free-throw line despite going 12-for-15 in the second half. The Huskies, by contrast, were a very good 21-for-27 (77.8 percent). Suggs was 8-for-8 and Simmons was 7-for-8.
> Washington gave up 21 offensive rebounds. That may be the only negative of the night.