SEATTLE – Predictably, the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team started its exhibition game against Saint Martin’s as if … well, as if it were an exhibition game.
These affairs are, for the most part, typified by disjointed offense and considerable time spent wiping away cobwebs accumulated during the offseason. There was plenty of that for the Huskies on Thursday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, though they eventually pulled away from the overmatched Saints for an 88-65 victory before an announced crowd of 4,072.
Sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss said there are “definitely things we know we can improve on. We’ll come back tomorrow and watch the film. But it was just good to kind of get out there for 40 minutes. We played a lot of different combinations.”
Washington led by only three points with six minutes to play in the first half, then closed the period on an 18-4 run to build an insurmountable 44-27 lead by halftime.
Shawn Kemp Jr., the senior forward and son of the former SuperSonics great by the same name, looked the most season-ready of any Husky who took the floor. Kemp started and scored a game-high 19 points in 20 minutes, converting eight of 10 field goals against the smaller, less athletic Saints.
Kemp, who last year was diagnosed with a thyroid condition called Graves disease, says he’s back to full strength after doctors figured out how to properly treat him.
It showed on Thursday.
“During the summer, I was in the weight room a lot,” Kemp said. “My main goal was to get as strong as possible coming off the Graves disease last year, so I wanted to get to my physical peak.”
As a result, coach Lorenzo Romar said, he’s playing with more confidence.
“When he’s down there posting up, he’s posting up like he wants it, and he’s going to do something with it,” Romar said. “He finished real well and from an offensive standpoint, he did what you would want him to do against a team that was undersized.”
This was also the debut for 6-foot-11 center Robert Upshaw, whom the Huskies believe to be a potential game-changer, particularly due to his shot-blocking acumen and rebounding ability.
Upshaw flashed promise during his 16 minutes on the court, though he didn’t dominate. The third-year sophomore who transferred last year from Fresno State scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds, his performance highlighted by an alley-oop dunk off a pass he received from senior guard Mike Anderson.
Kemp scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half, catching passes above the heads of smaller Saint Martin’s defenders and converting easy layups.
The Huskies separated themselves from Saint Martin’s by way of the free-throw line, where they made 14 of their 17 attempts in the first half, including 9-of-11 in the half’s final 5:31. Saint Martin’s made just one field goal in that span.
UW made only 11-of-23 from the free-throw line in the second half, though, and finished 25-of-40.
Their scoring was balanced. Williams-Goss, who in the offseason briefly considered entering the NBA draft, nearly had a double-double with 10 points (on 4-of-13 shooting) and a quiet nine assists.
Andrew Andrews (13 points), Darin Johnson (11 points), Quevyn Winters (10 points) and former Timberline High star Donaven Dorsey (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting) also finished in double-figures.
Winters was UW’s most effective 3-point shooter, knocking down 3-of-6. The Huskies made only 5-of-20 as a team, and shot 45.3 percent from the field. Saint Martin’s shot 33.3, a number Williams-Goss said the Huskies were most proud of.
Of his own team, Romar said this was the worst he’s seen the Huskies shoot since they started practicing. But, he said, “I’m encouraged by that. If we shot our normal way that we’ve been shooting, I think we would have been even more productive than we were on the offensive end.”
Anderson, who did not score, recorded a game-high 10 rebounds.
Washington begins the regular season with a Nov. 14 home game against South Carolina State (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Saint Martin’s visits Montana for another exhibition game on Saturday.
PLAYER OF THE GAME — Shawn Kemp Jr. was the most efficient player on the court on Thursday. He led the Huskies with 19 points in 20 minutes, making eight of his 10 field-goal attempts (and shot 3-for-6 from the free-throw line). Kemp is back to full strength after doctors figured out last year how to best combat his Graves disease, and he showed promise against Saint Martin’s.
IT WAS OVER WHEN — The Huskies closed the first half on an 18-4 run, and Saint Martin’s never challenged in the second half.
STAT OF THE GAME — UW made 14 of its 17 free-throw attempts in the first half, the biggest reason for the Huskies’ 44-27 halftime lead. But they shot just 25-of-40 for the game.
QUOTABLE –- “I thought he did a nice job. He played with energy, he played with passion, which was good. He was communicating out there the entire time. He blocked a couple shots and altered several more. He set great screens in the open floor which allowed us to get several baskets. He scored seven points or so, but he accounted for many more than he scored.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar on the debut of 6-foot-11 center Robert Upshaw
WHAT IT MEANS — Not much. Saint Martin’s is a Division-II team with smaller, less talented players than the Pac-12 Huskies. But offensive contributions from Quevyn Winters, Donaven Dorsey and Kemp were at least encouraging, and UW seemed to play a little more inspired defense than it did for much of last season.
NEXT UP — South Carolina State at Washington, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, Pac-12 Networks.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple