SEATTLE – Before they venture into the Pac-12 portion of their schedule, the 13th-ranked Washington Huskies must complete one more non-league tuneup on Sunday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
And if the Huskies handle the visiting Stony Brook Seawolves (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) as expected, they’ll finish their nonconference slate unbeaten for the first time since 2005-06, and they’ll start a season 12-0 for the first time since winning the first 14 games of the 1975-76 season (although they officially began that season 18-0, because Oregon State had to forfeit what would have been a 72-70 victory in UW’s 15th game).
UW coach Lorenzo Romar will note that an unblemished record at the start of conference play doesn’t mean everything. But it means more than nothing.
“I think it’s definitely a worthy goal. With our team, this will be our 12th game, so by no means does this make a season,” Romar said Saturday morning. “Like I said before, win or lose, this doesn’t make the season. But to be able to say that you were undefeated in nonconference, for one, beats the alternative, and two, it gives you a lot of momentum and confidence going into conference.”
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And it’s not something the Huskies achieve all that often.
“If it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Romar said, “we’d do it every year. So it’s an accomplishment if we were to do that.”
They are expected to, though Stony Brook is expected to compete for the America East championship this season after winning 23 games, finishing second in the conference and playing in the College Basketball Invitational last year. The Seawolves are led in scoring by junior guard Carson Puriefoy (15.2 points per game) and junior forward Jameel Warney (14.9), who also leads the nation in rebounds with 12.8 per game.
Warney’s presence should pose a challenge for the Huskies, who rank 10th in the Pac-12 in defensive rebound percentage, collecting only 66.9 percent of their opponents’ misses so far.
“(Friday) in practice, we did a couple drills that emphasize boxing out, and going and getting rebounds instead of just trying to tap them and everything like that,” said fourth-year junior guard Andrew Andrews. “… It’s going to be a challenge for us to step up and rebound, and not just go to the ball. We have to box out. They have three or four guys who crash consistently, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Said Romar: “It’s going to be a big test for us to see if we’ve learned anything in the last week, in terms of blocking out and getting rebounds.”
Washington players returned to practice on Friday after a three-day break for Christmas. Romar said he thought the Huskies suffered from “mental fatigue” during their sloppy, 66-57 victory over Tulane last Monday, and figured some time away from the court would help.
“Sometimes, it’s not just the physical demands. It’s the mental demands,” Romar said. “You’re drained mentally because you’re constantly studying for an exam when you’re practicing. You’re trying to devour and digest these scouting reports. It takes such a high level of concentration to make sure you’re in the right position on the floor, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do. So to get away from it and just let your mind kind of get cleansed a little bit is always good.”
They hope it shows against Stony Brook, with more taxing matchups on deck next week at California and Stanford.
Stony Brook (7-6) at No. 13 Washington (11-0)
5 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 1000 AM/97.7 FM.
All-time series: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Statistics for 2014-15 unless otherwise noted
Player Pos Ht PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
Carson Puriefoy G 6-0 15.2 3.2 3.4 40.4 71.0
Bryan Sekunda G/F 6-6 3.5 1.1 0.8 33.3 1.000
Roland Nyama G/F 6-6 7.3 4.3 1.5 40.8 67.7
Rayshaun McGrew F 6-7 8.4 6.7 1.2 46.2 76.7
Jameel Warney F 6-8 14.9 12.8 2.1 50.3 55.6
Player Pos Ht PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
Nigel Williams-Goss G 6-3 13.9 5.5 7.0 43.5 68.6
Andrew Andrews G 6-2 12.4 4.2 2.0 35.8 82.6
Mike Anderson G 6-4 8.1 5.7 2.4 51.8 79.2
Jernard Jarreau F 6-10 5.4 5.0 1.5 46.0 59.1
Shawn Kemp F 6-9 10.7 4.3 0.3 65.3 57.1
Scouting report: The Huskies will be challenged on the backboards against Stony Brook, which features the nation’s top rebounder (Warney), averages nearly 41 rebounds per game as a team, and ranks ninth among all NCAA teams in rebounding margin (plus-10.5 per game). The Seawolves have three other players (McGrew, Nyama and Tyrell Sturdivant) who average four or more rebounds per game, and rank 11th nationally in offensive rebounds per game with 15.4. … Stony Brook has played six road games – at Georgia, Hofstra, Cincinnati, Princeton, Providence and Canisius – and lost them all. The Seawolves are obviously unbeaten at home, with victories over Columbia, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Western Kentucky, St. Thomas Aquinas, Loyola-Maryland and American, plus a neutral-site victory over LIU-Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden. … Stony Brook shoots 42 percent from the field and allows opponents to shoot 40.6 percent.