SEATTLE – The source of Lorenzo Romar’s pride on Wednesday night could not be found on the Hec Edmundson Pavilion scoreboard.
If you missed this thriller, the No. 16-ranked Washington Huskies men’s basketball team pounded Grambling State, 86-38, in a quite thorough and quite expected rout.
The Tigers (2-7) are among the worst offensive teams in the nation, and their final point total can be submitted as evidence of that.
But Romar liked this victory for reasons other than the 48-point margin.
“I was so proud of our team – how we took that game possession by possession,” Romar said. “(UW made) 32 field goals, 24 assists. We were sharing the ball. We were not playing selfish at all. We were trying to work and grind each time down the floor, defensively. I was really excited about that.
“The score was irrelevant. We were trying to develop habits.”
Those habits, they hope, will guide them through Saturday’s game against No. 15-ranked Oklahoma at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. That matchup presents an opportunity for the unbeaten Huskies (9-0) to add an impressive victory to their NCAA tournament resume, and it will all but assure a perfect nonconference record.
Maybe that’s why Romar was so pleased with the way Washington dismantled Grambling. Previous UW teams might have been preoccupied with the much tougher task that awaits this weekend.
The UW coach referenced lackluster performances in past mismatches, explaining that after those games, “somebody that reads the score that didn’t see the game may say, ‘oh, you guys handled those guys pretty good.’ But it’s not a good feeling. Tonight was a good feeling. Not because of the score, but because of our level of concentration.”
There seemed to be plenty of that from the start, as the Huskies raced to a 17-3 lead behind a series of dunks from senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr., then celebrated Grambling’s second made field goal by ripping off an 18-0 run that made it 35-6 with 4:45 left in the first half.
By halftime, the Huskies led 45-13.
“When you have goals for the team and where you want to be,” junior guard Andrew Andrews said, “it’s kind of easy to look past the score and just worry about what you need to do on the court.”
Speaking of the score: it didn’t get any closer. A 23-8 Huskies run greeted the Tigers to begin the second half. Washington’s largest lead was 81-30, and seldom-used walk-ons Dan Kingma, K.J. Garrett and Greg Bowman each logged playing time. Bowman and Kingma both scored. The announced crowd of 5,289 seemed to enjoy those baskets the most.
Kemp led all scorers with a career-best 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and didn’t play the final 10:22. Five of his nine buckets were dunks.
“We’ve been talking about they were a smaller team, and all we had to do was just throw the ball over the top, pretty much,” Kemp said. “We knew it was going to be there.”
Sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss nearly notched a double-double with nine points and 11 assists, and added six rebounds in 33 minutes. Seven-foot center Robert Upshaw did have a double-double, scoring 15 points while grabbing 15 rebounds in just 22 minutes. His
Andrews (16 points) and Mike Anderson (10 points) also finished in double-figures.
Unsurprisingly, the Huskies dominated nearly every statistical category, including rebounds (50 to 30), field-goal percentage (50.8 to 23.3), second-chance points (23 to 4) and points in the paint (50 to 18).
But that’s not what encouraged Romar, whose team is off to its best start since it began the 2005-06 season with 11 consecutive games.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team tonight,” Romar said. “Sometimes we say this (after a) big game, championship game, big road victory. Tonight, the score wasn’t close, but at the same time, our ability to maintain our concentration and focus was very pleasing.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Shawn Kemp Jr. led all scorers with 21 points, but Nigel Williams-Goss’ stat line may have been more impressive: 9 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds and only 2 turnovers in 33 minutes. Robert Upshaw deserves mention, too, for his 15 points and 15 rebounds in 22 minutes.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – The Huskies laced up their shoes and took the court for warmups. Grambling simply isn’t good enough to beat a Pac-12 team, let alone a Pac-12 team ranked 16th in the country.
STAT OF THE GAME – Washington’s defense was again impressive, as Grambling shot just 23.3 percent from the field (14-of-60). Then again, the Tigers entered the game ranked 347th nationally in field-goal percentage (35.0 percent).
QUOTABLE – “I think we can be better. I don’t know how good we are. But I know we can be better. I know that we still haven’t been hitting on all cylinders offensively in games. We haven’t done that yet. I still think there are a couple individuals that can still play better. And when it happens, we will be a better basketball team.” – Romar on where UW stands through nine games
WHAT IT MEANS – As Romar said, the score doesn’t mean much, because Grambling isn’t very good. Oklahoma, UW’s opponent on Saturday, presents a much greater challenge. But the fact that UW was able to blow out an inferior opponent might be encouraging simply because that’s not something the Huskies have done in recent years.
UP NEXT – Washington vs. Oklahoma, 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas (ESPNU).
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple