University of Washington

What we learned from the Huskies’ four exhibition games in Italy

Washington didn’t find too much competition in Italy — the Huskies won their four men’s basketball exhibition games by an average of 44 points — but that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn a few things about what the team will look like this season.

On Tuesday, UW closed out its swing through Italy with a 97-39 victory over Siena. In the first two games in Rome, the Huskies topped the Peak Warriors by scores of 94-35 and 91-46, respectively. The closest contest came in Game 3 against Pistoia in Florence, but the Huskies still pulled away for a 73-59 victory.

UW averaged 88.8 points during the four-game stretch. Not counting the game against Pistoia, UW won the other three games by an average of 54 points. The Huskies will return home from the foreign tour on Thursday, and the next chance to see them play will be an exhibition game against Western Washington on Oct. 31.

Until then, here are three things we learned about UW during the trip to Italy:

1. Marcus Tsohonis could contribute early

Washington landed a top-10 recruiting class in 2019 highlighted by five-star prospects Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. McDaniels didn’t make the trip to Italy due to personal reasons. And while Stewart was impressive, the lowest-ranked prospect in the class also had a solid debut.

Marcus Tsohonis, a three-star point guard out of Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game.

His best outing came in the final game against Siena. UW was leading just 22-15 after the first quarter but outscored Siena 26-8 in the second quarter to head into the break with a 48-23 lead. While a switch from man-to-man to the more familiar zone helped the Huskies lock-in defensively, it was Tsohonis who ignited the offense with several strong takes to the basket. He led UW with 12 points at the break.

Tsohonis still has some work to do on his jump shot, which was a critique of his game coming out of high school. But throughout the four-game stretch, he proved himself more than capable of managing UW’s offense. Tsohonis excelled when driving and finishing at the hoop, and displayed the kind of confidence and court vision the Huskies will need from a point guard.

As of right now, Kentucky transfer Quade Green — a former five-star recruit — won’t be eligible to play until the start of the winter quarter. UW will have sophomore Elijah Hardy, a former three-star point guard, available to run the offense until then. But Tsohonis looked capable of carving out a role for himself as well. If his performance in Italy is any indication, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor.

2. Isaiah Stewart is as good as advertised

Stewart, a five-star center, was considered by 247Sports to be the No. 1 player in Indiana, the No. 3 player in the country and the No. 2 center nationally in his class. He’s expected to be a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

That he dominated the competition in Italy wasn’t a surprise. There wasn’t a player on any of the rosters that could match up with Stewart, who is 6 feet 9 and 240 pounds. He averaged a double-double 19.5 points and 11 rebounds over the four games, leading UW in scoring in Game 2 and Game 3. He recorded two double-doubles and was one rebound away from a third.

But Stewart looked more than capable of carrying over his exhibition game performances to the regular season. Perhaps the most intriguing element of his game was his ability stretch the defense. He looked smoothly knocked down jump shots and even made a few 3-pointers.

It appears the Huskies are going to run much of their offense through Stewart, and it’s easy to see why.

3. Nahziah Carter looks like a leading scorer

With the departure of Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle and Dominic Green, the Huskies lost 80 percent of their scoring from last season. Nowell, who entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore season and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round, averaged a team-high 16.2 points per game.

Nowell was often the player UW looked to for scoring in pivotal moments. More than any other player on the roster, he was capable of creating his own shot and taking over offensively. Nahziah Carter showed flashes of the same ability last season. And based on his outings in Italy, he’s more than ready to step into that role.

Carter, who averaged 8.1 points per game last season, is the leading returning scorer for UW. He reached double figures 15 times during the 2018-19 seasons and seemed to find better consistency down the stretch. He scored double figures in four out of the last five games, including both NCAA Tournament contests.

Carter averaged 18.3 points and eight rebounds in Italy. He reached double figures in all four games and led the Huskies in scoring in Game 1 and Game 4. He also registered double-doubles in the final two games of 17 points and 10 rebounds and 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Carter’s athleticism has never been in doubt — just watch some of his dunks from last season for evidence — but he also displayed a much-improved jump shot in Italy. That will be key for the Huskies who lost their most reliable shooters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team.

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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