If nothing else, the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team wants to play fast this season. They want to take the ball out of the net and race to the other end of the floor. They want to contest passing lanes defensively and hope to force turnovers that lead to easy baskets.
Along the way, they will make mistakes. Maybe a lot of mistakes. This is, after all, the youngest roster that coach Lorenzo Romar has constructed, and a team that includes seven true freshmen will need time to learn how to play together, and how to play the way Romar wants.
Thursday night’s exhibition game against Seattle Pacific was the first public step in that process. And it supported a pair of obvious notions: the young Huskies are athletic, talented, and could be a fun team to watch. But they’re prone to sloppiness and defensive breakdowns, ailments that can only be cured by experience.
Washington eventually pulled away from its Division II opponent, winning 98-80 before a crowd of 4,978 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The Huskies shot 58.1 percent from the field, and six players s in double figures. Fifth-year senior Andrew Andrews had 21 points. Freshman forward Noah Dickerson added 17, freshman forward Marquese Chriss had 11, freshmen guards David Crisp and Dominic Green each scored 10, and freshman guard Dejounte Murray scored 16 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes.
But what Romar most wanted to see, he said, was effort. And while he jokingly lamented that the Huskies “didn’t get 10 new guys to play mistake-free basketball,” he said he “loved their effort.”
“I loved our guys’ effort, I loved our guys’ unselfishness,” Romar said. “We were able to sustain our defensive effort for longer periods than I thought we would be tonight. Seattle Pacific is such a good team to play, because they run their offense very efficiently. … We got a lot of reps guarding against a very efficient offense, and I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall.”
SPU is a regular participant in the Division II postseason, and the Falcons posed a few challenges. Brendan Carroll, a senior guard from Australia, led SPU with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. The Falcons picked up a few easy baskets in the first half on backdoor cuts, taking advantage of UW’s aggressive steal attempts. And they held a rebounding edge for most of the game — including 20-14 in the first half – despite the final tally finishing even at 31-31.
“We should be a much better rebounding team than we were tonight on the offensive glass,” Romar said.
Washington’s skill eventually won out. After SPU trimmed the UW lead to 60-55 with a little more than 13 minutes to play, the Huskies ripped off a 15-5 run, capped by Murray’s breakaway one-handed jam after a steal.
There were a few plays like that. Washington forced 22 turnovers and turned them into 32 points, with players such as Chriss and Dickerson picking off passes near midcourt and dribbling the other way with the ball.
“I think as a team we performed pretty well,” Andrews said. “Everybody came in as a team and contributed. … Everybody came in defensively and offensively with some energy and gave us life. So I think we did a pretty good job.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Huskies guard Andrew Andrews led the team with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the free-throw line. He also had a team-high five assists and committed only one turnover in a team-high 27 minutes. The Huskies will need more games like that from their team captain.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – SPU pulled within 60-55 with a little more than 13 minutes to play, but the Huskies closed the game on a 38-25 run to slowly pull away. A 15-2 run made it 75-60 with 10 minutes to play.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Huskies struggled to shoot the ball well all of last season, but they made 58.1 percent of their field-goal attempts and 47.4 percent of their 3-point attempts.
QUOTABLE – “We didn’t accomplish it: we didn’t get 10 new guys to play mistake-free basketball. We weren’t able to do it tonight,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, tongue firmly in cheek.
WHAT IT MEANS – SPU is a Division II program, but a good one – and with seven freshmen playing college basketball for the first time, the Huskies didn’t look too bad. They committed too many turnovers, didn’t rebound well enough and gave up a few too many easy baskets, but their energy and style of play more closely resembled what Romar desires. The Nov. 13 opener against Texas, however, will be far more telling.
UP NEXT – Washington opens the regular season with a 7 p.m. (PT) game Nov. 13 against the Texas Longhorns in Shanghai, China. ESPN has the broadcast.