Washington is a quick, uptempo team. It’s no secret. That’s how they recruit, that’s the way they prefer to play and it’s up to the opponent to try to stop them.
There is, however, a speed limit. When the Huskies go too fast, they’re too anxious. They miss connections. They pass a little too long and shoot a little too far.
That’s the way they looked Tuesday in a 95-74 victory over cross-town neighbor Seattle University. It looked like the Huskies wanted to build a 20-point lead in the opening minute. It looked like they wanted to get this one behind them as quickly as possible, a way to forget their one-point loss to Arizona Saturday and prepare for the home rematch with rival Washington State Sunday.
Coach (Lorenzo Romar) always tell us, be quick but not in a hurry,” said forward Darnell Gant, who had 10 points in his 19 minutes. You can be aggressive but don’t be in a rush to do everything. Sometimes we were too quick and sometimes a little fancy with our passes and a little negligent on offense.”
The Huskies (19-8) committed 17 turnovers, six above their season average. Give the Redhawks (10-17) partial credit. They force 18 turnovers a game. Eleven times this season they’ve racked up 20 or more.
The Huskies also shot a season-low 22.2 percent from three-point range, 4-of-18. Romar said sometimes poor shooting can be contagious.
We didn’t shoot very well tonight,” Romar understated.
The Huskies played for the first time under Romar in KeyArena, once the home of an NBA team. The players liked the big-time atmosphere, the vast space and the support from 11,386 fans.
The outcome was never in doubt. The Huskies knew after beating the Redhawks 123-76 last year third-highest point total in school history that this team was not going to challenge them on the scoreboard. The Huskies were bigger, more experienced and faster. Too fast, at times.
So what mattered to them was playing the game right, working on their weaknesses and preparing themselves for the most critical stretch in the season these next two weeks leading up to the Pac-10 Tournament. Missions mostly accomplished.
We’re making progress,” Romar said. Take away our turnovers and I think we did a lot of good things out there. We ran our offensive plays, we passed the basketball (well) and Aziz (N’Diaye) shot the ball better.”
It was a game in which Romar could use the 7-foot N’Diaye as much as he wanted. The sophomore center played 24 minutes, scored a career-high 15 points with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. It’s his third career double-double.
We executed the scouting report like coach told us to do,” N’Diaye said. I got myself going at the beginning.”
In addition, N’Diaye, a 37.9 percent free-throw shooter, made five of six attempts.
On the other side of that was Isaiah Thomas. He made just five of 10 free throws including an air ball and seemed just a touch out of sync, almost disconnected. He had good numbers, 20 points on 7-of-15 from the floor, but missed five of six three-point attempts and had four assists and five turnovers.
We were upset about the loss we gave away (to Arizona) but we played hard, together, we had fun and came out with the win,” Thomas said.
That’s it. He has a lingering preoccupation with cats the Wildcats last week and the Cougars this week.
We won so we’re ready. We’ll try to get them back from them winning when we were in Pullman,” Thomas added.
What helped the Huskies was the Redhawks’ scrappiness and hustle. Even though they were down by double digits virtually all of the second half, they didn’t give up. It meant the Huskies never could coast. They couldn’t rest players or empty the bench. They stayed engaged throughout.
They’re the type of team that’s not going to quit,” Gant said. Whatever the score is, they’re still going to keep fighting and lingering around. That’s this team’s mindset so we had to continue to execute on offense and get back on defense because they like to push it.
We definitely couldn’t coast. They beat Virginia on the road and Oregon State here. So we had to play like we played against Arizona.”
The difference is they won by 21 instead of losing by one.
The Huskies also recovered their rebounding game. After the Wildcats held a 15-rebound edge, the Huskies topped the Redhawks 49-28. However, the Redhawks’ tallest player is 6-8. That’s a big reason why Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who had 24 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, matching his second most this season.
What the game did as much as anything was give the players a mental break at the most intense stage of the season. It was like a neighborhood pickup game. Most of the players know each other. Seattle vs. Seattle, with equal fan support. It was a transition game for the Huskies, allowing them to collect the pieces from one tough loss and pull it all together for the Cougars.
You can’t get distracted by that (loss to WSU),” Gant added, but in the back of your mind it’s still there, the way they celebrated.”