By sweeping through the World Vision Classic at Alaska Airlines Arena, the University of Washington men’s basketball team has opened a season with three consecutive victories for the sixth time in head coach Lorenzo Romar’s 10 seasons at the school (Romar-era best: 11 consecutive wins to launch the 2005-06 season).
The Huskies moved to 3-0 by hammering the University of Portland 93-63 Monday night in the final game of the three-game tournament after blitzing Georgia State 91-74 and surviving Florida Atlantic 77-71.
Washington won’t play again until next Sunday morning when the Huskies travel to St. Louis for matchup against the Billikens, a team Romar coached from 1999-02. He left St. Louis to take the Washington job in 2003, replacing Bob Bender.
Washington has not faced St. Louis during Romar’s time with the Huskies. The schools last met in Bender’s final season, the UW suffering a one-point (71-70) loss under the Gateway Arch.
If the early pattern holds, Romar has settled on a starting lineup of senior Darnell Gant, junior center Aziz D’Niaye, junior guard Abdul Gaddy, sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox and sophomore guard Terrence Ross. The five started all three games of the World Vision Classic, commanding a majority of the minutes.
True freshman Tony Wroten received the most minutes coming off the bench, playing 26 against Georgia State and 18 against both Florida Atlantic and Portland. Redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons played 16 minutes in each.
Only one other player on Washington’s 15-man roster received double-figure minutes in any of the games, freshman Martin Breunig getting 10 against Georgia State (no points, no rebounds, two fouls). Another newcomer, Shawn Kemp Jr., saw only nine minutes of action in the three games (made one free throw.)
In contrast to the 2010-11 Huskies, this edition has so far displayed a more balanced scoring approach. Last year, Isaiah Thomas (16.8), Matthew Bryan-Amaning (15.3) and Justin Holiday (10.5) dominated Washington’s offense. In the World Vision tournament, all five starters finished with double-figure scoring averages.
Wilcox, from Pleasant Grove, UT., and a member of the 2011 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team, looks prepared to take over Thomas’ role as Washington’s scoring leader. He had 22 points against Georgia State (two shy of his career high) and 19 against both Florida Atlantic and Portland. In addition to his 19 against Portland, Wilcox added five rebounds and five assists and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Averaging 22.0 through three games, Wilcox made 11 of his 18 3-point attempts (.611). Last year, Scott Suggs (injured and not expected back until December) led the Huskies with a .450 3-point percentage. The rest of Washington’s main rotation (at least for now):
DARNELL GANT: The only senior starter, Gant opened with 18 points against Georgia State (hit 7 of 9 from 2-point range and 2 of 3 from 3-point range) and then experienced a scoring freeze, collecting just four more points in the final two games of the tournament.
AZIZ N’DIAYE: Played his best game against Florida Atlantic with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and then followed with 11 points, seven rebounds and one block against Portland. His most glaring number, however: 10 fouls (only Husky in double figures).
ABDUL GADDY: Produced 37 points, 14 rebounds and 17 assists in the three-day tournament. Gaddy, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, scored 30 of the 37 against Florida Atlantic and Portland (15 in each game). Gaddy also averaged a team-high 5.7 assists during the tournament.
TERRENCE ROSS: Played by far his best game against Portland with a career-high 24 points that included a career-best six 3-pointers. More important than the points, Ross played superb defense on Portland’s leading scorer, Nemanja Mitrovic, holding him to just five points on 2-for-9 shotmaking.
“I don’t know if I’ve been more proud of someone on the defensive end more than Terrence Ross,” Romar said after the game. “You’re talking about someone who, last year, was very gifted offensively but was behind on the defensive end and it was tough for him. But now he’s come to do what he did, guard a very, very good shooter and a tough basketball player. He did all that while still having a fantastic offensive evening. The great ones are capable of doing both.”
TONY WROTEN: Tallied 11 points, had six, crowd-rousing assists and five rebounds against Portland. He had his high-scoring game of 18 points against Georgia State.
DESMOND SIMMONS: Simmons, who averaged 15.3 minutes per game in the tournament, took only three shots and missed all three, scoring all six of his points on free throws.
The Huskies do not play at Alaska Airlines Arena again until Nov. 25, when they host Humboldt State. Then they will be away again until Dec. 16, when UW takes on UC Santa Barbara. Between the Humboldt State and UC Santa Barbara contests, Washington plays at Nevada (Dec. 2) vs. Marquette (Dec. 6, Madison Square Garden) and vs. Duke (Dec. 10, Madison Square Garden).