Late in the first half Tuesday night, Seattle University’s 6-7 senior guard, Mattia Da Campo from Venice, Italy, had the ball 80 feet from the Huskies hoop. He started pounding his left-handed dribble and bore down directly upon the basket. Quade Green sort of moved in his general direction, which was better than anyone else on Washington’s defense.
Without crossing over, faking or pretending to pass, Da Campo blasted untouched for a full-court lay-in. A one-man Italian battalion.
“That just kinda seemed like how that whole first half happened,” said coach Mike Hopkins. “We were trying some trickery, and trickery didn’t go so well. Quade looked like . . . what is the Spanish bullfighter guy? — a matador. ”
Hopkins and his 22nd-ranked, 7-2 Huskies were hardly bulls, down 33-32 at halftime to a middling team from the Western Athletic Conference. The tortured analogy ends there, fortunately.
The Huskies recovered to win, 81-59 (box), by finishing with a whirlwind 23-5 run over the final 5½ minutes. Hopkins didn’t say it this way, but the lackluster early lope by the Huskies at Hec Ed was surely a Gonzaga hangover.
The Huskies Dec. 8 at home lost what may have been the opportunity of the regular season. In front of a packed, passionate house, the Huskies hung close throughout but, as always against the national powerhouse from Spokane, faltered and fell, 83-76.
After dramatically remaking the Huskies lineup that lost four starters from an NCAA tournament team, Hopkins had a real shot with his hugely talented new kids. But they played exactly as newbies, splattering 19 turnovers across Montlake to literally throw away the game.
Tuesday night in front of a much sleepier crowd of 7,760, they started the same way against the Redhawks.
“The first half with nine turnovers,” Hopkins said. “We got to eliminate those.”
With two freshman starters, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, and a newcomer, Green, at the point, the Huskies at the early juncture of the season are somehow simultaneously hasty and tentative. They rush too much, and slow too much.
Presumably, the two-time Pac-12 Conferenc coach of the year will find a governor for the throttle.
“I felt like our guys were a little lethargic,” he said. “We were settling a lot for jumpers, getting out-rebounded. In the second half we had to be more aggressive and get the ball inside. Most importantly, get some stops. Took a long time to get that separation.”
Seattle was in the game late, trailing 58-54 with less than six minutes left behind 6-1 senior guard Terrell Brown of Garfield High and Shoreline CC, who finished with 21 points — plus a bigger point that he is Pac-12 caliber.
Speaking of caliber, Stewart showed why he is NBA first-round caliber.
From that juncture, he scored seven of UW’s next nine points in a frenzy of energy that led to game highs of 27 points and 13 rebounds.
“When we try to get him he ball, he creates such a collapse (of the defense) that it opens for everybody,” Hopkins said. “He plays so hard, and his spirit on the court helps everybody.
“It was like a psychiatrist when snaps his fingers (to bring a client out of a hypnotic trance).”
The late burst, and the two games, established that it was situation normal for the state’s college hoops world: The Huskies are 30-4 against Seattle U, and have won 15 in a row stretching back to 1978, and Gonzaga has won six in a row and 13 of 14 over the Huskies.
That grossly large noncompetitive hoops spectrum has little meaning at the moment for the Huskies, who have lost only to ranked Gonzaga and Tennessee but have much work to do to clean up all this rushing about and standing still.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got the talent. We just have to teach and coach better. The players have got to work harder and come together better.”
And somebody please catch up to Da Campo. It is lonely enough being a stranger in a strange land.