Beach's Bits - Seattle U
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Beach's Bits - Seattle U

The Huskies' most complete game of the season earned Washington a hard fought 87-74 victory over cross town rival Seattle University. Judging by UW fans' pre-game expectations the Huskies were in for a rough time Thursday at Key Arena. But something unexpected happened early in the first half against their newly minted D1 counterparts from just south of Montlake; UW ran away with the game.

In retrospect, the victory shouldn't have been all that surprising, but given the Huskies recent struggles, it's hard to fault fans' skepticism leading up to the contest.

The Huskies set the tone out of the gate and were clearly ready for whatever SU Head Coach Cameron Dollar - a Lorenzo Romar coaching disciple - might throw at them, and over the years he's thrown plenty at the Huskies. Last year the Redhawks turned their game with UW into a clinic on how to foul someone; the Huskies went to the foul line nearly 60 times.

"You're sweating the entire time you're playing them because they are so scrappy," Romar remarked after the game. I follow (SU) because of coach Dollar. I follow them all the time, I watch them and I'll listen to some of their games on the radio. I've gotten to where if I'm getting out of practice late or I'm out recruiting somewhere and I turn the game on and their are down 19 and it's the first half…they are just spotting them tonight. They'll be back. And sure enough, they almost always come back in a lot of those games. I've listened to games where they were down 16 and ended up winning by 12."

Washington were not going to allow that to happen. Washington senior co-captain Abdul Gaddy carved apart the Redhawks full court pressure, looking as confident and poised as he has all season. Though his 11 point, 5 assists performance might not appear that impressive, his command of his team during the opening minutes allowed his teammates to find their footing and they responded accordingly.

In stark contrast to most UW/SU matchups, the first half moved fairly quickly as the referees swallowed their whistles. In fact Gaddy, who quickly found his spot on the bench five minutes into the game with two fouls in their most recent loss to Nevada, didn't pick up his first foul of the game until the final three minutes of the first half. The pace seem to suit Washington well in spite of their limited rotation as they settled into a comfortable groove. The Huskies fed center Aziz N'Daiye a steady diet of press-beating passes as he camped in the paint undefended. He scored 12 points in the period on 6-7 shooting, and grabbed 11 rebounds in 29 minutes of play to mark his ninth career double-double.

Desmond Simmons continued his string of impressive performances, racking up 13 points and 12 rebounds on the night, most of them coming during his dominating first half effort. Speaking of double-doubles, his play against the Redhawks garnered Simmons his third double-double of the season, matching N'Diaye. Over the last three games, the rugged sophomore is averaging 14 rebounds a game during that span, but even that doesn't tell the whole story. His relentless energy was responsible for several deflections that resulted in easy transition baskets even if they didn't register in the box score. In fact if you take his stat line in total, Simmons has become quite the stat sheet stuffer; 13 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, two steals and no turnovers in 27 minutes of play. It was Simmons' work as much as anyone that was responsible for setting the dominating tone early. The Redhawks simply had no answer for his energy and physicality.

"From the tip I knew regardless of how they play me I was going to be physical and I was going to be active on the boards," said Simmons. "It didn't really matter what they brought at me, I was determined to be physical tonight. We knew they were definitely going to bring it. We know what kind of guy Dollar is…a lot of people are saying this is not the toughest team U-Dub has had in past years, so we knew they were looking at us as an opportunity and we wanted to set the tone early and let them know that wasn't going to happen tonight."

After being thrust into a key role in the rotation, Washington sophomore guard Hikeem Stewart turned in his best effort of the season, draining three smooth jumpers for his own early career high of six points in 13 minutes on the floor. But his defensive effort stood out as well. For the first time in his Husky career he looked completely comfortable with his role on the floor, making good decisions and playing within himself.

Washington's offense was firing on all cylinders in the first half. The Huskies shot an uber-efficient 64 percent from the field, effectively spreading the floor with N'Daiye the primary beneficiary of their excellent ball movement. Though they cooled off a little in the second half, the Dawgs still shot 54 percent for the game.

"I thought our guys did a good job of not holding onto the basketball," Romar said of how the Huskies handled SU's pressure. "I don't think we were trying to dribble the ball through the press; I thought we moved the ball on the pass and we stayed spaced. I don't think we were bunched up. We don't get bunched up like that it it makes it a little easier. I thought our guys made relatively good decisions against it. I thought that all helped."

The Redhawks amped up the pressure during the opening minutes of the second half, briefly rattling the Huskies with an 11-2 run before the whistles finally came out. That seemed to stymie Seattle's momentum. "We knew they were capable of a run like that in the second half, and two-and-a-half minutes into it we saw it," said Romar. "We've seen this before, we can't let that happen."

Despite being visibly slowed by a nagging foot injury, Husky senior Scott Suggs had one of his finest games as a Husky. He connected on 7-10 shots for a career high 24 points despite being sidelined by cramps for key stretches of the second half. "Maybe what you couldn't see is that he showed unbelievable leadership out there on the floor the entire night," Romar said of Suggs.

The Huskies needed a convincing win in the worst way. They got it against a gruff opponent in a game whose scoreline flattered the home team. The game was never really that close and it gives the Huskies some much needed momentum as they head into a stretch of three winnable games versus Jackson State, Cal Poly and Northern Illinois.

"It was a battle," said N'Diaye of the game. "They came out being aggressive with their press and pressuring us early in the game. But our guards, Abdul and those guys, they did a good job taking care of the ball."