Beach's Bits - McNeese State

SEATTLE - The 2010-2011 started with a bang as the Washington Huskies routed an overwhelmed McNeese State squad 118-64 with the team performance overshadowing several stellar individual performances in many, many ways. Here's a few of them.

Rebounding re-boot - After the Huskies disappointing 32 rebound effort in their exhibition game against St. Martin's last Saturday, UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar promised a renewed emphasis on rebounding the following week during practice. True to his word, the Huskies dominated the glass on both ends of the floor. Their 69 rebounds on the night was noteworthy enough, but it was the Huskies' work on the offensive glass was even more impressive. Aziz N'Daiye, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday combined for 20 of the team's 30 offensive boards.

Sharing equals caring - Besides the rebounding turnaround, the most encouraging (though not particularly surprising) aspect of the Huskies victory was their unselfishness. Washington players dished out 24 assists for the game, with Venoy Overton leading the team in that category with six. Five players delivered three or more assists each, and it's no surprise the Huskies finished the game with seven players scoring in double digits. That kind of ball movement is an example of the team's emphasis on putting team goals ahead of individual ones, and it should lead to bigger things.

On that note…

Sharing equals caring, part two - The Huskies showed that last weekend's balanced scoring was no fluke. Despite Bryan-Amaning's monster night, the Huskies still ended the game with seven players scoring 10 or more points – In spite of the fact that no Washington player played more than 23 minutes. That's an impressive feat, regardless the opponent. MBA had the career night with 28, Isaiah Thomas added 17, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N'Diaye had 13 apiece, Holiday and Scott Suggs chipped in 11 and Abdul Gaddy had 10. Though it's probably too much to ask them to duplicate that feat on a nightly basis, it was still encouraging to see that all of the talk about the team's unselfishness as more than mere lip service. Romar talked this past week about ideally having many people to count on for scoring and rebounding, and that certainly came to pass Saturday.

Matthew Bryan-Amazing - MBA was an absolute force on the blocks, cruising to a career high 28 points and 13 rebounds in just 23 minutes of work. It wasn't the wild highlight reel dunks that made his performance so encouraging (though there were a couple definite rim-rattlers) but it was the confident, businesslike way he dismantled the Cowboys' overwhelmed post defense. Contrary to prior seasons, every pump fake and spin was done with a purpose, and quickly followed by decisive moves. His motions weren't exaggerated and showy, but rather instinctive and sudden, giving his defenders little time to react.

Aziz the beast - It was hard not to come away impressed by Aziz N'Daiye's performance. Terrible free throw shooting aside, N'Daiye was a monster on both ends of the floor, adding 15 rebounds and two blocks to his 13-point performance - and all that in just 15 minutes of work. Despite picking up two quick fouls when he entered the game, N'Daiye slowed down, and that's when the fun started. He picked apart the Cowboys, who were visibly intimidated by the 7-footer's tenacity in the paint. Not a bad night for his first game playing Division one basketball, and sadly had he managed to connect better from the charity stripe we would be debating about whether N'Diaye's performance went down as one of the great debuts in the program's history. Maybe it was anyway.

The not-so-silent assassin – Isaiah Thomas rather loudly picked apart McNeese State after a hard screen set early got his blood boiling. After drilling three consecutive triples, Cowboys forward PJ Alawoya dropped Thomas with an illegal screen, setting off the junior captain, and he was briefly restrained by his teammates before cooler heads prevailed. His 17 points mostly came from behind the arc, where he connected on all four tried 3-pointers. Besides the points, Thomas also dished out three assists.

Foul shooting - It was foul to be sure, and not in the basketball sense. Despite otherwise splendid debuts from the Husky big men, their free throw shooting was atrocious, going 9-27 combined. They've been down this road before. Two years ago, the Huskies' dismal shooting behind the charity stripe was a constant theme all season, but even that paled to what Bryan-Amaning and N'Diaye pulled off today.

Rust never sleeps - Venoy Overton returned after nearly two months off nursing a pulled hamstring. The Husky spark plug had a rough night shooting, but the beautiful part of Overton's game is that he'll always be a menace to opposing offenses, and in that way he still managed to make his presence felt, grabbing three steals and forcing several turnovers. He also dished out six assists in the effort.

And finally….

Who muzzled the Dawg Pack? - Judging by their first half performance, Husky fans may not want to hear the answer. Though they picked up the energy a bit in the second half, it was still one of the dullest performances by the Pack in quite some time. Little originality and an overall lack of confidence have some around the program fretting. Clearly, the freshman aren't ready for the prime time, and the upperclassmen seem to be short on leadership. For the Hoop Dawgs to be at their best, they need more from their "teammates" in the stands. Hopefully a quick turnaround can re-ignite the fire.


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