Huskies go big in search of boards

Over the course of this season, rebounding has been the one big concern for the Washington Huskies. However, the effort was there on both ends of the court in Saturday night's 80-52 win over San Francisco at Hec Ed. The Huskies, as a team, out-rebounded the Dons 40-33 - in part to a change made down low.

For the first time this season, both Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N'Diaye started together, and the difference was noticeable from the get-go. With the added presence down low, both bigs looked rejuvenated and more aggressive than ever before.

Bryan-Amaning finished the night with one of his more impressive rebounding performances of the young season with nine rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive side of the floor - a new career-high for the senior from London.

Although the stats may not show it, N'Diaye was no slouch himself. Despite grabbing just five boards in his 22 minutes on the court, he had several good block-outs and made the Dons work very hard to block him out on the other end, sending an extra player for help. Simply put, the sophomore from Senegal was a pest inside.

Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar said having N'Diaye in there brings a whole new dimension.

"[Aziz's] presence alone—he doesn't get ten rebounds every game, he only had five tonight, but he is long and his length allows him to get his hands on balls," Romar said. "It also allows Matthew to roam a little bit. He's not taking all the pressure on himself. When he's in there without Aziz, there's a lot of pressure on him to go get that basketball. And we want him to, but being in there with Aziz kinda helps him. It gives him a bodyguard, so to speak."

To go with that, both players were effective on the defensive end. Throughout the night, San Francisco continually tried to penetrate into the lane from the top of the key, and N'Diaye, and he either changed their plans or denied them entry altogether.

Finishing the night with four blocks, N'Diaye was also able to alter several shots that weren't blocked. When he managed to stay on his feet - and with his arms straight up - he was extremely effective; however, he was drawn up in the air a few times, which led to easy baskets for the guards.

Bryan-Amaning followed N'Diaye's lead, finishing the game with two steals and a block. He was able to do all this while guarding a smaller man for a change. He was able to get his hand on several balls and helped to disrupt the Dons' flow into the paint.

Romar said he was impressed with how the big guys played together on both ends of the court.

"I thought Aziz [N'Diaye] and Matthew [Bryan-Amaning] did a good job of co-existing in the game when they were in there together," Romar said. "It was a good game to look at that because USF spreads the floor for a good portion of their possessions, and it gets your big guys moving around. I thought our big guys did a good job of keeping them in front of us and not getting beat. That was encouraging."

Even though the big guys stole the show, the win over USF was really an all-around team effort. The Huskies made life difficult for San Francisco, and perhaps the most impressive part of the game was the Dons' second chance opportunities, or lack thereof. Finishing with just six points when given a chance for a second bite, the Dons were basically shut down after their first shot.

The Dons only had 10 offensive boards (just one in the first-half), which was good enough for an offensive rebounding percentage of just 28.5 percent. Those marks are down from their season averages of 11.3 offensive rebounds and 33.7 percent. If the Huskies were to limit their opponents to just 28.5 percent all season, they would rank in the national top-20. However, Washington currently sits at 35.3 percent, good enough for 269th in the NCAA. There's plenty of room for improvement.

As for the other end of the glass, that part of the Huskies' game wasn't too shabby. Washington finished with 17 offensive boards, good enough for 43.5 percent - both up from their season averages of 14.6 offensive rebounds and 39.7 percent. Just to make their night shine even more, it came against one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country. San Francisco averages 28.6 defensive rebounds a game, which is eighth best in the country, but was limited to 23 Saturday night. Their percentage is typically 71.4; against UW it was at 58.9 percent.

Following the ugly rebounding performance against Texas A&M, Romar needed to make a change. Moving Bryan-Amaning back into the starting lineup was a natural switch, and it appears the change could prove to be a successful one, both right now and in the future. They will find out soon. Both bigs will start Wednesday against Nevada, and they are one of the better rebounding teams in the country.

As for the change, N'Diaye said it is a work in progress right now, but it could be special by the end of the season.

"I think Matthew is talented and in the lineup, we've both been doing a good job in practice," he said. "Coach (Romar) has been trying to put us on the same team to play together. As we keep working and playing together, by the end of the season we'll both be ready."


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