Beach's Bits - WWU

SEATTLE - The Washington Huskies basketball team got all that they bargained for and then some in their first action of the season. Facing off against a scrappy  Western Washington team coming off a DII national title, the Vikings gave the revamped Dawgs all they could handle.

Despite a sluggish start, C.J. Wilcox delivered a withering assault, scoring 21 points, nabbing 7 boards, 4 steals while dishing out three assists. It wasn't his finest shooting game, connecting on just 2 of his 5 three point attempts, but there were moments when he looked every bit the star Husky fans hope his future holds.  Wilcox was at his best using his size and quickness to impact the game all over the floor.

"C.J. Wilcox had an outstanding game," said UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "If you take his points away he still rebounded, stole the ball, deflected the ball, he defended, he took charges—a really complete game. When your best players are there they need to step up like that. That's what you expect from guys that have been in the program and know what they're doing."

The Huskies balanced scoring attack including Wilcox's 21, Scott Suggs with 14 and Abdul Gaddy's 13 - but it was gritty freshman Andrew Andrews that set the tone for the team in the first half.  With senior Abdul Gaddy saddled with three first-half fouls Andrews stepped into the spotlight and immediately made his presence felt.  The unheralded Portland native connected on his first three point attempt en route to a team-leading 12 first half points. He scored 14 total.  

"Andrew played a very good basketball game," said Romar. "I've been saying all along that this is just an exhibition game so who knows what's going to happen. Much was made that we didn't get any recruits. Well, find me a freshman guard that goes out and does that. He played with a lot of confidence and a lot of boldness out there."

Meanwhile, Suggs had a quiet 13 points in his first action since a foot injury forced him to sit out all of last season.

While Gaddy's foul trouble limited his minutes he still managed to do plenty of damage, especially from the foul line where he sank 8-9 attempts. The team was at its best with Gaddy in attack mode and he made the Vikings pay from the charity stripe.

The Huskies' post play was a mixed bag.  Aziz N'diaye was his typical bruising self, bullying his way to nine points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. His free throw shooting was lousy as usual (3-8), but his intimidating effect on opponents in the paint was tangible. Shawn Kemp played a solid 17 minutes, even briefly pairing with Aziz on the floor. His 6 points and 5 boards were generated by his consistent aggressiveness around the basket.

On the flip side, Desmond Simmons, Martin Breunig and Jernard Jarreau were all mostly relegated to window dressing at the power forward position.  Based on this viewing, one would conclude that the concerns about the four spot are well founded.  The three players combined for 11 points and 6 rebounds and they were consistently outmuscled in the paint. The team's defensive rebounding was particularly poor, as the smaller Vikings out-worked the Husky big men on the offensive glass.

"Contesting shots…rebounding," Romar said after the game when asked what the team is going to work on coming out of this win. "Those are the two. And rebounding quite a bit, but continuing to place an emphasis on contesting shots. It's something you've got to get better at. The rebounding thing, we're going to pay close attention to it, but someone is going to have to step up."

Looking at the team's 88 points, one might assume that the game was an up and down affair, but it really wasn't.  The Dawgs were effective in their transition offense and their new high post offense was mostly successful at creating plenty of jump shots for their shooters, namely Wilcox, Suggs and Andrews. Thats not to say that there isn't room for plenty of improvement; Watching Western Washington efficiently run the same high post sets demonstrated how far the Huskies have to go.

Defensively, the game was also a mass of inconsistencies.  During the first half Washington kept the Vikings in check, limiting them to just 32 percent from the field, but things unraveled quickly in the second period as Western got hot from beyond the three point arc.  Encouragingly, the Huskies did a decent job of staying front of their opponents, something they struggled with last season.

Vikings guard John Allen, a transfer from WSU, zigged and zagged his way through the paint, keeping the Huskies on their toes all evening. "They won the national championship last year," Gaddy said when asked about Western's play.  "Coach warned us that they were a team that was not going to let up.  They were down nine points at half and they came back and tied us, we kind of expected it, it shows that we have a lot of work to do."

Overall, the game was an excellent barometer for Washington, who still has two and a half weeks to wait for their season opener against Loyola-Maryland, although they will have their closed scrimmage on November 3rd.  The front court flaws were there as expected, but the performance of the backcourt was encouraging.  The lack of productivity from the four spot was unacceptable and unsurprising, but there's also a lot to be excited about defensively from that position.


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