Beach’s Bits: Bigs Flash Potential

SEATTLE - The word “potential” is thrown around quite a bit at this time of the year, and it’s used a bit indiscriminately. But that’s exactly what the Husky front court demonstrated in the team’s season opening win 77-59 win over South Carolina State Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Shawn Kemp Jr, Robert Upshaw and Jernard Jarreau each brought eye-opening moments to the floor as the Huskies wore down a pesky bunch of Bulldogs. Kemp wasted no time picking up where he left on after a stellar exhibition performance last week. His first bucket came off an offensive rebound and put-back after a missed Jarreau free throw line jumper. Not normally known for his rebounding, Kemp went hard on the offensive glass, and it paid off on multiple occasions with easy buckets. He’s got great hands, and his catch in transition off a Williams-Goss feed near the end of the first half showed off his skill. He scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in a scant 23 minutes.

Kemp had plenty of help, however. Upshaw was a defensive monster in his official UW debut. His 14 points and six boards were an impressive start, but it was his seven blocks and intimidating demeanor that had fans sitting on the edge of their seats and cheering like mad any time he came close to launching one in their direction. Once Upshaw locked in his timing, his lanky arms appeared to come from all angles to swat away shot after shot. Offensively, on a night when the Huskies owned a sizeable height advantage, Upshaw dominated the paint with high percentage shots, though he left points on the table after missing a couple of dunks.

All in all, Robert Upshaw’s debut didn’t disappoint.

In his first game back since tearing his ACL in last season’s opener, Jernard Jarreau didn’t flash the eye popping stats of his front court peers. He still left his mark on the game though, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds in 27 minutes of play. He was 3-4 from the field out of the high post, favoring a 15-18 foot jump-shot at the top of the key. He connected on two of his three attempts from that spot. His shot was the only one falling during the first half.

Judging by the box score, one would think that the Huskies had no problem feeding the paint, but that wasn’t the case. The Husky guards settled for jumpers often as they navigated the Bulldogs’ zone defense, and when the shots weren’t falling, the offense stagnated.

Despite an off-shooting night from deep, Nigel Williams-Goss nearly netted himself the first triple-double in the program’s history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He was a stabilizing force, scrappy and active defensively, and fortunately his patented runner was reliable as ever.

Meanwhile, co-captain Andrew Andrews got off to a quick start, connecting on a pretty jumper coming off a screen for the first bucket of the game. That set the tone. Andrews ended the night with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists on the night. At times Andrew was the only guard who could find the basket, though his four turnovers marred an otherwise solid performance. He was at his best attacking the hoop, keeping constant pressure on the SCSU defenders.

The other guards weren’t as successful in the season opener. Mike Anderson overcame a cold start to score nine points and grab five rebounds and was a steadying defensive presence. Darin Johnson had trouble finishing at the basket for the second game in a row, coming up short on drives on three separate occasions. Newcomers Quevyn Winters and Donaven Dorsey were 0-5 from three and 2-9 all together. As a result of the wings’ shooting woes, the Huskies four guard set (with Dorsey at the four-spot) never really took flight, and the team hit on just 3 of 21 three point attempts.

Defensively, the Huskies did a great job of bottling up the paint as they should have considering the dramatic height advantage, and held the Bulldogs to just 33 percent from the field. They did a so-so job of closing out on SCS’s shooters however; something they struggled with in the exhibition as well. It bares mentioning that South Carolina State was one of the worst shooting teams in the country last season.

The cold shooting continued at the charity stripe, where UW hit just 10-17 from the line.

They also did a good job of taking care of the ball, surrendering 12 turnovers to their 16 assists.

Overall, the Huskies’ 2014-15 debut was a solid one. The potential in the front court is real and should give the Dawgs a definite edge against most teams. Kemp is already playing at a high level and there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate it with consistency. Upshaw and Jarreau are shaking off the rust, and if tonight is any indication, there’s plenty of surface to scratch over before the start of conference play January 2nd at California. Upshaw, in particular, is going to be a fan favorite for sure if he continues to protect the rim like he did Friday.

The guard play, on the other hand, was a little more hit-and-miss. While Andrews and Williams-Goss can keep Washington in games, they’re going to need more from their backcourt mates to go places this season. The good news is that the wings probably won’t have a worse shooting night. It’s a relatively inexperienced group, and they’re bound to bounce back. But will it be enough?

We’ll know more next Friday when the Huskies host one of the nation’s top scorers in Isiah Umipig and the Seattle U Redhawks. Top Stories