Beach’s Bits: Seattle U Post-Mortem

The Battle in Seattle turned out to be a tale of two halves Friday night, as the Huskies overcame a dismal first half to beat crosstown rival Seattle University. Despite the 63-48 victory, the Huskies remain a work in progress after suffering a mixed shooting night from a backcourt that still hasn’t jelled.

Defense shines while the offense falters. There’s no doubt the Huskies are an improved defensive team this season after holding the high-scoring Redhawks to just 28.6 percent shooting from the field. Having a rim protector in the middle like Robert Upshaw is certainly a major factor, but they’re much more active overall, attacking passing lanes and pressuring on the ball. The Huskies dramatically improved their defensive close-outs too after struggling to find opposing shooters in both the exhibition game as well as the season opener against South Carolina State.

First half jitters gives way to second half surge. Washington was a mess with the ball in their hands during the first half. The backcourt duo of Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews sputtered while the Redhawks raced to an early 17-11 lead before Quevyn Winters shot the Huskies back into the game. Despite Winters’ three first half threes, Washington shot just 29 percent from the floor during the opening 20 minutes, managing just nine baskets. It was a grubby half of bad passes and poor ball-control, and included seven turnovers to just three assists.

The early disarray was largely a result of their poor shooting and questionable decision-making, particularly by Andrews. Williams-Goss connected on just 2-8 from the floor during the period, while Andrews missed all three of his three point attempts in the first period. In one sequence mid-way though the first half, Andrews over-penetrated the Redhawks zone despite Winters waiting on the wing with no defenders in sight. Facing the exact same situation on the next possession, Andrews wisely delivered a pass to Winters who waited in the exact same spot and calmly hit his first of three three-pointers to give the Huskies anemic offense a big lift.

Andrews bounced back big, canning three three-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half as the Huskies surged ahead. The Huskies then turned to Kemp, who scored nine of his team high 12 points in the second half. The Huskies locked down their butterfingers from there, pushing their advantage while coughing up the ball just four times in the period to end the night with 11 total turnovers to go with their 15 assists.

Cold shooting thawed in the second half. As much as Lorenzo Romar believes otherwise, the Huskies are a poor shooting team. After a dismal 3-21 shooting night from beyond the arc against South Carolina State, all signs pointed to more of the same during the first half Friday. Winters was the big exception. The sharpshooting junior connected on 3-4 attempts from three during the first half, single-handedly keeping the otherwise offensively offensive Huskies in the game. Otherwise these chilly Dawgs shot 0-11 from deep during the first half, shooting 31 percent in total for the game.

The Reign Man returns to Key Arena - Despite Washington’s otherwise unremarkable game versus Seattle, it presented an opportunity for a nice human interest story thanks to the presence of Shawn Kemp, Jr. The senior forward followed up an impressive 17-point season debut with a 12-point, 7-rebound performance against the Redhawks. Clearly his confidence is soaring, and the work he did in the offseason is paying off. He’s rebounding the ball with vigor, and his defense has improved. On top of that, he blocked two shots and surrendered no turnovers and has even managed to avoid foul trouble during the first two games. But his performance, as good as it was, wasn’t what made the night special.

The Sonics were stolen from Seattle nearly eight years, and the city is still reeling from gaping hole their departure left behind. A wound that for some, is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. Watching number 40 racing down the court at Key Arena, cramming home one rim-rattling dunk after another, hearkened back to a time that shaped a generation of Basketball fans in Seattle, myself included.

Along those lines, good things happen when the Huskies found the bigs in the middle. The Huskies promising front court didn’t touch the ball much early, but when they did, they made the most of it. Kemp, Upshaw and Jarreau (who was again saddled with foul trouble) combined for an efficient 10 of 19 from the field, while physically overwhelming the smaller Redhawks. You can see the light coming on for both Upshaw and Jarreau as they shed a season of rust. Both players got more comfortable as the game went on, and Jarreau’s versatility at the high post against the zone (which the Huskies will face all season) continues to prove useful.

The Huskies like to host block parties. The Huskies swatted another seven shots, further confirming what many observers already knew. Don’t buy the score sheet that only had UW down for three blocks; that’s nonsense. And in fact the official box was updated to reflect seven blocks for Upshaw. To update: The Huskies are a good shot-blocking team. That’s an odd statement for a program not known for its prowess in that regard. Coming off a seven-swat performance in the season opener, Upshaw now has 14 blocks in two games, his presence in the paint proving to be a major deterrent to opponents willing to venture that deep. His teammates are getting into the act also with four blocks themselves, seemingly taking cues from their enforcer in the middle.

Overwhelming Umipig - Had the Huskies not totally flummoxed Seattle’s superb scorer Isiah Umipig, the outcome of the game may have been much closer. The Huskies suffocated the SU senior standout, badgering him with a constant hand in his face courtesy of Mike Anderson, as well as a steady diet of defensive switches which prevented him from finding any rhythm. Umipig, who entered the game shooting over 70 percent from three, finished 4-16 shot from the field, including a dismal 2-11 from behind the arc. It took a concerted team effort to wear him down, but that’s exactly what Washington did as Umipig’s strength visibility sagged during the second half when the Redhawks needed him most.

Overall, it wasn’t a pretty win, nor did it yield any noteworthy additional insight about the team that we didn’t already know. It did further cement Shawn Kemp’s status as a rising star in the Pac-12 and also served as a reminder of just how far this team has to go before they face their next likely big game versus San Diego State on December 7th.


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