Washington’s length completely overwhelmed Mount St. Mary’s out of the gate as the Huskies rattled off 17-straight points before the Mountaineers were able to answer.
“It was good to get guys rest and rotate a lot of guys,” said a pleased Lorenzo Romar after the win. “ We were really dialed in to start. That’s a concern for a young team.”
The Huskies choked off the passing lanes, bottling up dangerous 5-foot-5 point guard Junior Robinson with Matisse Thybulle, who towered over the sweet shooting sophomore. Robinson connected on just 5-16 field goal attempts on the night.
“Over the years we’ve had success with guys like Bobby Jones, Justin Holliday, and now Matisse and Dejounte guarding smaller guys,” Romar explained. “Their length makes it hard. What we wanted to do was make him shoot over us. He made a few, but we thought that if he kept shooting like that he could score but he couldn’t win it for them doing that.”
In the opening frame, the team they call 'The Mount' wilted under the Huskies' unrelenting defense as Washington pulled away. It only took a couple of minutes for the home crowd to realize this Husky team is a far cry from the teams of the last couple of years. This is an explosive roster, and not just one or two players.
But Thursday night, one player in particular stood out against the Mountaineers. Marquese Chriss did nothing to discourage the suggestion that he’s on another level athletically from anyone we’ve seen in a Husky uniform before, and he put it all on display in his home debut.
“He played very well,” said Romar about his promising young forward. “He was active and aggressive. He’s so athletic and jumps up to places others can’t get to.”
The entire first half was a showcase of his amazing athleticism and his versatility, possession by possession - one highlight after another from the high-rising youngster from Sacramento. Whether it be a thundering dunk, a pull-up jumper or put-back on the offensive glass, Chriss showed fans a little bit of everything. His stat line on the night was a whopper: 29 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. And on top of his prodigious offensive abilities, Chriss was also a monster on the defensive end.
“I think Marquese just comes out and plays," said Romar. "He hit a three pointer tonight. He gets offensive rebounds. He’s quick for his size. He can go out and have games like this.”
But Chriss wasn’t the only player deserving of accolades. Andrew Andrews had a typical Andrew Andrews night with an efficient 20 points on just six field goal attempts. He was a wrecking ball in the paint and he earned half his points from the charity stripe as he bashed his way through would-be interior defenders. Not to be outdone, David Crisp turned in a stellar night as well in his official Alaska Airlines Arena debut, scoring 13 points, dishing four assists and grabbing five rebounds while providing the Huskies another energetic defensive presence.
“He played well,” said Romar about Crisp. “He’s quick and strong and has confidence. He’s played in big games. This is the second game in a row he’s had double digit points. He gives us energy and can score and gives us a different look when he comes in the game.”
“I’m an energy guy,” Crisp said afterwards when asked about his role. “I come in and bring energy and do what I can do to help. Score, rebound, get loose balls, get assists.”
That duo, along with Thybulle and Dejounte 'Baby Boy' Murray - who has struggled a bit offensively the first two games despite stuffing the stat sheet otherwise - provide a level of energy the Huskies have lacked for quite some time. It’s refreshing to say the least.
“You have to understand what he does and brings to the table,” Romar shared when asked about Thybulle’s contributions. “He’s a very good defender as a freshman. Matisse had a big play where he intercepted a pass in transition. He makes big plays like that. He puts out a lot of fires. He has huge upside.”
It was far from a perfect win, though. As young teams often do, the Huskies turned the ball over far too much - 19 times. Many of them were on silly passes and unforced errors. And in a continuation of a somewhat concerning trend, the Huskies were again bitten by the foul bug. They’re not the only team to be plagued by that problem as teams adjust to the new rules, but it’s concerning nonetheless.
Washington also allowed open three point shooters, though the shots didn’t fall for Mount St Mary’s. The Mountaineers launched 37 three pointers, connecting on just nine which would seem to indicate the Huskies did their job on the defensive front. Romar didn’t seemed too concerned.
“I thought we did a good job,” he said when asked about the 37 three-point attempts. “We knew going in they shoot almost half of their shots from three. I thought we did a decent job guarding it.”
Warts aside, the Huskies have to feel good about where they’re at just two games into the young season. “I’m just excited our guys are so willing to do what we ask,” Romar answered when questioned about his young team. “To me we turn the ball over too much. I don’t know if we’re on track. We don’t box out very well. We know what the standard it and we aren’t there yet.”
That said, Romar was undeniably pleased with his young team to date. “They really like playing together and want to do the right thing and are up to the challenge," he said. "They keep confirming that. This was further evidence they are going to continue that.”
Washington has its final tuneup Saturday afternoon against Pennsylvania before heading to the Bahamas and the resurrection of their heated rivalry with Gonzaga as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.