Heralded freshman Markelle Fultz had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his collegiate debut.
“He’s not your normal freshman," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "It’s one thing to have freshman that are talented. It’s another one to have one that’s a level above and he’s one of those guys."
Western Washington was led by the 28 points of Jeffrey Parker and the 23 of guard Taylor Stafford, both seniors.
In a game defined by a glaring lack of defense and fouls galore, there wasn't a ton to take away long-term, but plenty to work on in the meantime, according to Romar.
“We right now are not paying attention to the details," Romar said post-game, matter of factly. "There were a number of times when they shot the ball and our hands were down. You have to contest those guys’ shots like that, good shooters. That burned us a number of times with that. So we just have to get better at the details defensively.”
The players were equally eager to talk about what they need to improve on before the Huskies' season opener versus Yale a week from Sunday.
“I think we showed people that we can score the ball pretty well and are pretty high paced," said forward Matisse Thybulle. "But I think that we also showed that we gave up a lot of points and that we’ve got to do of work on the defensive end to just tighten things up and not let guys score 100-plus points on us. It’s okay if we do it, but we can’t let another team do that to us.
"We have to get back to that tough, gritty Husky defense where we’re denying passes and teams are having trouble getting the ball where they want it. I think we showed today that we aren’t there yet. I think that makes us hungry for when we get back to practice that we have something to prove. We didn’t show people our best side on defense today. We’re going to show them what we’ve got next game.”
Part of their defensive woes were rooted in their inability to hold onto the basketball. The Huskies had nine turnovers at the half, and 16 for the game. WWU converted those turnovers into 22 points.
“Negligence," Romar said when asked about the miscues. He typically expects no more than a dozen during normal games, so 16 in an exhibition was definitely alarming.
"That was disappointing. Not to take anything away from Western but they aren’t a team that’s exactly out there pressuring a lot. In fact, they played zone a lot. There were just too many careless turnovers in the game. That’s going to bite us if that becomes a pattern. It hasn’t been for us, but tonight it was. It helps when Markelle (Fultz) is in there because he handles the ball more in his hands and does a good job of taking care of it.”
Fultz's minutes were limited, as Romar said the frosh had missed some practices recently while overcoming general soreness.
"When we play next week I’m sure he’ll be able to go 40 minutes but tonight we only wanted him to play the minutes that he played," Romar said of Fultz. "He makes a difference for our team there’s no doubt about it.”
With the Vikings up three with 4:21 left in the game, Fultz showed a glimpse of how he can take over a game. He hit a jumper, then on Washington's next possession went in for a baseline reverse, and then was fouled. His two made free throws put UW up three with 3:29 to play.
“I think whenever I step in the game no matter if we’re up or not I always want to bring a little spark to the game just to keep us either going up or coming back from when we’re down," said Fultz.
With nearly seven minutes left in the game, both teams were in the double bonus. Overall there were 62 fouls called and 92 free throws taken in a game marred by a cacophony of whistles.
“I’ll stay away from commenting on that one," Romar said when asked about the number of free throws. "I don’t want to get fined.”
The Huskies did not take advantage from the charity stripe, only hitting 65 percent (34-52). Western Washington wasn't that much better, shooting 31-40 (77.5 percent).
With a clear size advantage - Western had one 7-footer and the rest no taller than 6-7 who played - the Huskies made WWU pay down low. They out-rebounded the Vikings 51-29 and out-scored them 44-26 in the paint.
Both Sam Timmins and Malik Dime finished the game with 10 points apiece.
"There’s no doubt our front line is stronger than it has ever been from top to bottom," Romar said. "We just have more options. I think those guys are physical down there. Those guys rebound.”
A real positive coming from the exhibition win was the play of sophomore Green. Known for his streaky shooting, the 6-foot-6 wing from Renton 7-13 from the field, including 3-8 from deep. He also showed up on the glass to the tune of seven rebounds.
"That’s the Dominic (Green) we’ve been seeing," Romar said. "He scored 24 in one scrimmage, 27 in a another scrimmage. When a guy is producing like that you let him play through his mistakes. Whatever he did tonight, whatever he didn’t do, if he’s going to give us 25 points and seven rebounds every game, I say that’s phenomenal.”
One big piece to Washington's hoops puzzle was missing Thursday night - Noah Dickerson. Romar confirmed that the sophomore forward sat out due to concussion protocol, but he would be practicing again Saturday and definitely full-go for Yale.
"Noah (Dickerson) has been playing very good basketball, but even without Noah - if Noah was still in the game I don’t know, maybe we score more points," Romar said. "But that would have nothing to do with our not paying attention to detail on defense.
"The things we didn’t do well, I don’t know if having Noah would have changed that, so we can’t blame that."
VIDEO/QUOTES - Attention to details missing, says Romar
VIDEO/QUOTES - Fultz always willing to provide a spark