Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com

Beach’s Bits: Exhibitionists exposed!

We got our first glimpse of the 2016-2017 Washington Huskies Wednesday night in an uneven tune-up against a solid Western Washington squad. The game marked the debut of point guard wunderkind Markelle Fultz, who mostly lived up to his stratospheric billing during a scant 22 minutes.

With the game not televised and a sparse crowd scattered throughout Alaska Airlines Arena, we’ll start with Fultz, who had several electric moments despite a modest 14 points, 7 boards and 5 assists.

Entering the game early in the first half, the true freshman quickly made his mark, burying his first three pointer and following it up with with a smooth transition lay-in on the next possession.

“He’s not your normal freshman,” UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said post-game. “He’s a level above. When he does things like that and gets rebounds and played good defense - he did a lot more than just score late in the game.”

Fultz continued to demonstrate his various gifts over the course of the game, showcasing uncanny court vision and passing ability. On one play early in the second half he flashed out on the break with a slick behind the back dribble before causally whipping a one handed, no look, 30-foot bounce pass to a streaking Dominic Green.

Fultz saved his best for the last five minutes however, as the Vikings grabbed a late lead. With Washington fighting tooth and nail, Fultz took command of the point, attacking the rack on consecutive drives and finishing easily.

With his steadying hands on the wheel, Washington pulled away for good. It was definitely reassuring as the team seemed to come together around their young leader in the waning moments of a tough game.

It wasn’t a pretty game despite Fultz’s sterling debut and it exposed several areas where the Huskies need serious work.

First and foremost, as the 109-103 final score suggests, the Huskies struggled mightily on the defensive end, as the Vikings picked them apart from beyond the three point arc, connecting on 12-34 three point attempts.

It was certainly not the only red flag.

The Dawgs couldn’t keep the Vikings out of the paint any better than they defended the perimeter. Or in transition for that matter. There were simply too many uncontested shots.

The good news is, they know it. ?

?“A lot of it is will” said sophomore Matisse Thybulle regarding their poor defensive showing. “Coach Romar says you can make defense happen by working hard. We also need to rotate better. Husky basketball is known for running on offense and putting up points. We need to get back to playing gritty defense. Today showed we aren’t there yet, but we want to get there and are hungry.”

“We are not paying attention to the details,” added Romar. “There were a number of times we didn’t get hands up on shooters. That burned us a number of times. We have to get better at the details.”

Washington also did a poor job of taking care of the ball. The ball handlers, sans Fultz, coughed up turnovers under mostly light zone pressure. There were 16 turnovers overall, nine in the first half. ?

“Negligence,” said Romar matter-of-factly. “That was disappointing. They don’t pressure much and there were just too many turnovers. That will hurt us.”  

The passing turnovers indeed were concerning and unusual for a Pac-12 team as the Huskies carelessly fired passes into clearly contested passing lanes.

As for the guards not named Fultz, David Crisp had a solid night as he paced the Huskies early with 10 first half points. He did his best Andrew Andrews impersonation, going to the charity stripe 15 times, sinking 13 free throw attempts and ending with 23 points.

As for wings Matisse Thybulle and Dominic Green, it was a tale of two halves.

Both were mostly a non-factor in the first half, offensively combining for just 7 points. That changed in a hurry in the second half however as the duo combined for an eye popping 35 points, accounting for over half the Huskies’ 66 points in the period.

With Noah Dickerson sidelined due to a concussion earned in practice earlier in the week, the bigs were a mixed bag.

On the plus side, they dominated the glass, earning a 51-29 rebounding edge.

“There’s no doubt our front line is stronger than it’s ever been,” answered Romar when asked about his bigs. “Those guys are physical; they can rebound.”

There was an obvious emphasis on working the ball into the post and it worked for the most part, particularly when Sam Timmins was in the game.

Timmins was easily the Dawgs most effective post player, connecting on 5-5 of shot attempts – and they weren’t cheapies. On one play early in the first half, the hulking redshirt freshman from New Zealand ripped the ball out of an opponents hands on the offensive glass, finishing with a smooth bank.

“Sam has been our best kept secret because no one has seen him play,” remarked Thybulle when asked about Timmins. “He’s a problem, a big body with touch around the rim.”

As for the others, Malik Dime had a couple of nice moments that showed he’s grown as an offensive scoring threat, and Matthew Atewe brings a physical element the Huskies have lacked.

Overall the Huskies earned a passing grade in a meaningless exhibition game against a better-than-average exhibition opponent. They escaped with a win, even if it was an unconvincing one.

More importantly, they came away with a clear understanding of their flaws.


With Yale looming just a week from Sunday, Washington better figure it out quick.


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