Using an up-tempo offense and a full-court press for the entire first half, the Washington men's basketball team hung on for an 89-78 win over EA Sports in the team's exhibition opener Saturday afternoon.
A Tre Simmons alley-oop pass to Brandon Roy in the final seconds put the perfect finishing touch on the Husky win.
Five Huskies scored in double figures, led by the 16 of flashy sophomore guard Nate Robinson. Roy and Will Conroy each chipped in 15. Simmons had 14 and Jensen 12.
In his second season with the team - the first spent playing just one sport having given up football - Robinson appeared more at ease in the offense than a season ago and continued to be a little thorn in the side defensively for opposing guards. He finished 6-12 from the field, made both three-point attempts, and added four assists and three steals to the Husky cause.
"I thought there were more positives than negatives today," said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar, noticeably happy to get the season underway. "The team that we played against was a real good team for us in an exhibition game. They had multiple scorers and shooters. They were quick and aggressive.
"That's what we need to play against to get us prepared."
Forward Koko Archibong, who attended Penn State, led the visitors with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Three others scored in double-digits.
The Husky win, however, didn't come without a fight from the EA All Stars, who went on a furious second-half run to knot the game at 67-67 with 8:57 remaining. That capped a rally that brought them all the way back from a 14-point halftime deficit.
But Washington answered in timely fashion, as Conroy and Jensen each scored four points in a Husky eight-point run over the next two minutes and 53 seconds. From that point forward, the visitors never threatened again.
"We really showed a sign of maturity by building our lead back up at the end after they made their run," said Conroy, now in his third year with the team out of Garfield High. "Last year we would have buckled and let them take the lead, but this year we sustained our confidence and got our lead back."
Washington used a full-court press for the duration of the first half, and took advantage of its ever-growing supply of three-point shooters to score from beyond the arc. That combination pushed the team ahead by 14 by halftime.
As a team, the Huskies hoisted 10 three-pointers before halftime, with four different players cashing in. Robinson, Conroy, Simmons and Curtis Allen, the lone senior on the team, each nailed treys.
Sophomore center Anthony Washington, who missed the end of last season with a foot injury and only recently has been able to go at full-throttle, looked comfortable in the paint and led the way early with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting heading into intermission.
"He really played well in the first half," said Romar of the 6-foot-9 big man from Garfield. "He was real aggressive offensively. If he can do that on a consistent basis, there's no doubt it makes us a better ballclub."
But it was the emergence of Hakeem Rollins, a 6-foot-7 junior-college transfer from Mesa JC in Arizona, that might have been the biggest eye-opener of the afternoon. Rollins brought a sturdy frame to the floor and a long wing-span that allowed him to clean the glass and play bigger than his height would indicate. Just minutes into the game, he rejected a dunk attempt to spark the crowd. He finished with a team-leading nine rebounds and scored four points, connecting on all four free throw attempts.
He admitted after the game feeling very nervous, but that didn't stop him from having the kind of game that coach Romar wanted to see when he signed Rollins out of the junior college ranks.
"I though Hakeem Rollins did a great job on the boards," said the Husky coach.
"Coach (John) Wooden always said it's not about how tall you are, it's how long your arms are. He would recruit guys that were maybe 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 that would have a 6-foot-10 reach and he'd feel fine putting him against a 6-foot-9 guy. Hakeem is one of those guys."
Another incomer who made an immediate impact was Simmons. Even though he only shot 1-for-7 from three-point land, Simmons showed a tremendous ability to create his own shot and finish around the basket.
"It's good to see Tre Simmons get in there and play and get a feel for this level," said Romar of the junior college transfer from Green River that has a Richard Hamilton look to him.
Tre added five rebounds to go with his double-digit point total.
Admission was free, and around 1,500 fans attended the game.
Jonesing for Bobby: The Huskies were without the services of sophomore wingman Bobby Jones, who tweaked an Achilles in practice earlier in the week. Jones sat courtside in street clothes. Romar said afterwards that he wanted to make sure the second-year player would be ready for the games that count.
Next Up: The Husky men play their second and final exhibition game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Wednesday against Athletes in Action. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Husky Women Start Sunday: A roster of fresh young faces will be on display at Hec Edmundson Pavilion tomorrow at 4 p.m. as the Husky women play the NWBL All Stars. The NWBL roster includes Jamie Redd, Washington's all-time leading scorer. Graduated from last season's Husky roster are Loree Payne, Emily Autrey, Cheryl Sorenson, Kellie Dalan, Alicia Heathcote. Injuries ended the careers of Sarah Keeler and Kirsten Brockman.
D-Hud sighting: Former Husky sharp-shooter David Hudson attended the game, possibly the greatest pre-game showman in Husky hoops history. This guy would hit halfcourt shots like some of us hit free throws. Hudson quit the team to focus on a rap career, according to Will Conroy.
Washington men take opener
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