Huskies fall to Athletes in Action

Ask Lorenzo Romar and his team and they'll tell you first hand that a lead is only good when the game clock reads zeros across the board. For the second straight game, the Washington Huskies blew a large lead, but this time, they were not able to recover. They fell to Athletes in Action for the second straight year by a score of 85-76 in front of 4,322 at Bank of America Arena Wednesday evening.

It was déjà vu all over again. Last year, AIA, a traveling exhibition team ministry, came into Seattle and came out on top by a score of 76-59. The players were slightly different, but the results were the same a year later.

"They were a team, they ran sets, they made us pay for every mistake we made," Romar said of AIA. "They did some things to expose us in some areas."

Washington looked to be in the driver's seat in the first half as they jumped out the gates like a ball of fire. Nate Robinson took control of the opening tip-off and went the distance to score on a lay-up within two seconds. Coming back the other way, the 5-9 Robinson brought the home crowd to its feet when he came out of nowhere to swat the shot of the 6-9 Matt Hill of AIA.

The scrappy Husky full-court press defense held AIA to just two points in the first eight minutes of the game as they started the game with a 14-2 opening run and it looked as if they would be cruising to the victory.

But just like their first exhibition game against EA Sports, the Huskies allowed a big lead to dwindle down as AIA started to pick up on what the Huskies were doing and began exposing their flaws.

"Same thing as last game," explained Romar. "We began the game, the mall was moving crisply, bodies were moving, they made a few shots, and for whatever reason, the ball wasn't moving much on our end."

"The same thing happened against EA Sports when they began to make a comeback. It's something we can see and it's something we can fix early. That's why you play exhibition games."

The Huskies led by as many as 14 points at 34-20 with 5:38 to go in the first half, but AIA went on a big run cut slowly chop away at the Washington lead. With just 40 seconds to go in the first half, Hans Gasser fouled AIA's Ryan Sears behind the arc. Sears would go on to drain all three freebies to make the score 36-33 at halftime.

AIA started the second half right where the left off. Before you knew it, AIA had drained three straight treys and led 42-38. AIA kept on adding to their lead as the second half progressed. AIA's Joe Crispin, who is the older brother of UCLA's John Crispin, came off the bench and led AIA in the second half with 20 points. The former Phoenix Sun and Miami Heat guard led all scorers with 23 points for the game.

Robinson, who led all scorers with 10 points at halftime, was shut out in the second half. Instead, Tre Simmons got his first shot at carrying the team on his back. Simmons drained a three-pointer with 10:24 left in the game to give the Huskies a one-point lead at 56-55. Even though AIA came back to score on the other end, it was Simmons who kept the team close with a counter-basket for every point AIA scored.

But AIA kept their composure and tied the game at 64 and cruised the rest of the way when Shawn Redhage nailed a three-pointer from the right side with 6:35 left on the game.

A former Arizona State product, Redhage returned to the site of his best game as a college player. While with the Sun Devils last season, Redhage came off the bench to score a career high 29 points to lead ASU over Washington 79-77 in overtime.

Washington was not able to make their shots. The Huskies shot the ball an astounding 87 times, but only connected on 33 of them for a 37.9 shot percentage. AIA on the hand, was much more efficient with their shot by making 28-of-51 shots for 54.9 percent.

"We couldn't put the ball in the basket," said Romar. "We had many, many opportunities to put the ball in the basket, but it wouldn't go down for us."

"It puts us in a position now where we hopefully understand that today we're not ready to win the Pac-10. We have some work to do."

Romar - the Athlete in Action: The Huskies head coach has a lot of history with Athletes in Action as a player and a coach. Romar joined the AIA in 1985 and went on to spend seven years with the traveling squad. He set single game records with the AIA for most points (54) and assists (21) and in 1992, the 34-year-young Romar schooled Michigan's famed "Fab Five" combo of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson by taking them for a ride with his 45 points.

Faces in the Crowd: There were many familiar faces in the purple seats of Bank of America Arena tonight. The "Celebrity Sighting Team" of Henry Han and Joe Kaiser spotted numerous football players taking in the game including Reggie Williams, Charles "ET" Frederick, and Terry "Tank" Johnson. Also, the Husky women hoopsters took in the game as well as former Husky hoopsters Eldridge Recasner and Marlon Shelton.

But the "Celebrity of the Night" Award goes to Hall of Fame player and coach Lenny Wilkens. The former Seattle Sonics coach and the man who has won more games then any coach in NBA history has recently attended a few Husky practices. He took up the Huskies game tonight (and gave me an autograph) and shared some thoughts.

"They have what it takes to be a decent team," said Wilkens. "This should be a good learning experience from them."

More Numbers to Ponder: In some positive news, the Huskies had six players score in double figures. They also out rebounded their opponent and came up positive in the assist-to-turnover ratio for the second straight game. They also forced AIA to 24 turnovers compared to their 11.

Husky Stats:
Scoring: Conroy 14, Simmons 13, Roy 12, Allen 11, Robinson 10, Washington 10, Jones 4, and Gasser 2

Rebounds: Roy 8, Washington 6, Jensen 5, Rollins 4, Robinson 4, Conroy 3, Allen 2, and Jones 1

Assists: Robinson 6, Jensen, Allen, Roy, and Conroy 2, Washington 1

Blocks: Rollins, Jensen, and Robinson 1 Steals: Roy 3, Allen 2, Robinson 1, and Conroy 1

Up Next: The Huskies will be opening up their regular season and the games will begin to count against Portland State on November 21st. Tip-off is set for 7pm at Bank of America Arena. Top Stories