Huskies half-way there

SEATTLE - The game was never in doubt, the score was never in question. In fact, Washington's 88-47 win over NJIT in the West Regional Seminfinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament at Bank of America Arena was supposed to be a game where the Huskies could put in some of their younger players to gain confidence. They did just that.

Senior transfer Tim Morris bounced back from a shaky start in Washington's exhibition win over Seattle Pacific to lead the Huskies over the upstart Highlanders - without their head coach Jim Casiano, who decided right before the trip out west to take some personal time to clear up some health concerns. Morris finished the game with 16 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes of action.

"He can get into a zone and score four, five baskets in a row - and a lot of his baskets came off of sheer hustle," Romar said of Morris' play. The win Tuesday night was the first game Morris has played in since April 3, 2006, when Stanford lost to Missouri State in the NIT. "When you are able to do that, it does nothing but make you complete."

"I felt like I was playing ball again," Morris said of his official return to the hardwood. "I felt really comfortable out there. I had a good sweat and the game flowed."

There was balance all over the Huskies' scorebook; all 11 players that played in the game scored at least two points. Ironically enough, the tallest Husky - Joe Wolfinger - was the one player out of 11 to not have at least one rebound on the night. The Huskies out-rebounded NJIT 46-25.

"I thought we were just a lot more of a team right from the beginning," junior forward Jon Brockman said. "Guys passed up open shots for an even better shot for someone else. On defense, we were in the spots we needed to be in, talked, and helped each other out."

If there was any real glaring statistic for the Huskies, it would be their woeful percentage from the free-throw line. Brockman - normally a solid 66-percent shooter from the stripe - missed his first three. He came back to nail his last four tries of the half, but Washington missed their first six free-throws and shot 47.6 percent total (10-21) for the night. NJIT didn't fare much better on that end in the second half, only making two of nine from the line.

"It was the same rim, because it didn't work for us," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "That's how it goes sometimes."

Romar went with a smaller, quicker lineup to start the game - pairing up Venoy Overton and Justin Dentmon. "We went with the combination that we thought would be the most effective at the beginning at the game," Romar said. "From the outset, we were up and pressuring the basketball. They didn't get an offensive rebound in the first half. And if we do a better job making free-throws in the first half, I think our cause would have been even better.

"Our pressure was so consistant and constant throughout the night, I think it may have taken its toll on the New Jersey team."

With Utah's 77-64 win over High Point in the first semifinal contest, the Utes will face the Huskies at 7:30 Wednesday night, broadcast live on ESPN2 television. The winner of that game will move on to the semifinals and finals of the tournament, held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

"Utah is a very good basketball team and we are going to have to be better tomorrow," Romar said. "If we commit 12 turnovers in the first half tomorrow, it'll be an uphill battle in the second half. They are a very good team."

"I want to go to New York," Brockman added. "We said before the game tonight that this is the first step. I think a lot of people around us have already bought plane tickets, so we have to perform or else they are going to New York without us."
Gant to redshirt: Probably the most interesting news of the day is that Darnell Gant, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound freshman forward from Los Angeles, has decided to redshirt this season. That means he'll have four years to complete four seasons of eligibility starting with the 2008-09 season. Because he is going to redshirt, he cannot compete in any games this year. "He is going to redshirt this year," Romar said of Gant after the NJIT game. "That was officially decided today. Darnell saw that there were a couple of things he could shore up on, and he felt like taking a year to figure that out was not in his best interests. Save that year while he's figuring it out and still have four.

"Joe Wolfinger is the only other player that has approached me and said I might want to look at this - so it's always a surprise when they approach you because it so rarely happens. But I think there would be less kids transferring around the country if they took a redshirt year. If they didn't have so many people in their ear telling them that they have to get everything done right now, they'd be a lot better off.

"I'm not going to tell you that he (Gant) wouldn't have contributed to this team. He continues to get better and better each week. He looked at it and evaluated the situation and I thought he was pretty wise as to his approach. It was well-thought out and it wasn't an emotional decision. We're going to hear from Darnell Gant - no doubt about it."

Points: Morris 16, Brockman 12, J. Smith 12, Pondexter 11, Oliver 11, Bryan -Amaning 8, Wolfinger 5, Overton 4, Wallace 4, Dentmon 3, Holiday 2
Rebounds: Brockman 9, Holiday 6, Pondexter 5, Morris 5, TEAM 5, Wallace 4, Oliver 3, Bryan-Amaning 3, J. Smith 2, Overton 2, Dentmon 2
Assists: Overton 6, Dentmon 4, Oliver 3, Pondexter 2, Holiday 2, Brockman 1, J. Smith 1, Morris 1, Bryan-Amaning 1
Steals: Oliver 3, J. Smith 2, Dentmon 2, Morris 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Pondexter 1, Brockman 1
Blocks: J. Smith 1, Morris 1, Holiday 1 Top Stories