Beach's Breakdown - Cleveland State

SEATTLE - As wins go, it was a big one Tuesday night, despite the lack of a marquee opponent. After the disasterous effort last Saturday night against Portland, the Washington Huskies badly needed to rebound strong, and rebound they did, literally. And as always early in the season, there was plenty of good news, and bad

Jon Brockman had another fantastic night, and he often gets lost in the conversation because of his consistency. But Tuesday he demonstrated his new-look 15-foot jumper, nailing both shots he took from outside.

Overall, the play was a definite improvement from the opener, especially in the post. Quincy Pondexter clearly recognized his lack of aggression on offense, and though he was occasionally careless with the ball, his impact of the game was obvious. He came out of the gate hungry for blood, scoring UW's first points. The Huskies badly need Pondexter to be a solid weakside option, which limits the opponent's ability to double team Brockman.

Other bright spots included Joe Wolfinger, who finally looked at home on the offensive end despite the fact that his normally reliable 3-point shot escaped him. He finished 4-7 from the field against Cleveland State, but 0-2 from deep.

Justin Holiday finally got to make his mark on a game in extended action, earning 25 minutes. Holiday's 11 rebounds were of the scrappy nature, adding a blocked shot and altering several more. Offensively, he's still a work in progress, extremely tentative at times, but he's a great guy to have on the court when the Huskies are holding a lead.

Despite the win, the lopsided score masked another disjointed defensive effort by the Huskies, especially on the perimeter. Were it not for the stellar interior play of Brockman, Gant and Holiday, the score would have likely been much closer than the 15-point margin suggests. Justin Dentmon, Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton were beaten off the dribble early and often, leaving gaping holes on the wing throughout both halves. Were the Vikings a better shooting team, the outcome could have easily been much closer.

Another disturbing trend has been the Husky guards' penchant for fouling. Overton fouled out for the second straight game, and Dentmon ended the game with four. The defenders on the perimeter are reaching rather than staying in front of their opponent, resulting in foul trouble and handicapping Coach Romar's rotation options. They also managed a meager five steals – low for a team that puts as much emphasis on outside pressure as Washington does.

The good news? Washington's interior post play on the defensive end was markedly better. Even Wolfinger made his presence felt as the Huskies forced Vikings star J'Nathan Bullock into a miserable 3-15 shooting night. Brockman, in particular, made the evening miserable for Bullock while managing to avoid foul trouble. A healthy Artem Wallace and Mathew Bryan-Amaning will only solidify an area that appears to be getting stronger.

Ball control was a mixed bag on the night, though they did a much better job of limiting turnovers while attempting big plays. Overton and Thomas, for the most part, avoided coughing up the ball in traffic, but Dentmon struggled with making entry passes – something that has plagued him his entire career.

Finally, the Huskies were miserable from outside, but the good news is that they're better than what we saw tonight. Dentmon, Thomas and Wolfinger are all good shooters, and their shots will fall as the season rolls on. Holiday, along with Darnell Gant and Elston Turner, will improve as they gain confidence finding their roles on the team.

After the Cleveland State game, the key word is progress, which is what they made Tuesday night. The Huskies avoided losing to an underrated, upset-minded team, buckling down when they needed to. Despite the ugly 10-minute stretch to open the second half, the team played much better than they did in Portland, and they have an easier tune-up game against Florida International Thursday where they can continue to work out the kinks leading into the Kansas game next week.


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