Beach's Bits - CWU

SEATTLE - The Washington Huskies haven't had a day off from practice in nine days. A team-wide battle with the flu left the team a week behind schedule as they prepared for their season-opening exhibition against Central Washington University. If they were tired they didn't show it, as the Huskies energetic debut dismantled their overmatched foes, 77-48.

The Huskies shot poorly, which didn't come as a surprise to either the coaching staff or the players. First game jitters were expected and accepted, and while the game execution was far from perfect, there weren't any glaring red flags either.

The defensive energy level was fabulous, forcing Central into 21 turnovers. It wasn't just the steals that made their effort impressive. Nearly every shot attempt was contested. The Huskies held the Wildcats to two field goals during the opening 10 minutes.

Not surprisingly, Venoy Overton led the defensive charge, en route to four steals on the evening. Isaiah Thomas appears ready to make the 'defensive liability' label a distant memory and Quincy Pondexter, Darnell Gant, Tyreese Breshers and Matthew Bryan-Amaning all turned in excellent defensive efforts in the victory.

There were lapses of course - especially from the freshmen - but that's to be expected this early in the season. Abdul Gaddy, in particular, has a long way to go defensively, but it's not for lack of effort. The Huskies rotated their help well, highlighted by the confident perimeter defense of the UW forwards.

Overall, the Dawgs scored an "A" for effort defensively.

They also scored high marks for their unselfish play. They are still getting a feel for each other, and the execution will improve, but their 17 assists was a positive indication of things to come, despite only shooting 31 percent on the night. Gaddy's playmaking skills are nothing short of spectacular. His whirling one-hander to a cutting CJ Wilcox was one of the highlights of the evening. Having three quality point guards is clearly going to pay major dividends for UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar.

Offensively, it was a mixed bag. Again, nobody was surprised by the cold shooting night. Thomas, Overton and Pondexter all hit 3-pointers, but the Huskies shooting trio of Elston Turner, CJ Wilcox and Scott Suggs never really got going, shooting a collective 4 of 16 from the floor, while failing to differentiate themselves in a meaningful way. Suggs was probably the most impressive of the three, though his effort sagged the longer he stayed on the floor.

Bryan-Amaning didn't look much different than last season, which is worrisome since his role is expected to increase considerably. Darnell Gant started slowly but hit a couple of mid-range jumpers as he warmed up. Thomas was Thomas, and though the stats don't show it, he made a considerable effort to involve his teammates more. He ended with 18 points in 21 minutes. Same for the slow-starting Pondexter, who caught fire towards the end of the first half, adding 15 points in 22 minutes.

It's apparent the Huskies are going to struggle getting consistent offensive production from the post. How big a concern remains to be seen, but Breshers is the key. Built like a Sherman tank, Breshers was all but immovable in the post. Were it not for the fact that the redshirt freshman was limited by the effects of coming back from a leg injury that kept him out all last year, he would have had a big night. It didn't take long for the 6-foot-7 forward to showcase what coach Romar has been raving about of late. He connected on two spin moves and finished with six points and three rebounds in fourteen minutes before fouling out.

Clarence Trent also had a couple of impressive moments, though they were offset by mental errors. The athletic forward wing had six points, five rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes, including a highlight reel alley-oop dunk delivered courtesy of Gaddy.

Rebounding is another area of concern, as the Wildcats equaled Washington's 18 offensive rebounds. Despite tallying 10 boards, Amaning was out-hustled and out-muscled on several occasions. It was the guards that picked up the slack, led by Isaiah Thomas' six but the Huskies still managed only a five board rebounding edge, 59-54.

Finally, the free throw shooting was abysmal, shooting just 48.6 percent from the charity stripe. Obviously that has to improve.

Overall, it was a solid debut and left fans with plenty to be excited about. The Dawgs appear to lack a dominating inside presence, but that isn't the end of the world as long as the guards live up to their billing. Loaded with outrageous athletes and big personalities, it isn't difficult to see why this team is generating so much buzz heading into the season.


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