Beach's Bits - Montana

The pieces are there for Washington basketball, there is no denying that. But the Huskies are still searching for answers on offense, particularly when the shots aren't falling for Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. Washington's inconsistency in the zone offense, especially in the first half, showed just how far they have to go.

Bad shooting nights happen, but that wasn't the problem against Montana: Poor shot selection was, especially in the first half as the Huskies struggled to spread the floor against the zone employed by Montana Head Coach Wayne Tinkle.

With the Grizzlies packing it in inside, the Huskies' shot selection grew more desperate as the first half progressed. Behind 6-foot-11 center Brian Qvale, the Griz stonewalled Washington's dribble penetration, confounding point guards Thomas and Venoy Overton.

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar experimented liberally with his rotations in search of a solution. Scott Suggs and Elston Turner Jr. were obvious answers, given their size and prowess from beyond the 3-point arc. Turner saw his most significant minutes of the season (28 minutes) and finished as the Huskies' second leading scorer on the night with 11 points on 4-8 from the floor.

Suggs and Turner's presence opened a gap in the middle of the Grizzlies zone, just narrow enough for the Huskies to wiggle through, allowing them to climb back from a 12-point deficit early in the second half.

Romar's experimentation helped the team claw back, but it also hurt at times. The three point-guard lineup - Thomas, Overton and Abdul Gaddy - put UW in a tailspin both times it was used.

Washington's inconsistencies in the post have forced Romar to use some unconventional lineups. Darnell Gant is an excellent defender with few offensive post skills. Matthew Bryan-Amaning remains an enigma, equal parts impressive and confounding at the same time. Tyreese Breshers lacks the versatility of Gant and MBA, but provides more traditional toughness, and Clarence Trent provides an air of energy and unpredictability.

After watching the Montana game, the answer may lay in Turner and Suggs' development. Both players possess game-altering offensive firepower, requiring constant defensive attention, and their size makes them a defensive mismatch for opposing guards.

But they are learning on the job, and there are going to be hiccups as they grow in confidence. Coach Romar seems to be content using all 11 players on the bench, depending on the situation, which means we may be in store for more nights like the one we saw on Sunday. Montana, who defeated Oregon 68-55 last weekend, were an excellent test for a team still figuring out what they've got. Ultimately, a five-point, come-from-behind win will likely serve them far better than any 25-point blow-out victory, especially with tough games at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Portland and Georgetown looming. Top Stories