SEATTLE – Throughout the night, Aziz N’Diaye was a monolith in the middle for Washington.
Wide shouldered and 7 feet tall, N’Diaye was 4 inches taller than the most stretched-out starter for Loyola (Md.), Sunday’s opponent. He snatched rebound after rebound, reaching over and around the smaller players who were buzzing in his vicinity.
His career-high 16 rebounds in conjunction with three blocked shots made one thing clear during Washington’s 85-63 dissection of Loyola to start the season: He needs some help.
The Huskies opened the year Sunday against a savvy opponent from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference that played in the NCAA tournament last season and is picked to win its conference title this season. After playing a disjointed first half during which they allowed nine offensive rebounds to the scurrying Greyhounds, the Huskies moved efficiently through a second-half dissection of Loyola’s press on their way to 52 points in those 20 minutes.
But, it’s clear N’Diaye will have to play at that dominating level, avoiding injury and foul trouble throughout the season, for Washington to compete on the glass.
“We just have to make sure we box out,” guard Abdul Gaddy said. “We’re counting on him to get a lot of rebounds We’re feeding off Aziz. We’re counting on him to get at least 12.”
He’ll be counting on his teammates to continue what was a balanced scoring effort in the opener. The Huskies had four players score in double figures, led by C.J. Wilcox’s 22 points. Gaddy had 17, Scott Suggs 15 and N’Diaye 10. Redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews scored nine in his debut.
Washington scored 85 points, well above its season average of 76 from a year ago. Over a 4:48 span in the second half, the Huskies bloated their lead from seven points to 21 by easily breaking Loyola’s press and providing Suggs and Wilcox open looks from behind the 3-point line. Washington shot 62.5 percent in the second half.
“I would say tonight it was a quiet 85 points,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “It was a low-possession game in a lot of cases. I thought we got great shots.”
That is significant progress for a team installing the high-post offense this season, shirking the motion offense the Huskies had run the previous decade under Romar. Washington still pushed the pace; the Huskies outscored the Greyhounds 20-2 in fastbreak points but were also often crisp in the new offense, at least for a night.
“I think the main things is we just need to keep getting better at timing in our offense,” Gaddy said.
The first half was a bumpy ride for UW. It committed 11 turnovers, helping keep the scrappy Greyhounds in the game, on the way to a 33-31 halftime lead.
Suggs went on a personal 7-0 run midway through the first half, when he hit a baseline jumper, a 3-pointer on the wing and an end-to-end drive. But he had to come out after committing his third foul with 6:16 to go before halftime.
N’Diaye showed his importance throughout the first half, battling for 10 rebounds. Jernard Jarreau started at power forward next to N’Diaye but played just seven minutes in the first half and got just one rebound. He found out Friday he would start in a position that likely would have been held by Shawn Kemp Jr., who is out six to eight weeks with a knee injury. Romar cited Jarreau’s length and the energy he feels Desmond Simmons brings off the bench as the factors for the decision.
Romar also said the Huskies simply need to get more bodies on their opponents in order to rebound better. That would sound and look good to N’Diaye.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas