At 7-foot-6, UC Irvine freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye is the tallest player in college basketball.
That means almost no opponent has a precise match for him. However, the Washington Huskies had particular trouble Thursday and paid for it with an 86-72 loss at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of fun out there,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Early on we gave up far, far too much dribble penetration, allowed them to stay right there with us. The game was close. They continued to score inside. They had a ton of points in the paint.”
The Anteaters blew the game open with a 27-3 run through the closing minutes of the first half and the start of the second.
Junior forward Will Davis II led Irvine with 22 points. Meanwhile, Ndiaye made his presence known across the stat sheet: 18 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds.
Much of the responsibility for guarding Ndiaye fell to 6-9 senior Perris Blackwell, who tried to use muscle and leverage from 10 inches below.
“It was tough,” Blackwell said. “That’s still not an excuse. We just didn’t come out with the same energy we had (in the season-opening win) against Seattle U., and we can’t let that happen again. ... He’s tall obviously. But we just didn’t execute the game plan as we planned it, and it cost us.”
UW (1-1) was playing without 6-10 Jernard Jarreau, who suffered a season-ending right knee injury against Seattle U.
Senior C.J. Wilcox led Washington with 24 points. Mike Anderson came off the bench to lead the Huskies with eight rebounds.
“We knew they were a good team,” Wilcox said. “We battled in the first half: We had energy in spurts a little bit. But in the second half we came back a little flat. They made their run; they kept scoring. We just didn’t do a good job of keeping the guards out of the paint, which made it harder for (Blackwell) to try to help and then get back to that tree (Ndiaye).”
The game began with some early back-and-forth, before the Huskies inched ahead and held the Anteaters (1-2) at an uncomfortable arm’s length for most of the first half.
They seemed to be opening some ground when a Wilcox 3-pointer pushed UW ahead, 36-30, with 3 minutes left in the first half. However, the Anteaters ended the half with an eight-point run, capped by a layup and free throw by Ndiaye just ahead of the buzzer to give the visitors a 38-36 halftime lead.
Irvine continued the run into the second half, and the Huskies weren’t able to cut the margin back to single digits thereafter.
“In the second half, we just came out so flat,” Romar said. “Mamadou, I don’t know, maybe played his best game in college, but he was a factor around the rim. He blocked nine shots. I think he got in our heads a little bit. They were sitting back in that zone, and he was a factor. Forty points between their two front-line players is a killer. They shoot 60-something percent in the second half. We just didn’t do a very good job tonight defensively.”
Washington will conclude its season-opening three-game homestand at 5 p.m. Sunday when Eastern Washington visits Hec Ed.
UC IRVINE 86 WASHINGTON 72
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Seven-foot-6 Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye almost managed an unusual triple double with 18 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds. He also altered a lot of Huskies’ shots.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: The Anteaters roared past UW with a 27-3 run that started late in the first half and didn’t end until they had a lead the Huskies never threatened.
STAT OF THE GAME: UC Irvine shot 59.6 percent for the game, and 66.7 percent in the second half.
QUOTABLE: “We just didn’t come out with the same energy we had against Seattle U. and we can’t let that happen again.” – UW senior Perris Blackwell
WHAT IT MEANS: The domination of Irvine big men was just further indication that Washington will miss frontcourt players Desmond Simmons, who is out six to eight weeks following knee surgery, and Jernard Jarreau, out for the season with a right knee injury.
NEXT UP: Eastern Washington at Washington, 5 p.m. Sunday, Pac-12 Net.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808