This could have been a trap game, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar admitted.
Behind the Huskies was a heartbreaking one-point loss to Arizona and ahead of them is a rematch with rival Washington State.
Separating those Pacific-10 Conference games was a nonleague match with Seattle University, a team still building toward full NCAA Division I status, and one that Washington had demolished by 47 points last season.
But if this game was a trap, the Huskies negotiated their way around it, churning out a 95-74 win before a divided-loyalties crowd of 11,386 at KeyArena.
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“I thought we turned the ball over a bit too much, but I thought we did some good things out there,” Romar said. “We had some good performances. Aziz N’Diaye played one of his best games in a long time – maybe his best game since I would say Maui. He was a real presence out there. He did a good job for us.”
N’Diaye had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Washington’s other big man – senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning – led the Huskies with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
“We were a little bit bigger,” Romar said. “We had two guys with double-doubles. Our guys did a good job of getting it inside.”
Beyond the big men, four other Huskies scored in double figures: Isaiah Thomas (20), Terrence Ross (13), Justin Holiday (10) and Darnell Gant, who tied his career high with 10.
Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox scored three points on 1-for-8 shooting in the first start of his college career.
“It’s good to get a start this early, being a freshman and all that,” Wilcox said. “It was nerve-racking. I got the game out of the way.”
Romar said Wilcox earned the start with his recent improved play.
Seattle U guard Cervante Burrell came off the bench to lead all scorers with 26 points. Sterling Carter added 20.
Before the game, Carter had guaranteed that the Huskies wouldn’t manhandle the Redhawks as they had in their 123-76 mauling the previous season.
And he was right about that – although Washington led wire to wire and the result never seemed in doubt.
The Huskies jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first minute, Seattle coach Cameron Dollar quickly called a timeout to settle things.
Still, the Huskies simply had more talent and they methodically pulled away. Washington pushed the lead into double digits halfway through the first half and to 20 midway through the second.
“I think as the years go on and Coach Dollar and his staff continue to build their program, yeah, I think they’re going to get better and better,” Romar said. “I guess the point differential was cut in half at least, and who knows, maybe it will be cut down more next year.”
Pleased as Romar was with the overall effort, he was disappointed that the Huskies committed 17 turnovers, including 13 steals by Seattle U.
Washington made up for it by outshooting the Redhawks, 52 percent to 41; and by outrebounding them, 49-28.
The KeyArena crowd seemed well divided between the schools. However, only the Redhawks had their student section and pep band, and they were cheered loudly, especially in the more competitive opening minutes.
“I felt like there were more Husky fans,” Wilcox said. “I don’t think it felt like a true college game. I thought it was a fun atmosphere. I like playing in arenas like this.”
Next season, the series shifts back to the Washington campus.
“It was a lot of fun,” Romar said. “Man, the environment was great. I’ve never sat on the sideline (at KeyArena) – I’ve sat close, but not like that. If I’m a fan watching this game, I’d say I got my money’s worth.”
Next, the Huskies return to Pac-10 play, meeting Washington State at 7 p.m. Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Seattle U begins at three-game road trip Saturday at Cal State Bakersfield.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com twitter/donruiztnt