Exhibition game or not, the Washington Huskies made sure they would not suffer embarrassment to Seattle Pacific University.
On a night when fellow Pacific-12 Conference member Utah was upset at home by Adams State and a week after SPU upset No. 16 Arizona, Washington dispatched the Falcons with a businesslike 77-60 win at Alaska Airlines Arena.
But don’t let the 17-point margin fool you – it was far from a dominant victory. While the Huskies led from the opening tip, the Falcons cut the lead down to 10 points twice in the second half, before succumbing to the inevitable.
“We couldn’t have played a better team for an exhibition game than Seattle Pacific,” said Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. “They really tested us. Things that we’ve been working on since (the first day of practice), and actually (the first day of workouts) defensively, were really tested tonight.”
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There were moments in which Washington was beat with back-door cuts, and failed to rotate to open shooters, but Romar liked the effort.
“I’d say in the first 15 minutes of the first half we were doing what we were supposed to 80 to 90 percent of the time,” Romar said.
In the end, Washington’s superior athleticism and size never allowed SPU to get comfortable in its methodical attack.
“We have so much length, and we are a bigger team, we get so many deflections,” said junior point guard Abdul Gaddy. “We could sense from the jump they were rattled. We were getting deflections. But we have to keep that intensity. We kind of got lackadaisical.”
Washington jumped out to a 23-9 lead with less than nine minutes left in the first half.
But the Huskies let up a little, and Seattle Pacific was able to get into its offense and run some plays. The Huskies didn’t help themselves by giving up some open looks.
“Every time we made a mistake defensively, they were going to make us pay,” Romar said. “Every time we lunged, got out of position or tried to go for the steal, they scored.”
The Falcons slowly cut into the lead and whittled it down to 33-26 at halftime as the Huskies bench was whistled for a technical foul with 0.1 seconds remaining and David Downs made 1 of 2 free throws.
“The official was telling us to sit down, and coach (Jim) Shaw was looking the other way,” Romar said. “And he gave him a tech cause he didn’t sit down; tough deal.”
Gaddy started off the second half with a three-point play on a nice feed from C.J. Wilcox, sparking a 10-4 run to push the lead back to double digits.
It looked as though Washington would turn the game into a blowout when freshman Tony Wroten scored on a tough bucket inside and then fed Martin Bruening with a no-look pass for a basket and a foul.
After Bruening made the free throw, Wroten poked the ball free from SPU guard Riley Carel. Wroten grabbed the loose ball and flipped a lob pass in transition that Terrence Ross finished with an emphatic dunk to bring the 9,841 in attendance to their feet.
Miscues defensively after an SPU timeout led to a 12-4 run from the Falcons to cut the lead down to 10. But Wilcox stopped the run with a three-pointer from the wing – one of five he hit in the game – and SPU would get no closer.
Wilcox led all scorers 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Gaddy and Ross each had 15 points. Gaddy played a flawless floor game with four assists and no turnovers. Ross had a team-high eight rebounds. Wroten added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists in his debut.
Poling and Jobi Wall each had 12 points to lead Seattle Pacific.
The win is a little more impressive since the Huskies were without 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye, who was out with a concussion.
“I hope you all see why we need Aziz; he’s a big deal in many ways,” Romar said.
Gaddy was frank about the team’s effort and performance. The things they got away with in the win, they likely won’t get away with in the games down the road.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Gaddy said. “No offense to them, that is Seattle Pacific, and they’re not a Pac-12 team. That’s no disrespect to them, because they are a good team and they tested us well.”