Seattle - The Washington Huskies started this men's basketball season with a 15-point win over Wright State, and they concluded preconference play Sunday with a 15-point win over San Francisco: 86-71.
But while the margins were identical, senior and captain Quincy Pondexter said he thinks Washington (9-2) is a better team today, with the start of the Pacific-10 Conference season looming this week.
“We didn’t do a great job of moving the basketball as much at the beginning of the year,” Pondexter said. “We had a lot of turnovers. We didn’t play together – we played selfishly at times. And defensively, we were very, very stupid. That’s the only way you can explain it: Guys weren’t in position, and we weren’t helping each other enough, and it wasn’t as intense as Husky basketball needs to be. We really improved those things in the past couple of weeks.”
That needed intensity came and went Sunday as the Huskies seemed to dole out only as much energy as was needed to beat the Dons (4-10) before an announced crowd of 9,949 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
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“The biggest concern that I had coming into this game was following a two-day break and practicing at 6 o’clock (Saturday) night and coming back for a (noon Sunday) game,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I thought the second half, for whatever reason, we were moving in slow motion.”
The game resembled one of those old Road Runner cartoons where there the Road Runner was always able to beep-beep away into a swirl of dust any time the coyote seemed to move within reach.
Midway though the first half, USF was hanging around, just one point down before the Huskies ended the half with a 20-3 run. And when the Dons closed to four midway through the second half, Washington snuffed any suspense with a 13-2 run.
“I thought some guys gave us energy in that second half when San Francisco cut our lead down,” Romar said. “Venoy Overton was a catalyst in that regard. He seemed to be everywhere: Stealing the basketball, getting deflections and playing with a lot of energy.”
The final result was an easy win, but not the 40-minute, clicking-on-all-cylinders springboard into league play that the Huskies might have desired.
“We still pulled out a victory and we still had some good positive things that came about it,” Pondexter said. “But it wasn’t the win that we wanted.”
On the plus side, Romar found playing time for most of his roster, as 10 Huskies drew at least 13 minutes on the court. They were led by Pondexter, who had 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Overton had 10 points, five assists, three steals and one turnover.
Big men Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Tyreese Breshers each had six rebounds, while scoring 13 and 12 points respectively. The Huskies held the Dons to 39 percent shooting and blocked 11 shots.
On the minus side, Washington was outrebounded, 44-35, and the Dons’ 16 offensive rebounds led to 17 second-chance points. Individually, UW No. 2 scorer Isaiah Thomas managed four points – matching his career low and giving him back-to-back games of single-digit scoring for the first time in his college career. He hit one out of nine shots from the field, but provided six assists and two steals.
“He has been a scorer all of his life; but you know, he hasn’t put that in front of his team,” Romar said. “He comes to practice, he’s not whining, he’s not down. And as we’ve seen the last few games, he’s finding other ways to help this team. That’s the mark of a good basketball player.”
The win was the 1,600th in the 107-year history of the program. UW became the 16th NCAA program to reach that milestone just five days after Oregon State became the 15th school to reach it.
Coincidentally, those two teams will be paired as the Huskies and Beavers open Pac-10 play at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808