Nov. 11, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - In the very first game, Aziz N'Diaye showed how indispensible he may be to the new-look Huskies all season.
The 7-foot center drifted through the lane with his arms spread wide like a falcon, daring any far-shorter Loyola, Md., player to enter. He devoured missed shots; and he was often the only one in home whites doing that en route to a career-high 16 rebounds.
Plus, for an opening-game bonus, he scored and even made free throws!
"I've always felt Aziz can average a double-double."
Junior C.J. Wilcox scored 13 of his 22 points in the second half, Abdul Gaddy scored 17 and fellow seniors Scott Suggs and N'Diaye helped break a tie early in the second half as Washington ran way from Loyola 85-63 Sunday to begin its 2012-13 season of curiosity at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Suggs finished with 15 points in his first game since he broke his foot and then redshirted all of last season.
Wilcox's shooting is likely to be there. Gaddy is rapidly growing comfortable in his role as the maestro of Washington's new high-post offense in the half court. Suggs' experience will make him key on offense and defense.
But most of all, N'Diaye showed how invaluable he is to the Huskies down low - especially now that power forward Shawn Kemp Jr. will miss the next six to eight weeks with a torn patella tendon. Aziz had 10 points and three blocks to go with his rebounding, which was 42 percent of Washington's team total. It was his seventh career double-double.
"I'm just playing my game. With Shawn being out, I know I have to step it up in rebounding for us to be successful," N'Diaye said.
"I can do my part."
Loyola (1-1) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last season before losing by 19 to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It stayed in this game for the first 22 minutes by continually getting past UW's guards and forwards for offensive rebounds and employing a full-court trap that harried the Huskies into 11 first-half turnovers.
The rebounding was the biggest downer of the otherwise uplifting opener for the Huskies. Nineteen of Loyola's 34 rebounds were on the offensive glass, as the Dawgs often failed to put bodies on the Greyhounds they were guarding.
"We just have to box out," Gaddy said, defining the issue succinctly as want-to.
The game was tied at 33 with 18:30 left when the Huskies began getting out on the break more easily, N'Diaye began taking advantage of a four-inch height advantage inside with turnarounds in the low blocks, Wilcox and Suggs began getting free outside for open jumpers - and UW stopped committing turnovers. UW went on a 15-6 run without committing a miscue to go up 48-39 with 14:54 left.
"Once we hit a couple, they know to keep feeding us the ball," Wilcox said of Gaddy and backup point guard Andrew Andrews, the redshirt freshman who debuted with nine points, two assists and one turnover. "And when both of us are hitting, it's tough to guard us."
The Huskies made eight of their first 10 shots after halftime and did not commit a turnover for the first 9 minutes of the second half. That turned the tie game into an 11-point Huskies lead, 55-44, on a drive and 3-point play by Gaddy with 12 minutes remaining.
"Guys can score at any time. That's this offense," Gaddy said of the high-post scheme Romar installed this summer and then had UW use on its six-game exhibition tour of Europe in early September. "Teams can't focus on one or two guys."
The variety of scorers and scoring locations made this an intriguing, entertaining glimpse of what UW may be able to do with an offensive system that has won 13 national titles. Ten of those came at UCLA under Hall of Fame coach John Wooden.
"I would say tonight it was a quiet 85 points. It was a low-possession game in a lot of cases," said Romar, a former UCLA assistant.
He has wanted to install this high-post offense as his main set for a decade at Washington but didn't feel he had the personnel to until now.
"We shot 54 percent and I thought we got great shots," he said. "I thought the offense tonight created great balance to make the defense pay. Four guys were in double figures and if Andrew Andrews made a free throw we would have five guys in double figures. If you're executing hopefully that's what happens."
Washington's lead hovered around 10 and then spiked to 16 with 5 minutes to go on - of all things - two made free throws by N'Diaye, typically a 50-percent foul shooter. He finished 4 for 6 from the line.
Washington, which started debuting redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau in place of Kemp at forward, had 11 turnovers in the first half but just one after halftime.
"Jitters," Gaddy said of the shaky start.
Suggs scored five quick points in his first half in more than a year; he returned after redshirting last season because of a broken foot. The fifth-year senior may have pushed Wilcox for scoring honors had he not sat out the final 6:16 of the half with three fouls.
How pumped was Suggs to be playing his first real game at Alaska Airlines Arena since March 5, 2011, when he scored 14 points in the regular-season finale against USC?
"Yeah, I've been excited," Suggs said. "We've all been excited. ... It's finally good to get things rolling."
Washington next plays Tuesday night at home against Albany in the second game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament.
"We just need to keep building from this game," Gaddy said. "I'm confident in our abilities as a team. We have enough talent to be an NCAA Tournament team. We just have to make sure that we give 100 percent every day--including practices -- and going into the games."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Romar said he started Jarreau because of the 6-11 forward's length to help N'Diaye on defense - and because he likes the energy and grit Desmond Simmons brings with Andrews as the first Huskies off the bench. ... Wilcox scored at least 20 points for the ninth time in his Huskies career. ... UW honored military members past and present with a Veterans Day video presentation on the arena's new giant video board by student-athletes during a first-half timeout. The highlight was football running back Bishop Sankey expressing his love and appreciation for his father and two uncles who are currently serving on active duty.