C.J. Wilcox scores 22 points and goes 10 for 10 at the foul line, Andrew Andrews scores 21, and UW overcomes the loss of big men Perris Blackwell (concussion) and Jernard Jarreau (knee) to beat Seattle University 88-78 to begin the season.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – The Huskies of last season would have never won this scrap while so depleted and behind. Not in the opener. Not in the middle. Not in the end.
These new Dawgs already have grit. And that will carry them far past this first game of a long season.
The Huskies lost powerful inside scorer Perris Blackwell before the game to a concussion he sustained Wednesday in their exhibition. They lost fellow inside starter Jernard Jarreau to a right-knee injury 93 seconds into Sunday night’s first real game. Then they trailed rugged-as-usual Seattle University by 10 points with 6 minutes left before halftime.
But junior-college Mike Anderson made many of the heady, hustle plays injured Desmond Simmons usually does -- while throttling Seattle U.'s hot-starting Isiah Umipig with in-his-jersey defense. C.J. Wilcox overcame missing his first five shots to begin his senior season to finish with 22 points and seven, much-needed rebounds playing as a de facto power forward. Sophomore Andrew Andrews kept UW afloat early and ended up with a career-high 21 points.
That's how depleted the Huskies turned back its cross-town rivals that haven’t beaten them in 35 years 88-78, a win coach Lorenzo Romar called one of the most special of his Washington tenure.
“Guys were learning positions on the fly. We got down … and our guys weathered the storm,” Romar said. “What makes this one special is we were out there many times and were playing just on scrap, sheer will and determination. Those are the wins that you love.”
The victory came despite having to play most of the game with four guards mostly out of position, and finishing it with five guards on the Alaska Airlines Arena floor. Two of those perimeter men, Anderson and freshman Darin Johnson (16 points), were playing their first games in the program. So was freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, and he picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes still to play.
So, heck no, this was no run-of-the-mill, 10-point win over a warm-up foe.
"Down the line a lot of people will see this, that we beat Seattle U., and they won't know big a win this was for us. How big a character win this was," Romar said after a triumphant start to his 12th season at UW.
"We've had big games on the big stage in the past and have come through. In terms of pulling a game out when the chips were really down, and our guys never got down on themselves or frustrated, this was one of the more special wins for me as head coach since I've been here."
Jarreau’s right leg appeared to buckle in flight after he pushed it off the floor going for a long-run layup attempt following a steal. Seattle’s Umipig hit him up high while contesting the shot. Jarreau rocked on his back in pain upon his hard fall back to the floor. While officials called a flagrant foul on Umipig, Huskies trainer Pat Jenkins and team doctor Jonathan Drezner rushed under the far basket to stabilize Jarreau's long, contorted leg. Those two eventually helped the 6-foot-10, redshirt sophomore from the floor and into the training room beneath the stands.
Jarreau is due to get an MRI Monday, and Romar said he knows nothing more about his high post’s status than that. The Huskies are playing at Tulane in Jarreau’s hometown of New Orleans on Dec. 17.
But a good sign appeared before game’s end. Jarreau was in the tunnel wearing team sweats and sitting on a stool next to Simmons watching the final minutes.
Jarreau shuffled out of the arena while on (very tall) crutches.
"I'm all right," he said, managing a small, game grin.
Romar said there is "probably a pretty good chance" Blackwell will start when the Huskies next play on Thursday at home against UC-Irvine at 8 p.m.
The 6-9 power forward and senior transfer from San Francisco tweeted "will play Thursday" after this game.
This was a scary beginning to the season – in more ways than just the stunning injuries.
Former Husky Clarence Trent started a 15-5 run for Seattle with a 3-pointer and a glare in his old home. When Umipig made two free throws and then turned a steal by Trent into a 3-pointer, the Huskies were down 28-18. Umipig had 12 points by then, and the Huskies had a headache.
But then Anderson fed Andrews with a nifty, extra pass for an open 3 that swished from the left wing. Anderson, the 6-4 transfer from Hartford, Conn., and Moberly Area Community College, then got a steal and passed to Shawn Kemp Jr. for a hoop in the lane. Anderson stayed with Umipig down the lane and forced the Redhawk scorer into a missed layup. He also pressured Umipig into a missed 3 and two turnovers over the final 6 minutes of the half.
The Huskies reeled off 13 unanswered points – five from Andrews -- to take a lead they never relinquished. They ended the half on a 24-5 run that energized the announced crowd of 6,704, and especially Romar.
The coach excitedly clapped his hands and gave Kemp and Williams-Goss an emphatic, double-hand slap on the team’s way off the floor at halftime.
“I just … I was very proud of them,” Romar said.
Asked the key to the turnabout spurt, Andrews said, “It probably started with Mike, pressuring the ball. That always starts it. Romar has been preaching to us that runs start on the defensive end and then carry over to us of offense.
“We started getting stops, and we started making our shots.”
After starting with a dozen points, Umipig scored just three over a 15-minute span, from the time Seattle U. lead 28-18 until 11 minutes remained and Washington led 59-50. UW’s lead stayed around 10 for most of the second half, despite playing just one big man and getting out-rebounded by a Seattle U. counter-lineup with four bigs 41-37.
“For me, it’s playing knowing a lot of people didn’t think I could play at this level,” Anderson said. “And I want to prove them wrong.
“I play with a lot of heart.”
So that’s one thing the Huskies learned after just one game. The other is a lesson that could pay off well past the holidays, into the New Year – and beyond.
“That we can overcome adversity,” Wilcox said after his 23rd career 20-point game. “We knew we already had Perris out. We already had Des out. Then Jernard went out early. We had to pull together and see what we’re made of early.
“A lot of people aren’t going to see that. They are going to see we beat Seattle U. But we lost three of our bigs, a big part of our offense and our defense, as well.”