Oct. 24, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - It took a while, as it often does early in the season. But the Huskies finally played some defense.
In-your-face, double-team-the-ball, Romar-style - and winning -- D. The kind these Huskies have been ordered to commit to since getting wayward defensively at the end of last season, dooming their quest to return to the NCAA tournament.
The new-look Dawgs stumbled through some aspects of their new, high-post offense. They left shooters more wide open than Montlake Boulevard at 3 a.m. That's how a 13-point lead over Western Washington became a tie game with 7 minutes left.
But C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy led a defensive clampdown. And the defending Pac-12 champions scored 19 of the game's final 28 points to push past the defending Division II-champion Vikings 88-78 Wednesday night in a preseason exhibition at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Wilcox had four steals, a blocked shot and seven rebounds to go with a game-high 21 points. Thirteen of those points came in the second half. Gaddy scored 14 points, 10 after the break.
"Coach just made an adjustment, a simple adjustment: double the on-ball," Gaddy said. "And they didn't see it coming."
The way the Huskies played for the first 33 minutes or so, neither did they.
"I think our offense was a little ahead of our defense," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Our guys did turn it up defensively. We just have to make that effort last for longer periods of time.
"We know exactly how to guard. It's about being consistent. We'll be there."
With Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten gone early to the NBA, Gaddy is now a senior co-captain and the key decision maker in the Huskies' new high-post offense. Romar has installed the scheme that John Wooden used to win 10 national titles at UCLA over the former motion sets UW featured for 11 the last seasons based on penetration of dominant, determined guards such as Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas and Wroten.
Wednesday, Gaddy continually and aggressively drove to the rim off high-post screens in the second half, despite playing with three fouls.
Asked how he thought he ran the new offense, Gaddy said: "We got guys wide-open shots. We got our bigs some open shots. I think we are coming along with it."
Gaddy's three fouls in the first half gave debuting redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews the opportunity to score 12 of his 14 points before halftime, while he replaced Gaddy at point guard. Andrews, who didn't lack confidence while running the scout team during his redshirting 2011-12 season, brazenly drove the lane and at times shot over multiple defenders to score.
"I just take what the defense gives me," he said. "That's just always how I've played. If I see something open I'm going to take it.
"I'm aggressive. I expect to score. But at the same time I just take what's there."
After this, the earliest game of any kind in Husky basketball history, UW plays a closed scrimmage Nov. 3 then has its opener at home against Loyola, Md., on Nov. 11.
Until then, Romar said he'll be primarily focused on improving two areas: Contesting shots and rebounding.
The veteran Vikings, who lost just three players off the national-title team new UW assistant Brad Jackson coached last spring, continually drove at the Huskies' man-to-man defense into the lane and then kicked the ball outside. The Huskies left standstill shooters alone in corners and on wings. That's how Western made 14 of its first 27 shots after halftime and tied the game at 69 with 6:55 remaining.
"The coach warned us they were a team that wasn't going to let up. ... We kind of expected it," Gaddy said. "Just shows we've got a lot of work to do.
"We've got to learn to defend the 3-point shot better."
Then Romar sicced his Dawgs on the Vikings' ball handlers.
Washington led 80-75 with 2 minutes to go before redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau, who is 6-10 but still often plays like the guard he was before he grew seven inches late in high school, ambushed a Viking off the dribble for a steal. Gaddy fed Jarreau at the other end for a two-handed dunk.
Then Wilcox leaped to steal a pass into the lane, took off the other way with the ball and slammed it home with his left hand. Presto! UW led 86-75. Exhibition over.
"That's the point of these exhibition games - to see where we're at and what we need to work on," Wilcox said. "We've got plenty of time to keep working on our defense, continue to work on our rebounding, and get to where we want to be.
"First game is always kind of off. There are a lot of expectations on where this team is going to be. It was good to see where we are."
And where they need to be.
"We've got good chemistry with this team," Gaddy said. "We are all for getting better."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Classy scene just before tipoff: Jackson, who was WWU's coach for 27 years until Romar hired him in August, went down the Vikings' bench and traded hugs with each Western coach and player. Then after WWU's starters were introduced, each came across the floor to shake Jackson's hand again at the UW bench. Jackson recruited all of them to the school in Bellingham, where he and his wife Debbie still own a home, have grown children and have three grandchildren. "It was fun," he said. As for during the game? "I wasn't conflicted," Jackson said. "I was pleased when they did well. I know those kids so well. You like to see them do well. But I like to see our guys do well, too. I wanted to see our guys win the game, obviously. It was an interesting situation -- and obviously one I will probably never see again." ... Gaddy had four assists against three turnovers. UW had 14 assists and 14 turnovers. Romar always wants that ratio to be at least 2½-to-1. ... The Huskies improved to 20-0 all-time against Western.