Dec. 13, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Plantar fasciitis. Three weeks on the bench. Then, leg cramps.
Whatever. Scott Suggs apparently doesn't need pampering - or even full health -- to excel.
The senior co-captain asked to leave then re-entered this game numerous times en route to a career-high 24 points. He scored through brutish Seattle University defenders that pressed in endless waves. Washington's four other starters also each scored in double figures as the revived Huskies ran out to a 27-point lead then beat Seattle University 87-74 in a rivalry game that really wasn't that close Thursday night at KeyArena.
The Huskies (5-4) never trailed the Redhawks (3-4). The only time the game was tied was 0-0 at tipoff.
"Great job, Scott! Way to lead us!" coach Lorenzo Romar told Suggs as he left the floor for the last time inside the final minute.
"My whole lower body was cramping up, for the most part," the fifth-year senior said. "Pat (Jenkins), our trainer, kind of stretched me out a little bit (and) gave me something, some nasty stuff. But it worked for me."
He was smiling, caught up in the glow of a painful yet relieving win.
Washington had lost three of the previous five games. But this time, Abdul Gaddy, Suggs, C.J. Wilcox, and Hikeem Stewart calmly and deftly broke Seattle U's relentless press time and again. UW bolted to a 46-19 in 17 minutes into the game.
Most encouraging: On the other end the Huskies got up in ball handlers' faces more consistently than they had in any of the season's first eight, unsatisfying games.
Romar agreed this was his team's most complete game so far.
Now, an even truer test: Can Washington string together this type of effort twice in three days, can it show consistency for the first time this season, when it hosts Jackson State (0-7) on Saturday at 4 p.m.?
"We've got to come out with the same intensity. That's got to be our standard. That kind of defensive intensity must be our day-in, day-out defense," Suggs said, looking ahead to facing a Jackson State team that lost 52-41 at Washington State Thursday.
In Seattle, Washington shot a season-best 54.4 percent from the field and had a season-high 42 rebounds to improve to 24-4 all-time in the cross-town series that began in the 1953 NCAA tournament. Some of the players from that game were on the floor at halftime and were given plaques with their big ovation from the crowd of 6,137 - three times more than Seattle U.'s previous season-high in attendance.
One of those receiving cheers was Bob Houbregs, the former Huskies All-American who scored an NCAA tournament-record 45 points as Washington beat Seattle U. in Corvallis, Ore., almost 60 years ago.
This rugged, banging game began with Romar hugging Seattle U. coach Cameron Dollar, his former top UW assistant, at midcourt. Dollar then immediately sent his Redhawks at the Huskies in non-stop, full-court presses while using mass substitutions that looked more like line changes in hockey.
Dollar was hoping his constant press would wear down an already thin Washington bench, as the Huskies were again without Andrew Andrews. The backup point guard missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle, though this time he was dressed in uniform.
Instead Seattle U.'s press effectively jump-started the Huskies out of the funk that had them down by 18 early in the eventual three-point loss at home to Nevada last weekend. Washington made 10 of their first 14 shots this time, all but one of them in the lane.
That one outside make was by Stewart. Offensively mothballed for two seasons, Stewart swished his first three shots for six points, two more than he had in eight games this season before Thursday. He was also the key that kept the Huskies from turning the ball over against the press each time Suggs left with the cramps.
"It started in my back and went all the way down," Suggs said of the seizing pain, though he looked relaxed afterward while casually chewing on red licorice courtside.
Stewart left the game late after an awkward landing on a stiff left leg while leaping to make a pass. Gaddy and trainer Jenkins had to prop up on each side of Stewart to get him to the bench. Romar said his sophomore guard hyper-extended his knee, but the coach thinks his sophomore guard will be OK. "I'm proud of Hikeem," Romar said after Stewart's best game as a Husky. Aziz N'Diaye, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, made six of seven shots for 12 points in Washington's runaway opening half. All those points came inside after UW broke the press.
The Huskies took a 49-27 lead into halftime. Knowing Seattle U. has the personality of its dogged, relentless coach, Washington braced for the inevitable rally. The Redhawks press finally got consecutive backcourt turnovers during an 11-2 run that made it 51-38 game with 17:43 remaining.
But then Suggs hit one of his two 3-pointers on the night. Wilcox, who finished with 12 points after scoring 20 or more in the previous three games, made a long jumper.
And Desmond Simmons then made another play that epitomizes his scrappy, indispensible game. He stole a pass on the right wing then saved the turnover with a shovel pass back into the court to Gaddy - all while he fell into the Seattle U. bench. Simmons got up and sprinted to UW's offensive end, where Gaddy found him trailing down the lane with a deft touch pass.
Simmons finished the all-heart play with a scooping basket while he got fouled. His three-point play made it 62-41 Huskies with 13:39 left.
Seattle U. never got closer than the final score after that.
Simmons finished with his third double-double in nine games, scoring 13 points and snaring 12 rebounds.
"That's what I am striving for. I've been working on it, and I am pursuing the ball better than I did earlier in the season," he said.
Eleven days after becoming the first Husky to grab 18 rebounds in a game since Jon Brockman in the 2009 NCAA tournament, the hustling, 6-7 sophomore was so determined on the boards he ripped one away from his teammate N'Diaye. That was while Simmons went flying across the baseline midway through the second half.
"I was definitely anxious for it. I was definitely looking forward to it," Simmons said of this one. "Scrappy team.
"It was a test for us. A lot of people were saying we are not as physical or as scrappy a team (as UW has been in the past). It was definitely a challenge for us."
They passed this test, easily.
Now, can they put a few of these together in a row?
"I'm really curious," said Gaddy, who had 11 points, five assists and six of UW's 12 turnovers while playing all but a few seconds of the 40 minutes.
"It will show how mature we are. We've got to have the same effort every game. That something Coach has been telling us.
"And that's something mature teams do."