Nov. 4, 2009
By Gregg Bell
The Associated Press
SEATTLE - After a week of preseason practice lost because the majority of the team had the flu, then nine consecutive days of practices to catch up, No. 14 Washington was as may have been expected in its only exhibition game.
Returning Pac-10 freshman of the year Isaiah Thomas scored 18 points, though he and his Washington teammates slogged, clanged and fouled their way through a 77-48 victory over Division II Central Washington on Wednesday night.
"A rule of thumb for us is to never go nine days without a day off," said coach Lorenzo Romar, who nonetheless was pleased with his players' energy despite the busy schedule. "Hopefully we come back in nine days and improve."
The defending Pac-10 champions, who open Nov. 13 against Wright State, shot 38 percent from the field despite constant open looks against an overmatched defense. They missed 21 of their first 27 shots. They made just 18 of 37 free throws and had 15 turnovers.
Defensively, they often used their hands and bodies instead of moving their reputedly quick feet. They committed 26 fouls and sent Central Washington to the line 35 times.
"The thing I thought was glaring to me was we fouled too much," Romar said. "We teach such an aggressive style of defense. We got overzealous at times."
Quincy Pondexter, Washington's only senior and the replacement for departed star Jon Brockman as team leader, added 15 points and seven rebounds. But he headed straight for an auxiliary gym off the main arena floor soon after the game.
"I missed three free throws," he said, though his 4-for-7 from the line was tied with Thomas for the team's best showing. "Wanna come with me?"
Noble'D Shelton scored 10 points for Central Washington, which shot 15 percent in the first half and 23 percent for the game.
All but two of the Wildcats' players are junior-college transfers, so this wasn't exactly a stern tune up for Washington.
"We've just got to calm down on the fouls," Thomas said. "Against good teams, the score will be a different situation with the fouls we gave them."
Washington is returning three starters and the top two reserves from the team that last season won its first outright conference title in 56 years, before losing to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Huskies have also added Abdul Gaddy, last season's Washington Class 4A high school player of the year and a much-needed true point guard rated by most as a top recruit in the nation at his position.
When Gaddy entered for the first time 4 minutes into the game, a home crowd eager to see him roared. His first pass was a smooth entry feed inside to Tyreese Breshers for a 3-point play. In the second half, Gaddy wowed the crowd with a windmill-like pass to classmate C.J. Wilcox for a layup on a baseline cut. That put Washington up 66-30.
Gaddy missed all three of his shots, had six assists, three turnovers and four fouls.
"It was fun. I was a little nervous at first," said Gaddy, who spurned an initial commitment to Arizona to become a recruiting coup for the Huskies. "I'm just getting used to the pace of the game. Definitely different than the high school game."
With the rugged Brockman now gone to the NBA, the Huskies are asking Thomas to run the team less this season and return more to his record-setting scoring roots of three years ago as a junior at Curtis High School in University Place, Wash.
Early in his first game back in that top scorer role, Thomas looked rushed and antsy.
He air-balled his first jump shot, a 3-point attempt. He missed a layup. He and fellow starting guard Venoy Overton missed open men ahead of them on fast breaks.
"I don't know what was going on," Thomas said.
Yet he hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the half. He swished the latter at the halftime buzzer, then strutted back across halfcourt and patted Pondexter on the head for the pass.