Nov. 13, 2006
By Justin Chartrey
Coming into the season, coach Lorenzo Romar knew that a squad featuring five freshmen was going to have its share of growing pains. He also knew, though, that this team was talented enough to get it done.
During the opening game, the No. 17 Washington basketball team featured both sides, in a 99-91 win over Pepperdine.
The Huskies (1-0) came out strong in the opening period, keeping the Waves (0-1) off the scoreboard for nearly the first three minutes. They quickly built a 16-2 lead by the time Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg was forced to call his first timeout.
Freshman Quincy Pondexter was a big reason for the fast start, contributing nine of the team's first 16 points. Overall, it was a good day for the newcomer as Pondexter was second on the team in points with 21 and added seven rebounds.
"I didn't expect that," he said. "I just came out and played as hard as I could. I love to compete."
Pondexter was just one of the Huskies that came to play against Pepperdine. Sophomore Jon Brockman had a career day Sunday, chalking up a double-double in his first game of the season. His career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds helped Washington build a lead as great as 20 in the second half.
"They're just tough," Walberg said. "I don't know what to make of them. They know what it takes and that is important."
That kind of resiliency helped the Huskies each time Pepperdine started to make a run.
After going to the locker room down 52-37, Walberg rallied his players. Led by Jason Walberg, the Waves cut the deficit to 10 and had taken the momentum.
Following a timeout, though, the Huskies found a rhythm, and Brockman scored five of Washington's next seven and built the lead back to 16.
Even with the game seemingly out of reach, late in the game, Pepperdine fought back. Jason Walberg again took over and helped his team outscore the UW 17-6 to close out the game, but the comeback came short, as the Waves simply ran out of time.
"[Pepperdine] hung in there and wouldn't go away," Romar said. "It's a very unusual way to play, you have to play for 40 minutes, not 30. We don't know how to finish a game yet, but we're getting there."
Despite the poor finish, the players were proud of the way they played and with the result of the game. The Huskies were able to adapt to a poor outside shooting performance, hitting just 23.5 percent of their three-point shots, but the offense was able to move inside, giving the big men an opportunity to make plays.
"They played tough defense," said freshman Spencer Hawes. "It was the first game and shots just weren't falling. But we have good balance, so we don't have to take so many outside shots."
Washington did not play a clean game -- finishing with more turnovers than the Waves, 24-23 -- but the win has helped get the Huskies energized for the upcoming season.
"We're a young team," Pondexter said. "We're anxious and we're just glad to get the first one out of the way."