The Delta Devils put up a tough fight in the first half, but Washington’s rebounding and late surge of scoring was the deciding factor.
By Monica Lee
Washington out-rebounded Mississippi Valley State University and nearly doubled the Delta Devils’ points in the paint.
The Huskies (7-5) scored 52 of their 95 points from inside the key while the Delta Devils (3-8) had only 34 from inside. They also grabbed 51 rebounds to MVSU’s 29.
Yet, the score remained close throughout the first half and the Dawgs weren’t happy about it.
“I mean we won, but it wasn’t the way we wanted to win,” senior C.J. Wilcox said. “We came out a little flat in the first half and we picked it up. We played our spots and we went on that run and the defense - I think we’re starting to learn that defense is what wins games.”
Guard Andrew Andrews and forward Perris Blackwell scored 12 and 10 points respectively in the first period to leave the half with a narrow 39-35 lead. Wilcox added six points and a first half-high seven rebounds to the team’s total of 26.
But MVSU stayed in the competition by draining shots from 3-point range, something the Dawgs were unable to do.
“The first half we were playing semi-good defense and they made a lot of good shots,” Andrews said after the game.
“We were telling the guys kind of, ‘We can’t let them make tough shots and then get an easy shot because that gets their confidence going.’ And that’s what happened with us.”
MVSU was 5 for 10 from 3-point range, whereas Washington went 0 for 6.
“Offensively, for whatever reason we couldn’t get the ball to go through,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said.
“I do think we did a good job of trying to take advantage of the size advantage that we had tonight. I thought our guys did a tremendous job, but we look at the free throw line, look at the 2-10 from three and we just weren’t as sharp as we have been shooting the basketball.”
However, the Huskies found their rhythm eight minutes into the second half for an 18-0 run and kept the Delta Devils at just 3 for 15 from behind the arc.
To spark the run, Andrews lobbed a pass to freshman Nigel Williams-Goss for a transition layup and the loudest roar in Alaska Airlines Arena that night.
“The second half we kind of dialed in and they started missing the tough shots and we weren’t giving them easy shots,” Andrews said.
“So it kind of led us on a run and they started getting frustrated and that’s how we ended up breaking the game open.”
Wilcox and Blackwell posted double-doubles on the game while Andrew Andrews and Nigel Willams-Goss both recorded double digits.
Blackwell scored 18 points; Wilcox, 15; and both grabbed 10 rebounds. Andrews also scored 18 points and Williams-Goss added another 17. Freshmen Mike Anderson and Darin Johnson along with Quinn Sterling recorded seven points each. This was Sterling’s scoring debut. Three other players scored three points or less.
“We look across the board - game to game, half to half - when we get stops, we look like a pretty good basketball team,” Romar said.
“During that stretch, that’s what we did. We were getting stops and I thought we were doing a pretty good job of getting a rhythm going. We didn’t turn the ball over. We took care of the ball. We got stops. We were fine.”
The Huskies’ biggest challenge was stopping MVSU’s Jeffrey Simmons. In his first game as a Delta Devil, the redshirt freshman recorded 10 points in 12 minutes going into halftime. The Dawgs were able to limit Simmons to only six points in the second half.
“Jeffrey Simmons is someone who hadn’t played for them and gave them a huge lift. So they were a little different team with the addition of him because he scored 16 points, so they played better,” Romar said about the tough first half.
Another area of concern for Romar is cutting down turnovers.
“I thought we had great shots and we got several backdoors out there,” he said. “We got stuff going to the basket. We get great shots, but when we do not take care of the basketball, the runs were the type that allow them to get quick scores. They scored 10 points in the first half off our turnovers.”
Romar and his team have noted an improving defense, though and they know what kind of potential they have.
“I think anytime we get down and decide that we play defense as a unit, apply our principles and execute them, we don’t care who we play, we’re a decent defensive team,” said Romar.
“It’s a weird situation because you look – we’re not playing machine-like basketball, but I still see from a month ago we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Next the Huskies will host the University of Hartford on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 6 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena. And Romar has a simple formula for winning upcoming games.
“A sustained effort for 40 minutes – A sustained focus.”