The Huskies had an uneven performance in their last tuneup before Tuesday’s regular-season opener against Western Kentucky.
For the first three minutes in Thursday’s 70-61 exhibition win, the 25th-ranked Huskies looked very much like one of the top teams in the nation as they dominated on both ends of the court and sprinted out to an 11-0 lead over Division II Seattle Pacific.
And then, it all fell apart.
The Falcons controlled the action for the next 27 minutes. SPU led 27-26 at halftime and was up 47-46 with less than nine minutes left.
Washington regathered and found its stride late to close the game with a 24-14 run. Still, beating a lower-tier opponent in front of 5,702 at Alaska Airlines Arena by nine points didn’t mask a few potential problems UW will need to address before Tuesday’s regular-season opener against Western Kentucky.
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Here are three takeaways from the game.
The Huskies need a playmaker in the worse way. They need someone who can make the game easier for everybody, especially the younger guys.
Senior forward Noah Dickerson and sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, last seaon’s leading scorers, are gifted one-on-one players who can get a low-post or mid-range shot against almost anyone. David Crisp is a daring perimeter shot maker who isn’t adverse to driving to the rim for buckets while Matisse Thybulle and Dominic Green can knock down open three-pointers.
If UW had someone who could coordinate an offense with so many diverse scoring options, then this team would really take off.
Theoretically, that person should be Crisp. And there might be games this season when the senior guard will control games with his passing and not his shots.
But the Huskies needed his scoring to fend off the Falcons and he produced 20 points while connecting on 6 of 10 field goals and 7 of 9 free throws. UW doesn’t win Thursday if Crisp didn’t score. But his one assist and three turnover performance was indicative of a team that was out of sorts.
Washington had just six assists on 21 field goals. The Huskies also committed 19 turnovers.
Nowell, who scored 26 points in last week’s 91-73 exhibition win at No. 7 Nevada, tallied 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting. He was 2 of 4 on three-pointers and 5 of 8 at the line. He also had three turnovers.
All-Pac-12 forward Noah Dickerson, who missed the first exhibition due to a leg injury, scored four points in the first two minutes and looked as if he was heading to a big night.
And then he regressed.
Dickerson, who played 10 minutes in the first half and just four minutes in the second, was a spectator on the sidelines during the clutch moments when the Huskies regained control late in the game.
His final line: 8 points, 2 for 4 shooting, 4 of 4 free throws and 14:05 minutes.
Mike Hopkins said Dickerson has had a handful of workouts since returning practice. Neither the UW coach or the Huskies seemed concerned Dickerson wouldn’t regain his form before the season starts.
Meanwhile, junior forward Sam Timmins was a virtual no-show in the first exhibition. He fouled out in nine minutes and finished with two points and one rebound.
Against Seattle Pacific, the 6-foot-11 junior forward came up with some clutch rebounds in the second half. He finished with a team-high nine rebounds. And he was +17 in the plus/minus ratio, a team best.
Freshmen make home debut
It was just one outing, but Thursday’s performance seemed to confirm the popular belief that UW’s four freshmen aren’t likely to help the Huskies early in the season. Of course it was going to be difficult for them to find minutes and meaningful roles on a team that returned five starters and eight of its top nine scorers from last season.
But keep an eye on 7-foot center Bryan Penn-Johnson.
His height will push him in the rotation, especially if Dickerson or Timmins are in foul trouble. Last night BPJ played six minutes without attempting a shot and collecting just one rebound.
But Hopkins noted he didn’t play sophomore forward Hameir Wright so he could get a look at BPJ. Wright is likely to be a permanent fixture in the rotation and he’ll take minutes away from BPJ.
Freshman guard Jamal Bey, who played six scoreless minutes, appears to be a little further along than guard Elijah Hardy and Nate Roberts, who both sat out the first exhibition and played fewer than two minutes on Thursday.