Wilcox's complete game helps Huskies finally pass an early test
Scoring off two late turnovers helps Washington beat WWU
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Huskies knew working out the kinks in their new offense was going to be problematic and beating Western Washington — the reigning Division II national basketball champion — in an exhibition at Alaska Airlines Arena wasn't going to be easy.
After surviving in an 88-78 victory, thanks in part to a huge free-throw disparity and surprising marksmanship at the line, Washington answered many questions about its new high-post offense.
However, the Huskies walked away with questions lingering about their perimeter defense and inability to keep the Vikings off the offensive glass — both nagging concerns with 2 ½ weeks remaining before the season opener.
"The rebounding thing, we're going to pay close attention to it," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Someone is going to have to step up."
It's pretty much a given center Aziz N'Diaye will lead the Huskies in rebounding and the 7-foot senior center had his way at times against the Vikings, whose tallest player is 6-8.
Washington, though, didn't expect C.J. Wilcox to grab seven rebounds, including four on the offensive end, which were just as impactful as his game-high 21 points.
The junior sharpshooter also collected four steals, dished three assists and delivered the knockout blow in the final minutes of a game that was closer than many expected.
"The point of these exhibition games is to see where we are at and what we need to work on. We have plenty of time," Wilcox said. "Keep working on our defense, keep working on our rebounding and get to where we want to be and keep making progress at the same time."
Wilcox is making an early bid to replace Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr., UW's leading scorers last season, who left school early and were taken in the NBA draft.
He found several favorable spots in the new offense and got open looks off of screens on the wing and outside the arc at the top of key. Wilcox converted 7 of 14 shots and sank 5 of 6 at the free-throw line.
"C.J. Wilcox had an outstanding game," Romar said. "If you take his points away, he still rebounded, stole the ball, deflected the ball. He defended, he took charges — a really complete game."
Earlier this week, Romar said the Vikings would provide a stiff challenge. Boy, was he ever right about that one. It was a two-point game (74-72) with 4:49 left before Washington finished with a 14-6 run.
Still, the outcome wasn't decided until Jernard Jarreau and Wilcox had back-to-back steals and dunks in the final two minutes.
First, Jarreau poked the ball away from Western Washington's John Allen before racing down the court, collecting a pass from Abdul Gaddy and flushing a two-hand dunk.
On the ensuing possession, Wilcox stripped Rico Wilkins and finished the play with a slam that allowed the crowd of 8,007 to finally breathe easy.
The Huskies received 14 points from Andrew Andrews and Gaddy while Scott Suggs added 13.
Washington converted 32 of 41 free throws (78 percent) while Western Washington was 14 of 17 at the charity stripe.
Western Washington's Tony Dominguez, who coached his first game against his former boss, UW assistant Brad Jackson, didn't criticize the officiating. Instead he bemoaned the Vikings' performance in the first half when UW led 46-37 at halftime.
"I think if we had played better in the first half, we would have got these guys," he said.
But when it mattered most, the Huskies got the defensive stops they needed and held WWU to just two baskets in the final 4:49.
"We responded like a veteran team," Romar said.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
|WESTERN WASHINGTON 78|
Attendance: 8,077. Officials: Randy McCall, Dick Cartmell, D.G. Nelson. Technical fouls: Western Washington-None. Washington-None.