Men's Basketball | Huskies on tight leash, pull away for first win 78-63
To reporters, Lorenzo Romar preached patience after Saturday's season-opening loss at Portland. But to his players, time was already of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
To reporters, Lorenzo Romar preached patience after Saturday's season-opening loss at Portland.
But to his players, time was already of the essence, as freshman guard Isaiah Thomas learned when he got to the court a minute late for pregame warmups and found himself on the bench when the game began as a result.
"He had us on a little bit of a tighter leash tonight," said senior forward Jon Brockman. "I think that it is something that needs to be done. We need to be held accountable for our play and on top of our game at all times."
And for most of Tuesday night's game against Cleveland State, the message resonated loud and clear as the Huskies beat the Vikings 78-63 in a regional contest in the College Basketball Experience Classic at Edmundson Pavilion.
For the first 10 minutes of the second half, however, there was a short in the wire as the Huskies shockingly allowed a 24-point first-half lead to get cut to three.
"We were just a little lazy," Brockman said. "They were coming at us a lot harder than we were going at them."
But a lineup featuring reserves Justin Holiday and Joe Wolfinger got the Huskies back in tune and UW cruised to its first win of the season.
"We definitely made progress tonight," Romar said.
And that was the point of all the messages, which began during practices the last two days when Romar told his team the time for sloppy mistakes — quick shots, lax defense — was over.
Thomas found out the hard way when he was late to the warmup while still getting his ankles taped in the trainer's room.
"Exactly one minute," said Thomas, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Venoy Overton. "But it was my fault."
Romar said it was "just a reminder" that rules needed to be followed.
Less than a minute into the game — 58 seconds, to be exact — Romar sent another message when he took out Justin Dentmon after a hurried, and fruitless, drive to the basket on UW's second possession of the game.
"It's not my style to ever substitute a guy, ever, for one mistake or two mistakes," Romar said. "But there are things we emphasized tonight and if we didn't do them, and we told them beforehand, we are going to give someone else a chance. That's all that was."
Said Holiday: "He let us know."
The Huskies looked like good learners throughout a dominant first half as their defense pressured the Vikings into missing their first seven shots and 17 of their first 19.
With Brockman scoring 15 in the first half and Quincy Pondexter bouncing back from a scoreless game at Portland with 13, the Huskies built a 48-24 lead late in the first half. The Huskies also dominated the boards throughout, finishing with a 60-34 advantage.
But the Vikings made 10 of their first 12 shots to start the second half while UW was 1 of 9. Throw in five Huskies turnovers in the first eight minutes, and it quickly became a game again.
"We didn't play with the energy we were playing with in the first half," Romar said.
The Vikings cut the lead to 56-53 and had the ball on a fast break with just under 11 minutes to go.
But point guard Cedric Jackson lost it while trying to dribble behind his back in traffic and Dentmon scored on a layin as a result.
That began another Huskies run keyed by a rare five-point play when Thomas made a three-pointer from the corner with 9:33 for his first field goal of the night while Brockman was fouled on the other side. Brockman made both free throws to put UW ahead 63-53, and the Vikings never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
"We were bending quite a bit for a while, but we were able to [survive] it," Brockman said.
Thomas, who had 27 in an exhibition win over Western, scored eight points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Wolfinger (12 points) and Holiday (11 rebounds and six points in 25 minutes) more than made up for it.
|CLEVELAND STATE 1-1|
Attendance: 7,316. Officials: Kevin Brill, Gregory Nixon, Tom Spitznagel.
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UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies