Editor's Note: We are pleased to have Riley Peschon of "Welcome to Romarville" back for Huskies basketball coverage again this season. Be sure to check out his site as well for tons of UW content: welcometoromarville.blogspot.com
The first half of this basketball game was god-awful. I only watched the first half of this basketball game. Sigh. This is what happens when sports coincide with school. The Huskies turned the ball over 11 times and had just three assists on 12 baskets in the opening 20 minutes of their 2012-2013 campaign. Great way to start the season? No. Somehow the Dawgs were up two at half-time, despite Loyola guards being able to simply waltz to the hoop for layups against one-on-one defense on multiple occasions. This is what happens when I only watch one half! Apparently the second half kicked ass, so really I shouldn't be judging anyone or anything!
Aziz N'Diaye: Aziz had nine rebounds in the first half and finished with 10 points and 16 boards along with 3 blocks. Honestly, this was expected. Loyola had minimal height and, if you haven't noticed, Aziz is a giant. Here is why N'Diaye exceeded expectations: 4-6 from the free-throw line. These weren't bank free throws either, Aziz had both good form and good arc on his shots. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. Moving on.
Free Throw Shooting: The Dawgs' achilles heel has been free throw shooting. Last night, UW went 22-30 from the line. This was without Suggs or Wilcox (seemingly the Huskies' best FT shooters) getting to the stripe (more on this later). Montlake has not seen a competent free-throw shooting team in quite a few years, so cheers to this!
Backcourt Play: It's safe to say that Washington's season will not rest on the shoulders of the big men. Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs will need to play at a high-level for this team to contend in the upper third of the Pac-12. This was obvious. Let's add Andrew Andrews to this mix. Andrews was ridiculously active on both ends of the court, playing Venoyance-esque defense and non-stop attacking the basket with the ball. Andrews finished 7-10 from the free-throw line. Wilcox has superstar potential and we all know it. #23 finished with 22 points on 9-13 shooting and 6 rebounds. He is filling the Ross gap quite nicely. Suggs finished with 15 points, 3 assists and 3 boards despite getting in early foul trouble and only playing 22 minutes. The two dynamic wing players went 5-6 from beyond the arc in the second half and played a major role in putting the game out of reach. #15 and #23 need to be more aggressive with driving to the hoop and getting fouled, but when they are hitting shots from the outside it is hard to complain. As for Gaddy, he gets his own category...
Abdul Gaddy aka The X-Factor
Abdul Gaddy: The senior point guard will be a microcosm of the Washington Huskies during the 2012-2013 season. UW will go as far as Gaddy takes them. Read those last two sentences. Read them again. If you have been following this team over the last four seasons you will know exactly why I am labeling Gaddy as such. #0 finished with 17 points and went 4-4 from the line. Abdul attacked the basket on multiple occasions. These are great things to read and write. The 6'3 point guard has insane handles and finishing skills along with his height, meaning he has no excuse to simply dribble around outside of the three-point line. Meanwhile, he had two assists. UW has never been short on scorers and even without a superstar this season, Romar's squad still has Suggs and Wilcox to put the ball in the basket. Gaddy needs to take initiative on offense and he needs to distribute more than he did tonight. Plain and simple. Aggressive drives lead to acrobatic layups that #0 is capable of finishing, but more often than not these drives should lead to kick-out opportunities for shooters.
Assist/Turnover Ratio: UW had a 3:11 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first half and outscored Loyola by two. UW had a 9:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the second half and outscored Loyola by twenty. This shouldn't be too difficult to figure out. While a 9:1 ratio is not realistic, the Huskies should aim for something between a 3:2 and 5:2. Andrews and Gaddy are both very good ball distributers. Nobody would know this based on last night's performance. With the aggressiveness they both showed in getting to the basket, it will be pivotal for shooters (i.e. Suggs, Wilcox) to move without the ball and create space for kick-outs.
One-on-One Defense: This is purely subjective (then again, most of these words are) and based off of the first half. Loyola had at least four layups on blow-byes in a span of five minutes. Bottom line, nobody on Loyola should be that much quicker or more athletic than UW's defenders. From what I'm hearing and reading, UW locked down in the second half. So that's good.
Regardless of my opinion (or anyone's for that matter) on the first half, this was a very positive opening game for UW. The Huskies played a solid mid-major, nothing special, but a team that they could certainly lose to under certain circumstances. Washington faced adversity with Suggs in foul trouble in a back-and-forth first half and still managed to close the game with a comfortable margin of victory. Closing talent is something the Dawgs generally take a month or two to perfect and last night we saw it. In the season opener. This is good. Really good. Bow down.
UW vs Albany. Tuesday, November 13th. 6:30 P.M. Alaska Airlines Arena