BY SPNW Staff 09:18PM 12/22/2011

Huskies get back on track; Pac-12 play next

Washington proved it can handle at least one lightweight, crushing Cal State Northridge 74-51; now they move to the heavyweight division.

After a two-game injury absence, Aziz N'Diaye had 11 points and seven rebounds Thursday in Washington's easy win over Cal State Northridge. /Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The Los Angeles-area school’s unofficial nickname is Cal State Earthquake, thanks to its proximity to the San Fernando Valley epicenter of the 1994 temblor that measured 6.7.

Cal State Northridge had its basketball world shaken Thursday night at Hec Ed. Fortunately, there were no casualties, only a 74-51 basketball defeat to the Washington Huskies, who did some long-overdue rocking.

Entering the game, the Huskies lost five of their past seven, including an embarrassing 92-73 defeat Sunday to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, their first loss in 32 conference home games.

The Matadors (3-7) of the Big West Conference were little match — but the same was said of the Dakotans. This time the Huskies came out interested, blasting out to 10-0 and 16-2 leads and never faltering. They led by as many as 35 points before the Matadors reserves closed the embarrassment with a 13-0 run near the end. Their point total was a season low for a Huskies opponent.

“I thought the first 15 minutes of that game we played exceptionally well,” said Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar.  “If we can duplicate the way we worked and the way we moved the ball then I think we will be OK  going into conference play.”

A few days of harsh practice seemed to catch Washington’s attention.

“It’s been tough. Real tough,” said Terrence Ross. “No room for air, no room for mistake. We can’t mess up.”

The Huskies closed down penetration and on offense, distributed the ball well — two characteristics absent in the Sunday defeat, as well as several periods throughout the non-conference season.

“We watched two or three hours of film one day,” Romar said. “Guys were able to see how many times we were standing and how many times we didn’t make the extra pass.  We practiced that way and I think that there was an awareness that allowed us to go in and make multiple passing situations happen.”

Northridge had 22 turnovers and only two assists, an astonishing disparity for a Division I team.

“We had 22 turnovers and I think they scored 21 points off the 22 turnovers,” said Northridge coach Bobby Braswell. “So, defensively just got after us and we didn’t respond to that very well at all.”

Redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons had career highs of 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench to lead Washington. Tony Wroten and Ross had 12 points each.

The Huskies welcomed back seven-foot center Aziz N’Diaye, who sat out two games with a sore knee. Although he didn’t start, he entered off the bench five minutes into the game and moved well, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Matadors hit only 13 of 54 (24 percent) from the field and made only two three pointers. Redshirt freshman guard Stephan Hicks led the visitors with 14 points but missed 11 of 14 from the field.

Washington gets a week off before beginning Pac-12 Conference play against Oregon State Thursday and 7 p.m. New Year’s Eve against Oregon.

COUGARS DOWN PEPPERDINE AT KEY Washington State stayed perfect in the Cougar Hardwood Classic, improving to 7-0 in the annual game at KeyArena Thursday night with a 67-56 victory over Pepperdine.

Both teams started ice cold before the Cougars (8-4) moved out to a 26-15 lead at the half. They were up by as many as 23 in the second half before easing up, allowing Pepperdine a bit of a rally. But WSU’s sixth consecutive win was in little doubt.

Faisal Aden came off the bench to lead WSU with 17 points and DaVonte Lacy had 15.

Pepperdine (6-5) of the West Coast Conference missed 20 of 26 field goals in the first half.


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