Given that Jackson State entered with an 0-7 record, four blowout losses of 20+ points (including a 53-point setback to St. Mary’s) on its ledger, and playing its third game in five nights on the road, it figured the Tigers would fold early on Washington’s home court. But the gimme putt didn’t happen. The Huskies didn’t shake off the Mississipians until the final three minutes and didn’t look at all good in winning 75-67 Saturday night
Coming off a blowout win over Seattle U. Thursday, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar hoped the Huskies would be able to string together two respectable performances in a row, but it didn’t happen. The far smaller Tigers out-hustled the Huskies throughout and Washington continually hurt itself with turnovers and poor free-throw shooting.
“Coach (Romar) told us they (the Tigers) were going to come in and be aggressive and they were,” said C.J. Wilcox, who led UW with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. “We thought we were going to dominate, but they were more aggressive than we were.”
“It was a step back in a winning cause,” admitted Romar. “For the first 10 minutes we played right, but then we turned the ball over too much. We missed a lot of free throws, and that had something to do with it. I think we are a capable team, but we don’t always play to our potential.
“This team right now, it’s not right and we need to grow up. The only time we get after it is when something is on the line. We have to mature and have the right mind set. But give Jackson State some credit. These guys haven’t won a game, but they have some pride.”
Washington narrowly avoided what would have ranked as one of the most embarrassing losses in school history, to a club ranked No. 269 in RPI. The Huskies led by only three points with five minutes to play and had a five-point margin with two minutes to go before finally pulling away for their sixth win against four defeats.
The game clearly frustrated Romar, who continually pulled players (Desmond Simmons and Shawn Kemp Jr., most notably) when they made inane mistakes, especially failing to box out on rebound opportunities. Jackson State had 13 offensive boards, the much taller Huskies 11.
“If you don’t box out, you are going to come out,” said Romar.
Romar, for example, yanked Simmons in the first minute of the game for failing to box out even though the Huskies jumped out to a 9-2 lead. But Jackson State pulled within 13-11 with 14 minutes left in the first half and had a 19-11 lead with 12 minutes left before intermission.
After the Huskies extended their lead to 29-11, Jackson State went on a 9-0 run to pull within 29-22 as Washington committed turnovers on five consecutive possessions.
Ultimately, Jackson State trailed by 16 points with 9:26 to play in the first half, but used an 18-6 run to trail by just 40-34 at halftime.
The Huskies extended the lead to 56-45 with 13 minutes to play, but still Jackson State wouldn’t go away, keeping its deficit within the five-to-seven point range until the final two minutes.
The final score would have looked much different if the Huskies hit their free throws (12 of 26, 46.2 percent), or if they had done better than 7-for-21 from 3-point range (33.3 percent).
Senior guard Scott Suggs had 17 points and Abdul Gaddy and Aziz N’Diaye tallied 12 points each. N’Diaye and Simmons both had nine rebounds.
Kelsey Howard, who made four of his six 3-point attempts, finished as the game’s high scorer with 23 points and helped keep Jackson State close until the final two minutes. Christian Williams had 15 points, but Dundrecous Nelson, who averaged 17 points per game over his past three contests, scored just eight.
The Huskies will host Cal Poly (a club that defeated UCLA) at Alaska Airlines Arena Thursday at 6 p.m. and Northern Illinois Saturday at 4 p.m. before heading to Hartford, CT., Dec. 29 to play the UConn Huskies. That will complete the non-conference portion of Washington’s schedule. The Huskies begin Pac-12 play Jan. 5 at Washington State.