The sequence brought jeers and curses as fans at Alaska Airlines Arena were still standing to celebrate the start of the University of Washington’s men’s basketball season. Ninety seconds into Sunday’s 88-78 win against Seattle University, forward Jernard Jarreau stole the ball at the top of the key. The six-foot-10 sophomore was headed for a fast-break dunk, but as he jumped, Redhawks guard Isiah Umipig undercut him slightly, Jarreau landed awkwardly and crumpled to the floor.
Officials issued Umipig a flagrant foul after UW trainers guided Jarreau to the locker room. He bore no weight on his right knee.
Already missing for UW were Perris Blackwell, who sustained a concussion in Wednesday’s exhibition win against Central Washington, and Desmond Simmons, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. All are frontcourt contributors that coach Lorenzo Romar expected to play significant minutes.
The Huskies had to make an adjustment, so they switched to a four-guard lineup that put senior C.J. Wilcox at the four spot, which entering the night was as familiar to them as losing to the Redhawks. But it worked well enough to extend to nine the UW’s winning streak against the city rival.
“C.J. was the only guy who could do it,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward. “No one else had really worked at the spot . . . we had to ad-lib a little bit.”
It was slow to work against Seattle U’s 3-2 zone defense.
The Huskies started four of 15 from the field and trailed 28-18 with 6:15 remaining in the first half, as the disgruntled crowd of 6,704 directed their ire at Umipig, whom it rode throughout for the perceived dirty play against Jarreau.
“The defense they were in was a little different than what we were used to,” Wilcox said. “They usually press the whole game, but they were in that 3-2, whatever they were in . . . it threw us off in the first half.”
Well, for most of it.
With just under six minutes left, guard Andrew Andrews drained a three to cut the deficit to 28-21. It sparked a 13-0 burst that turned into a 24-5 run when Wilcox hit a pair of threes, giving the Huskies a 42-33 halftime lead.
“We just tried to stay within our offense, stay aggressive with where we wanted to get the ball,” Wilcox said.
Andrews and Wilcox proved too much for a Redhawks team picked to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference. Wilcox finished with 22 points, going five of 12 from the field and 10 for 10 from the free-throw line. He also added seven rebounds and four assists.
Andrews pushed the tempo throughout, scoring 21 points on six of 12 from the field, knocking down seven of his eight free throws.
“I was just taking what they gave me,” Andrews said. “A lot of times my job is to push the ball in transition and see what I can get out of it. If I feel like I have an advantage I’ll take it. I just try to find my spots.”
The Redhawks for the first 23 minutes were finding their spots.
Behind Umipig and UW transfer Clarence Trent, Seattle U kept the game from getting out of hand in the second half, too, but was never able to regain the lead. Coach Cameron Dollar’s team tied it briefly at 44 with 17:05 left, but the Huskies responded with a 7-1 run, capped by a two-hand slam from Shawn Kemp Jr.
Kemp Jr. finished an efficient five of eight, scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.
UW needed contributions from every guard. Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss dealt with foul trouble and first-game jitters. Shots he routinely knocked down as a McDonald’s All-America were off-target. One ill-advised alley-oop pass in the second half landed 10 rows into the stands.
Williams-Goss ended his college debut two of seven from the field with six points and six assists.
Romar afterward highlighted the positives. Down three players, the Huskies prevailed despite being out-rebounded 41-37 and outscored 44-30 in the paint. Jarreau will have an MRI on his knee tomorrow.
“Down the road people will look back and see we won this game,” Romar said. “I don’t think people understand how big a win this was for us and how gutsy and how much of a character win this was.
“This is one of the most special wins for me as head coach since I’ve been here.”