Perhaps a date with Cameron Dollar's Seattle University Redhawks is just what Washington needed. Not because this was a team, on paper, the Huskies should beat up. Hardly. Paper means nothing in a series like this and it means nothing to the underdog after seeing the over-dawg get beat at home three times in the last month.
No, the Huskies came up against a Seattle team that displayed a ferocious press from the get-go. Not a surprise by any means, but to see such ferocity from the tip, it may be what finally woke up the Huskies. Instead of falling behind by a dozen early like they did in their previous game, the Huskies grabbed an early lead then went on a 21-3 run midway through the first half en route to 87-74 win.
"We knew from the jump that this was a game that we could not allow them to punch us first," Desmond Simmons said after the game. "We knew from the jump we had to hit them a couple of times from the get-go because they are a scrappy team, they are not going to go away. We knew this was a game that we would have to attack them, attack them, attack them and that is what we did."
He also said that they could take a page from SU's defensive playbook.
"They were pressing the ball like crazy and flying all over the place on defense," Simmons said. "Intensity that we haven't even seen in practice. The defensive intensity, the physical, pressuring the ball, that is what we saw and said we have to start playing like that."
Senior guard Scott Suggs, who finished with a career-high 24 points, agreed.
"It gave us a little energy. We have been focusing on that in practice, defense and getting back to how we used to play in the past years. Getting up pressure, denying, making it hard for the offense to run their stuff," he said.
The Huskies played a near flawless first half, shooting 64.3 percent from the field and 11 of 12 from the free-throw line. They also committed just four turnovers. Seattle put up a fight in the second half, playing an even tighter defense and creating more turnovers, but the Huskies weathered the storm and held on.
While the game was not quite the hack-a-Husky event that ended up with Seattle fouling out all but four players before the end of the game three years ago, it still was very physical and the Huskies stood up to that. After the game, coach Lorenzo Romar commented that this was a dream game for Simmons, who thrives in a more physical, scrappy game. Simmons was a force at both ends of the court and finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, but was most excited about what he saw from his teammates.
"We can be very tough," he said. "We have it in us, we just needed that light and we got it. I think this team can be really tough. We have the athletes for it and now we are just doing it. We are finally doing it."
If they can follow up with similar play in Saturday's game against Jackson State then perhaps it is safe to say the Huskies are taking steps in the right direction.