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January 21, 2012After slow starts in their past two games, the Washington Huskies were beginning to look a lot like a strictly second-half team.
Well, that still may be true, but the Huskies showed they could also be a first-half team during Lorenzo Romar's 300th win as a head coach, a 76-63 victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday afternoon.
An all-40-minutes team, if you will.
The Huskies (12-7 overall, 5-2 Pac-12) needed a technical from Romar to spark a big second-half run for their win against Washington State last Sunday, and a late run (again following a Romar tech) wasn't enough to overcome the double-digit deficit against California on Thursday.
The Huskies were done relying on Romar technicals and second-half runs.
Sparked by a new-found energy, Washington jumped out to an 18-11 lead on the Cardinal (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12) behind hustle plays from Aziz N'Diaye, Desmond Simmons and Abdul Gaddy.
N'Diaye and Simmons dove on the floor for the ball multiple times and Gaddy took a charge all within the first 10 minutes, and the Huskies were off from there.
At halftime, they led 32-25, their first halftime lead in three games.
But where did this energy come from?
It could have been from Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the UW's freshman tight end, who made his first basketball appearance of the season.
"It was fun out there. I had a good time with my teammates," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I had a great time."
Seferian-Jenkins had zero points, but his seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, five fouls and countless hard screens in 16 minutes might have been just what Washington ordered. And possibly most importantly, his presence got the crowd into it.
"Yeah, every screen I intend to hit someone really hard," Seferian-Jenkins said.
Or it could have come from senior Darnell Gant, who was coming off one of his worst ever performances as a Husky, but responded with 17 points on seven-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds.
"He's our senior leader," said Gaddy. "He's been through it, he's had down games and came back and had good games. I was expecting it. I knew he would bounce back."
Or maybe it came from Gaddy himself, who took a smaller Aaron Bright off the dribble time-after-time. Gaddy finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists.
No matter where the energy came from, what's important to Washington is that the energy carried over into the second half.
After Stanford cut the lead to five with just under 15 minutes to go, the Huskies responded with a 20-3 run that put them ahead for good.
Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross, like they have been doing the past few games, led the second-half charge. Wroten had 10 of his 21 points while Ross poured in 16 of his 18 in the final 20 minutes.
Even with this dominating performance which moved the Huskies a half-of-a-game out of first place in the Pac-12, Washington has a long way to go.
"If 10 is our best and 1 is our worst, we're at about a 5 or a 6," Romar said. "We still have a lot of room to improve."
The Huskies now travel to Arizona, where they won't get the benefit of the crowd to help them recover from a slow start.
"Now we go on the road, and things are that much tougher," said Gaddy.