Following a disappointing Apple Cup loss earlier in the day 9,021 Husky fans were hoping to take their frustrations out on the Eagles from American University in a rare football-basketball double header. Heading into the game the Huskies were looking to extend their home winning streak to 26 games and surpass the old team record of 25 that spanned from January 18, 1930 to March 6, 1931. They did just that with a 99-82 victory.
Early on it looked as if breaking the record wouldn't be a problem. Fresh off his BCA Tournament MVP performance Jon Brockman got the Dawgs going by scoring 9 of the first 13 points for Washington. The Dawgs got out to an early 7-0 lead, but that evaporated quickly due to some 3-point sharp shooting by the Eagles.
After the quick start followed by the Eagles three point counters the Huskies seemed to have a difficult time getting the ball back into Brockman. The Eagles shifted to a zone-trap defense, which generated a couple of quick turnovers by the Huskies.
Content to trade baskets with one another neither team was able to put together a solid run in the first half. The Huskies struggled on defense allowing American to shoot 43% beyond the arc. Coach Lorenzo Romar was not pleased with the defensive effort throughout the game.
"We didn't keep people in front of us and we didn't rotate", said the coach. "We just played poorly tonight on the defensive end."
Eagle guard Andre Ingram was able to take advantage of the poor Husky rotation by scoring 14 of his team high 24 in the first half including two 3-pointers. Thanks to Ingram's hot shooting the Eagles took the lead 26-25 on a 15-footer by him with 10:26 left in the half.
The Huskies were able to snag the lead right back once coach Romar re-inserted the starting five including Justin Dentmon, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Dentmon's tenacious defense seemed to spark the Huskies briefly and resulted in two backcourt turnovers by the Eagles giving UW a five-point lead. But the Huskies were never able to capitalize on that momentum and continued to give American open looks.
Along with Brockman, Ryan Appleby led the offensive charge in the first half scoring 8 of his career high 14 points, including 2 key 3-pointers. Tied at 41 going into the half the Huskies, once again found themselves in a tight ballgame against another inferior opponent.
"All the guys realized that we didn't do a whole lot of good things in the first half", said coach Romar of the team's assessment of the first half.
"We knew us seniors needed to step it up", said Bobby Jones.
After liking what he got out of freshman Artem Wallace in the first half, six minutes and five rebounds, coach Romar decided to give him the start in the second half.
"He was rebounding the ball and he was working his tail off out there on the defensive end. (Overall) he played 14 minutes and had seven rebounds, that is pretty good", said the coach.
The addition of Wallace gave the Dawgs the defensive attitude they needed coming out after the half. Andre Ingram opened the half with another 3-pointer for the Eagles, but Jones and Brandon Roy led a senior attack that would set the Huskies up on a 20-7 run to open the second half.
Roy started the game cold, ending the first half 1-5 from the field, but he hit his first three shots in the second and finished the game with a team high 17 points.
By midway through the second half UW was rotating better on defense and getting some turnovers that were leading to fast-break points. The tighter defense was also slowing the hot three-point shooting of the Eagles.
With 6:30 left the game UW had built a comfortable 16-point lead. That lead got as high as 19 when senior Zane Potter nailed a 3 with less than a minute left and the crowd erupted.
Overall the Huskies had five players in double digits, led by Roy with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Brockman followed up a great tournament performance with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Jamaal Williams and Appleby both finished with 14 apiece and Jones had 11.
After the game, the coach and players were not satisfied with their performance.
"We scored 99 points, but we didn't play the kind of defense that we are capable of playing", said Romar. "We are a better defensive team then we showed and for whatever reason we didn't get it done tonight."
"It's kind of down in the locker room, but we'll take a win", said Bobby Jones. "We played a good game as a team, but we don't want to be in these situations. We need to learn from our mistakes."
Early games against teams like American give UW exactly that opportunity. It gives both the players a chance to grow into their roles and it gives coach Romar a chance to figure out who fits best in what role. The rigorous schedule of playing four games in seven days also gives the team some experience to draw from when March rolls around.
"We play three games in three nights during the PAC-10 Tournament, so there really isn't an excuse there", said Romar when asked if the number of games played this opening week may have affected the team's performance. "There are going to be nights when you come out and don't shoot the ball well and sometimes when it's not falling for you it's not falling for you."
Next up for the Huskies is another home game against Idaho on Tuesday. The Vandals recently gave Gonzaga a scare at home by hanging tough against the Bulldogs only to lose 60-69.
Points: Roy 17, Brockman 16, Williams 14, Appleby 14, Jones 11, Dentmon 8, Gasser 6, Burmeister 5, Smith 4, Potter 3, Wallace 1
Rebounds: Williams 7, Wallace 7, Brockman 6, Smith 6, Roy 5, Jones 4, Dentmon 3, Burmeister 1, Potter 1, Gasser 1
Assists: Roy 5, Smith 5, Williams 2, Dentmon 2, Wallace 2, Brockman 1, Burmeister 1, Appleby 1, Gasser 1
Steals: Brockman 2, Dentmon 2, Smith 2, Williams 1
Blocks: Jones 2, Roy 2, Dentmon 1, Burmeister 1, Wallace 1
Turnovers: Jones 2, Brockman 2, Dentmon 2, Smith 2, Gasser 2, Roy 1, Appleby 1, Burmeister 1, Potter 1, Wallace 1