No happy homecoming for Monson against Washington
It wasn't the sort of homecoming Dan Monson was hoping for.
Monson was hoping he and his Long Beach State 49ers would be able to stand a little taller when they walked off the court at Hec Edmundson Pavilion Tuesday night.
Instead, the former Gonzaga coach left disappointed, wishing his team had put up a harder fight instead of falling hard to the Washington Huskies, 102-75.
"Obviously, it's just great to come home," said Monson, a Spokane native who led Gonzaga to an Elite Eight appearance in 1999. "This is still home and you're able to see family and friends. But this is a business trip. To play like that you'd rather be back in the Virgin Islands where we were last week where nobody sees it."
Long Beach State (3-4) had the misfortune of being the first team to face Washington (4-2) after the Huskies came away with an unfulfilling 1-2 record at the Maui Invitational.
From the opening tip, the Huskies took command in front of a home crowd of 9,223 and used the sort of balanced scoring that has been their trademark in this young season.
Reserve guard C.J. Wilcox scored 20 points to lead seven Husky scorers in double-figures.
Wilcox, a redshirt freshman, made six of eight 3-pointers and the hot-shooting Huskies made 14 3-pointers for the game.
Washington shot 61 percent (41 of 67) from the field on a night when it made only 10 trips to the free throw line, converting six of them.
The Huskies built a 44-28 halftime lead. Long Beach State got as close as 13 points in the second half before Washington sped away.
"Well, Long Beach is a scappy team that's for sure," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They didn't quit. They hung in there and continued to play the game. I thought defensively we were way too lax in the second half. In spite of it though, we still shot the ball well. I thought offensively we were fine."
Romar shook things up to start the game giving 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye his first start and having Matthew Bryan-Amaning come off the bench.
"I thought Aziz was just fantastic in Maui," Romar said. "We rewarded him with a start."
If a message was intended to be sent, Bryan-Amaning appeared to get it.
The fiery 6-9 senior made all seven of his field goals, including three dunks, for 14 points and also grabbed five rebounds.
"Yeah I found out the first practice after Maui," Bryan-Amaning said. "Coach was saying I need to be more of a leader, be smarter
with my decision making, and putting more effort when I'm out on the court."
"It's always good to receive whatever message it is," Romar said. "Aziz has done a nice job."
N'Diaye's first start wasn't a memorable one.
He wound up with only one point and one rebound in 13 minutes, hitting his face hard on the court while going after a loose ball in the final seconds of the first half.
"He hurt his lip," Romar said. "He had to get stitches at halftime."
Not every Husky was hot from the outer limits.
Isaiah Thomas missed all six of his 3-point attempts but was eight of 11 otherwise and scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out six assists.
Thomas was followed by Abdul Gaddy (17 points on 7-for-9 shooting), Bryan-Amaning (14 points), Justin Holiday (11 points), Darnell Gant (10 points) and Venoy Overton (10 points, three steals).
"I think they've done that on everybody," Monson said. "They're deep and balanced. They missed some shots actually in the first half that they've been making and they made them in the second half to break it open."
Casper Ware led the 49ers with 18 points. Guard Larry Anderson missed most of the second half after injuring his hand and finished with five points.
"We just had a very small margin for error," Monson said. "It's hard to simulate that pressure and the time you get comfortable with it, like the time Michigan State got comfortable with it (against Washington), it was almost too late. The time we got comfortable with it, it was too late, and they were way too good of an offensive rhythm at the other end. Losing Larry Anderson, we're not very deep at all. After losing him, everything just fell apart."