The Washington team used a workman like performance to frame a 25 point (his Husky career high) and 8 rebound night from Quincy Pondexter to beat the Idaho Vandals 87-66 at the Bank of America Arena in Seattle tonight. Pondexter looked every bit in his element, scoring off rebounds, in the lane, on the baseline and two consecutive threes in the early stages of the 2nd half.
Those treys were part of a 12 point blast by Quincy that contributed to a 17-7 run in the first 4:10 which put a comfortable 17 point cushion between the Huskies and the Vandals. Right after that run, Idaho cut it to 15 as quick little hot-shooting guard Keoni Watson got behind Ryan Appleby for a nifty back door cut to score a reverse lay-up for two of his team leading 19 points.
Idaho never got much closer though as UW just massaged a lead back and forth between 14 and 24 for the remainder of the contest. Washington didn't shoot the ball very well, but Coach Lorenzo Romar was satisfied to have made improvements taking care of the ball, as UW only had 5 turnovers and finished the game with a modest 12 total.
"I thought that we made progress tonight. I am very pleased that we only had 12 turnovers. I thought we did a great job of attacking the glass. We had a 24 rebound differential. You could say that Idaho was a small team, but we have played other small teams and haven't had this big of an advantage. Jon (Brockman), Quincy (Pondexter) and Spencer (Hawes) just really hit the boards hard for us tonight. All three were almost in double digits and Jon was."
Pondexter felt that the team was proud of the reduced numbers of turnovers and felt that the team has really caught on to what the coaches have done to emphasize taking good care of the ball.
"We've been taking care of the ball better and I think we're going to keep getting better at it."
Idaho Head Coach George Pfeifer noticed the superiority by Washington on the boards, especially on the offensive end. "I don't care what you say, you cannot let someone have 20 (they had 23) offensive boards."
Jon Brockman was the big story on the boards, with a new career high of 14, which raises his average to an impressive 9.5 per game. Brockman, Spencer Hawes and Pondexter dominated the smaller Vandals on the boards. Jon finished poorly on the offensive end though with 7 points on 3-9 from the field and a bothersome 1-4 from the line.
He and Spencer, who had 7 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists and an improved 3-4 from the line seemed to struggle a bit offensively having decent looks end up dribbling and bouncing out, around and off a number of times. Spencer finished the game 2-8 from the field and only played 22 minutes in a game which was never really out side of Washington's comfort zone.
After another run, early in the first quarter that had the Huskies up 7-0, Idaho's second leading scorer tonight, Mario Mackey (another quick, smallish guard who had 15 total) scored 4 points to bring the Vandals back to a three point deficit. Coach Romar didn't hesitate to use his bench early once again tonight and brought in Appleby, who hit a three and Brandon Burmeister, who hit two of them and soon Washington was back up 8.
That lead was countered with a 13-2 Vandal run, featuring two Watson threes, another by Mackey and a couple of easy layins. That left Idaho with a 3 point lead at the 10:22 mark in the first half and the Washington crowd, somewhat thinner than usual because of warnings of a snow storm, kind of let out a collective "not again" after the 2nd lay in, a coast to coast by Mackey after a Washington turnover.
The teams went back and forth until Appleby nonchalantly nailed a pull up three point shot from the top of the circle to start a 14-2 Washington run to finish the first half up nine points at 38-29. Appleby, who came off the bench for the first time this season, replaced in the starting line-up by Adrian Oliver, was the teams 2nd leading scorer with 11 points on 4-10 from the field with 3 threes.
He had 4 turnovers and got into uncharacteristic foul trouble in the first half, getting his 3rd with 4:20 to go in the half. Phillip Nelson had 4 rebounds and 2 nice assists, but once again couldn't get his long range shot down, going 1-5 from behind the arc, but Burmeister and Hans Gasser had nice games, both playing 14 minutes.
Burmeister went 2-5, all from 3 and 2-2 from the line for 8 points and Hans went 2-3 from the field and 5-6 from the line for 9 and both made nice plays on both ends consistently. Oliver didn't set the place on fire, like last Friday against Eastern Washington, but had a good solid consistent game with 7 points, including 3-3 from the line (all on a shooting foul behind the arc), 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
He and Justin Dentmon, the other hero on Friday played 24 minutes, but Justin really had a forgettable game, highlighted by a team high 4 assists. Harvey Perry came in the game to cheers from the crowd and played a slightly better, headier 6 minutes than the dreadful stint in the Sacramento State game, which led up to a DNP last Friday. He scored one point on 1-2 from the line and grabbed 2 boards, but lost his man on defense and gave up an open three and also committed a turnover.
Overall the Huskies looked as if they were addressing the problems with turnovers though. The guards also looked to be thinking about getting the ball inside to the posts and the posts looked to be trying to do better when they got it in their hands down low. Romar seemed to indicate that there had been some improvement, but that there was still improvement to be made getting the ball inside.
"I thought in the second half we did a real nice job. We were packing it in and we were getting doubled in front and behind on Spencer, but I thought we did well inside in the second half."
This Washington team is still very young looking, but made improvements in some key areas and once again another young player, this time Pondexter, came in and showed why he is a future star. Coach Romar feels that this is about what he expected from his young freshman who is leading the team with 17.2 ppg this season.
"We envisioned Quincy being a sky is the limit guy. We didn't know how soon he would reach his potential, but we knew that he could really develop into a really good basketball player. We didn't know how long it would take, but we are definitely pleased with how he is coming along. We have watched Quincy play so many times that we have seen him do all of these things. I don't think that we have really seen his athleticism yet. We have seen him get in there and make baskets and somehow get rebounds, but I think there are still some exciting plays to come from him."
If Washington can develop Hawes as the "go to guy" and get him the ball on the low block or high post successfully, guys like Pondexter, Dentmon, Oliver, Appleby and of course Brockman will form a very potent group around him. It's fun to watch this team grow, but with one game left before what should be a screaming battle against Gonzaga after next Monday's home game against Southern Utah, they have to make some real strides in a hurry.
If not, there may be a rude awakening waiting for them in Spokane on a week from this Saturday night. Romar seemed to take it all in stride, which seems to be his style and one that has certainly worked wonders at Washington.
"You are out there playing every game and you learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. Each time you go out and challenge yourself and figure out what areas you need to get better in. These games allow you to do that. You assess each game where you're at and you try to improve."