Completing their non-conference schedule, though considered a soft one, with an 11-0 mark, UW seemed a bit somber, while winning a cat and mouse game with the Cornell Big Red 87-71. Jon Brockman led the Dawgs with 17 points (14 in the first half) and 12 rebounds for his 4th double-double this season.
No Husky player had more than two double-doubles all last season. He seemed to be playing with greater focus and intensity than the last couple of games, which may have woken him up a bit as to how difficult the transition is to Pac-10 play for a pure freshman.
Of this adjustment coach Romar commented, "Jon, believe it or not, is playing a different type of basketball game than he has ever played in his life. He is guarding on the perimeter, he is put into a position to handle the ball on the perimeter, and he is not just in the confines of the paint, where he has spent a lot of time and dominated by doing so. On this level we spread out a little more, and that is just a learning process, that is something that he is just going to continue to work for".
Justin Dentmon was the 2nd leading scorer with 15 points on 4-4 from the floor and 7-8 from the foul line in a team leading 30 minutes of play. Jamaal Williams and Brandon Roy followed with 13 and 11 points respectively in reduced minutes. Hans Gasser, who brought in needed energy, scored 9 points on 4-4 shooting and Ryan Appleby finished with 8 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes of play as he bounced back from a very up and down emotional game against AZ.
Bobby Jones who seems to be Mr. Aches and Pains scored 6 points in reduced minutes, though he played 18 which is longer that he would have if he were being rested deliberately.
Jason Hartford, a 6'9" post from Tillimook OR, who got much of his points by getting the ball in the paint in the Big Red's methodical, work the clock wear you down Wazzu like offense. Another west coast kid from San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, SR Forward Lenny Collins was 2nd in scoring for Cornell with 15 points as he displayed good shooting skills as well as leadership. Local boy Ryan Rourke from Bothell High played with spirit at times and finished 3rd in scoring for the visitors with 11 points.
Cornell played well and though they never really posed a challenge never seemed to give up either. Of his team's play Cornell coach Steve Donahue said, "I thought that we competed. We shot the basketball pretty well against a great team. We took care of the ball and played pretty good defense on the perimeter."
Coach Lorenzo Romar seemed to be unimpressed with UW's effort, but didn't really address it much after the game, just merely conceding that the game was a win and it's time to move on to the greater challenges of Pac-10 play. About the Big Red Romar said after the game, "Cornell is a well coached, disciplined team who stuck with what they wanted to do offensively and defensively. They did a very good job of that. We won the game and it is time to move on, and really compete in this Pac-10".
UW seemed to be letting Cornell hang around, perhaps to be kind to nice guy Paul Fortier's old students. At 11:02 it was as close as 68-54 UW but that was as exciting as it got. The game wasn't as close as the score would indicate, but nor did UW put on the kind of dynamic display of defensive intensity that has characterized this team as they only had one steal and seemed a touch slow on both ends of the court.
There was a spacey element to this contest after the exhausting emotional finish on Saturday and the collapse of the nations leading winning streak and possibly the innocence of this young team. The Dawgs also seemed to let their focus from long distance slide into another dimension as they shot 2-13 from behind the arc.
What saved this game from being embarrassing was strong scoring in the paint. Of Washington's 87 points, 48 (55.2%) were scored in the paint and if you take away the 3-point attempts UW shot 33-52 from the field for almost 65%.
Only Ryan Appleby, who continues to have the only consistent shot from 3 knocked down a triple. Mike Jensen, who seemed to be back in a good rhythm against Lehigh went 0-3 from outside and Brandon Roy, who really seemed to establish himself as a threat from outside against AZ and ASU went 0-2 including a rather ugly looking air ball while wide open.
Jensen seems to still be working the cobwebs out of his game. He looks a lot bigger and it is nice to see him looking for a chance to get in closer to the paint, which is something that both Brockman and Jamaal do at his position. I love the idea that he can hit the outside shot, but adding the inside offense will really help this team, as he is still the biggest player on the team and should be able to be effective there.
Another positive for UW was that there seemed to be an air of just getting down to work, that seemed healthy and perhaps the loss to AZ has given this team a new chip on their shoulder to work behind, much like not being ranked going into the season spurred them on earlier in the year.
One thing that could have been attributed to the lessons learned on Saturday was the fact that no one got in foul trouble for UW and the team had its season low of 9 personal fouls.
Perhaps they was some sense of relief to be ending a non-conference schedule that had brought them to a lofty #7 ranking in the polls (currently #10 after the AZ loss), but also a perception that they were a team that had not been tested.
When I asked Romar how he felt about his team after the AZ loss and if the result had made him consider making some adjustments he responded by saying, "I think we are a pretty good team. I think we have the capabilities to have a very successful season, if internally we can understand that you have got to play the game for forty minutes. That is probably what we took away from it the most."
It seems to me, since the Gonzaga game, that UW has not put out a solid effort for 40 minutes, except perhaps the EWU game. Will the Huskies gain the focus and fire to bring a win home against their in state Pac-10 rivals, the WSU Cougars next Saturday?
After the game I asked Roy about the Cougars and he said, "They don't have the big stars like last year in Varem and Kelati, which is similar to us when I first got here at UW, but they have an improved depth and chemistry. Both teams are coming from such different places, them trying to slow the pace and keep the game in 50's or 60's and us trying to pick it up. I saw them play against AZ on the replay and they seemed to shoot a little earlier in the clock than last year, but they still bring that tough, disciplined game and it should be a challenge for us. I don't know if these young guys will be as up for them as they would be for Gonzaga or some of the bigger name teams. I'm still learning about the new guys, but I think we will need to take them (WSU) very seriously to win."
Scoring: Brockman 17, Dentmon 15, Williams 13, Roy 11, Gasser 9, Appleby 8, Jones 6, Jensen 4, Smith 2, Wallace 2
Boards: Brockman 12, Williams 7, Roy 6, Jensen 4, Jones 2, Dentmon 2, Smith 2, Appleby 2, Wallace 2, Burmeister 1
Assists: Smith 4, Appleby 4, Roy 3, Williams 2, Dentmon 2, Jones 1, Gasser 1
Steals: Brockman 1
Blocks: Williams 2, Wallace 1, Jones 1
Turnovers: Dentmon 3, Jones 2, Roy 2, Gasser 2, Smith 2, Appleby 1, Williams 1