SEATTLE – Those who were curious about how the University of Washington men’s basketball team might bounce back from a humbling loss at St. Louis last Sunday were still wondering 12 minutes into Friday’s first game back.
Despite unlikely contributions from freshman big men Shawn Kemp Jr. and Martin Breunig, UW couldn’t seem to shake Houston Baptist University from its lapel.
But the hometown Huskies eventually got it together, overcoming a slow start to run their nonconference home winning streak to 36 in regular-season games with an 88-65 win at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“We embarrassed everybody when we went out to St. Louis,” said sophomore C.J. Wilcox, who bounced back from an early benching to score a team-high 19 points, “so we knew we had to come out and make a statement.”
On an afternoon when head coach Lorenzo Romar warned the players he would have a quick hook – and lived up to the threat – the Huskies (4-1) hit 10 of 21 shots from 3-point range to pull away from HBU in what UW billed as the final tune-up before a difficult road trip that could tell a lot about this year’s Huskies.
Wilcox put on another shooting clinic at home, hitting 5 of 9 shots from 3-point range on the way to a team-high 19 points. Terrence Ross added three 3-pointers among his 13 points while adding 13 rebounds.
After giving the players a do-it-right-or-watch-it-from-the-bench ultimatum, Romar benched starters Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye 84 seconds in. He continued to express the right to use a quick hook, most notably after a pair of first-half mistakes by freshman phenom Tony Wroten Jr.
Wroten got it together in the second half to lead a 10-0 run that offset any hopes of an HBU comeback.
He finished with 14 points, five assists, three rebounds and six steals in 25 minutes of action.