SEATTLE – In keeping with the ghostly Halloween theme that permeated Alaska Airlines Arena, the new-look Washington men’s basketball team showcased a revamped roster that was scary good in Thursday night’s 87-63 exhibition victory against Division II Western Washington.
The Huskies had too many ball-hawking, long-limbed defenders and too many highlight, fastbreak finishes at the rim for the Vikings, who entered the game hoping for an upset against a young UW team that maybe hadn’t hit its stride.
However, freshman forwards Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels delivered smashing performances in their much-anticipated home debuts. Stewart had 14 points and 11 rebounds while McDaniels finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Huskies also received 20 points off the bench from sophomore guard Jamal Bey, who shot 3 for 5 on 3-pointers. Junior guard Nahziah Carter added 11 points and five assists.
Washington, which started Elijah Hardy and Carter in the backcourt with Stewart, McDaniels and Hameir Wright up front, put this game away early while forcing seven turnovers in the first 7 minutes to streak to a double-digit lead.
The game’s first highlight began with a steal by Bey, who gave the ball to Carter who then dished to Stewart for a fastbreak dunk and a 10-2 lead.
The sequence repeated itself minutes later when McDaniels swiped a pass in the corner and threw the ball ahead to Bey, who found a streaking Stewart for another dunk in transition that pushed UW’s lead to 20-5.
The Huskies generated most of their offense with a tenacious defense that forced 19 turnovers, which led to 19 points.
The last time Western Washington visited Alaska Airlines Arena, the Vikings hung 103 points on the Huskies and nearly handed the home team an embarrassing early season setback.
Western Washington, which was picked first in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll and returns all five starters, had eyes on a upset considering UW’s recent struggles in exhibitions.
Two years ago, Washington trailed D-II Saint Martin’s by nine points (73-64) with 9:17 left before ending the game on a 27-14 run to escape with a 91-87 victory.
Last year, UW was down 47-46 with 9:09 remaining and needed a late rally to claim an unsatisfying 70-61 win over D-II Seattle Pacific.
If Thursday night’s outing is any indication, this Washington team could surpass last season’s squad that won the Pac-12 regular-season title and finished 27-9 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Washington jumped on the Vikings early and extended its lead to 46-23 at halftime. WWU never got closer than 19 points in the second half.
The Huskies pushed their lead to 30 points and emptied the bench in the final minutes.
Still, coach Mike Hopkins wasn’t pleased with the Vikings’ proficiency from the perimeter. Western Washington converted 11 of 30 3-pointers while UW was 5 of 13 from long range.
Washington opens the regular season Nov. 8 in the Armed Forces Classic against Baylor in Anchorage, Alaska.
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