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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington men’s and women’s basketball teams tip off season Monday with doubleheader

By Percy Allen Seattle Times

The Washington men’s and women’s basketball teams begin the 2022-23 season with Monday’s doubleheader at Alaska Airlines Arena.

The UW women tip off at 5 p.m. in a nonconference game against Utah Tech. The UW men get things rolling at 8 p.m. with a matchup versus Weber State.

Monday’s doubleheader is the first of six for the Husky programs this season.

Last year, Mike Hopkins and the UW men were stunned and embarrassed after a 71-64 defeat against Northern Illinois in the season opener.

The Huskies fell behind by 16 points in the first half and took a one-point lead in the final 5½ minutes before surrendering a 15-2 run and falling apart at the end.

At the time, Hopkins attributed the upset loss to shoddy shot selection (UW was 26.7% from the field, including 3 of 18 on 3-pointers) and a lack of continuity with a UW team that brought in seven newcomers, including five transfers.

For the second straight year, Washington brings in seven newcomers, but Hopkins hopes for better results than last season’s 5-5 record in nonconference games. The Huskies finished 17-15.

“You can’t skip steps,” Hopkins said when asked about the inevitable growing pains of a team with just six returners. “You’ve got to just go through and give it everything you’ve got.

“We’ve got to be focused when we talk about Weber State. We’ve got to be locked in what we’re trying to do and then we’ve got to do our best job executing. We probably will break down three or four times, but how do we respond to that? … It’s like that old saying, they might get you once, but they better not get you twice.”

Meanwhile, the Husky women are also breaking in six newcomers and looking to start a four-game homestand on a positive note.

“I would say this for our incoming players and our returning players both, I think the energy in the building and the way they’re working, their commitment to one another, the culture that this team has is pretty special,” coach Tina Langley said. “Very selfless and hardworking. That’s who we want to be as a program.”

Questions facing Huskies men

Can Jamal Bey and Cole Bajema make enough 3s? One game is a tiny sample size, but Keion Brooks Jr. looked awfully comfortably while scoring 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting and canning an array of midrange jumpers and low-post shots in UW’s exhibition.

Seemingly, the Huskies have found someone to carry the scoring load, but it remains to be seen if Washington can surround Brooks with enough shooters to spread the defense thin and create room in the middle for him to operate. Statistically, Cole Bajema and Jamal Bey are UW’s best perimeter threats considering they’ve shot 36.1% and 35.1% respectively in their career. However, both have struggled with consistency and confidence, which has sabotaged their progress.

Will Noah Williams pan out at point guard? Without a true pass-first point guard on the roster, the Huskies are relying on Noah Williams to run the offense. It’s a bit of a gamble considering the 6-foot-5 senior had been a defensive-minded combo guard during his first two seasons at Washington State before the Cougars moved him off the ball last season.

Williams displayed solid decision-making acumen during UW’s exhibition while compiling 10 assists. However, he also had four turnovers.

Zone or man? Looking back at last year’s season preview, we posed a similar question about UW’s defense, which really hasn’t been menacing since the 2019-20 season.

Back then, Hopkins planned to diversify the defensive schemes and de-emphasize his beloved 2-3 zone in favor of a man-to-man scheme. At least that’s what UW did in last year’s 83-50 exhibition win over Division II Central Washington and that’s what they did again Tuesday during a 95-64 victory against Division II Alaska-Fairbanks.

However, last year the Huskies ranked 11th in points allowed (72.3) and opponent’s field-goal percentage (33.5%) while switching between zone and man. Hopkins hinted UW’s main defense will feature a full-court press and man-to-man, which would seem to suit the seven newcomers he’s assembled.