The first college basketball exhibition that wasn’t of the intra-squad variety took place on Wednesday night, as the Washington Huskies took on Division II national champion Western Washington.
Lorenzo Romar’s team had the benefit of a preseason trip to Europe and Senegal to adjust to life without NBA draft picks Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr., so the opener was essentially an extension of the adjustment process.
C.J. Wilcox led the way with 21 points and fellow guards Abdul Gaddy and Andrew Andrews scored 14 apiece as the Huskies used some late defense to pull away for the 88-78 victory.
Scott Suggs, who missed all of last season with a broken bone in his right foot, and Desmond Simmons were the starters alongside Gaddy, Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye. Suggs finished with 13 points and four rebounds in 32 minutes of action.
One of the biggest questions for the Huskies entering the 2012-13 season is just how aggressive Wilcox will be now that much of the focus offensively will be on him.
In his first two seasons in Seattle he was able to be a member of the supporting cast, but Washington will need him to stand out if they’re to be a factor in the Pac-12 race. And while last night was only an exhibition it’s a good start for Wilcox.
“C.J. Wilcox had an outstanding game. If you take his points away he still rebounded, stole the ball, deflected the ball, he defended, he took charges—a really complete game,” said Romar.
“When your best players are there they need to step up like that. That’s what you expect from guys that have been in the program and know what they’re doing.”
Offensively the Huskies will have a different look as Romar has transitioned the team from a motion offense to the high post system that John Wooden used at UCLA.
And their redshirt freshman Andrews took full advantage in the first half, as he scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half as Gaddy sat with three fouls.
“Andrew played a very good basketball game. I’ve been saying all along that this is just an exhibition game so who knows what’s going to happen,” noted Romar.
“Much was made that we didn’t get any recruits. Well, find me a freshman guard that goes out and does that. He played with a lot of confidence and a lot of boldness out there.”
Washington has work to do on both ends of the floor, especially defensively where the consistency was lacking last night.
Offensively the strength of this team is once again in the backcourt, and Gaddy and Wilcox will need to adjust to roles in which they’ll be asked to do more scoring than in years past.
Whether or not they’re able to will play a major role in how successful Washington is this season.