Game Preview: UW vs. Belmont (Game #2)

UW Belmont preview copy
The Huskies (1-0) will play the Belmont Bruins (1-0) on Saturday night at Bank of America Arena at 7:00 PM, on the second night of the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic. /

The game will not be on TV, but you can listen on KJR-950 in Seattle, or your local Husky radio affiliate elsewhere (click here to find yours). Tickets are still available through and start at $20 each.

What you need to know about the Huskies:

The Huskies won their opener last night against Wright State, 74-69, behind 30 points by Isaiah Thomas. When Thomas finds long stretches during which he can score at will, it can make up for a lot of other issues.

Other than Isaiah, the team didn’t look particularly good last night, particularly when they took their foot off the gas in the second half, letting an 18-point lead dwindle to six in the game’s final minutes.

The Huskies looked particularly vulnerable in the post against Wright State, as they struggled to score down low, establish any kind of rebounding advantage, or alter shots in the paint.

Projected lineup: G – Venoy Overton, G – Isaiah Thomas, F – Quincy Pondexter, F – Darnell Gant, F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning

Husky to watch:

Junior forward, Matthew Bryan-Amaning: MBA is the Husky many expected to pick up some of the scoring and rebounding slack this season in the wake of Jon Brockman’s graduation. Last night, he was an absolute non-factor. Despite playing 28 minutes, MBA only managed three points, three rebounds and two blocks.

What you need to know about Belmont:

Belmont opened the season with a 74-67 win yesterday against Portland State. Belmont went 20-13 last season overall, and 14-6 in conference play, finishing in a second-place tie in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Nashville, TN, school last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2008, when they almost stunned #2 seed Duke, but lost 71-70. Belmont was picked by the media to finish fifth this season in the Atlantic Sun.

After graduating five senior players, including conference player of the year, Alex Renfroe, 11 of the 15 players on Belmont’s roster are freshman or sophomores. Sharpshooting guard, Ian Clark, is expected to be an impact freshman, and led the team last night with 21 points.

6’6″ junior forward Jon House is the only returning starter for Belmont, but Keaton Belcher, a senior forward, brings experience (and durability) as well — he’s played in every one of 100 of Belmont’s games since the start of his freshman year.

While much of Belmont’s roster is young, Coach Rick Byrd begins his 24th season at Belmont, where he tries to bring the team back to the NCAA Tournament after making it for three straight years, but missing out last season with a team he has said underachieved.

Projected lineup: G – Jordan Campbell, G – Ian Clark, G – Drew Hanlen, F – Mick Hedgepeth, F – Keaton Belcher

Bruin to watch:

Junior Wing, Jordan Campbell: The 6’5″ Campbell returns after missing all but six games last season with a shoulder injury after making the conference’s All-freshman team in 2007/08. Campbell had a rough night against Portland State, shooting 1-7 from the field and finished with five points and eight rebounds, but will look to bounce back tonight.

The path to victory:

Controlling the post: Other than a few good minutes by Quincy Pondexter to finish up the game, there wasn’t much to be said for the Husky frontcourt last night. Belmont starts two talented 6’9″ forwards, and tonight will be a good chance for MBA and company to flex their muscles more than they did last night. More than two blocks from the Huskies would a good sign.

Long range: The Huskies shot 3-15 from beyond the arc last night. Elston Turner, who made zero impact in his 10 minutes on the court, needs to shoot his way into a rhythm. If the Dawgs can threaten from deep, it will also help open things up inside.

A quick word from the opposition:

Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd took a few moments to answer some questions from Montlake Madness. Here’s some of what he told us. Read the whole interview here.

"Montlake Madness: Last year broke a string of three straight NCAA tournament appearances. With four starters gone from last year’s team, what are the keys to the season if you want to get back to the tournament?Coach Byrd: We have some talented young players, but they have to mature very quickly if we are to have any chance of playing in the tournament. That is made more difficult by all the teams in our league that are very experienced this season.MM: Please give me the capsule scouting report on Belmont as you see it at this point — style of play, strengths, weaknesses, etc."

"CB: We have always enjoyed playing up-tempo and we will play a lot of people to help us achieve that. We have been a team that relies on the three-point shot and will continue to do so. Our greatest weakness is our lack of experience, I think our strength is our depth and the talent level of our young players."

What I expect:

Last night was only a single game, so no reason yet to question whether the Huskies are worthy of their top-25 ranking. They were certainly better last night than in their exhibition win over Central Washington. I’m guessing that they’ll continue to improve with each game, so I’m picking the Huskies by 11, 76-65.