by Griffin Bennett
With upsets being a huge topic for Pac-10 teams against Division-II opponents the last few years, this game was never in doubt. Even though the score was close-ish at times, the game’s outcome was locked up early. Saint Martins didn’t pose a threat all game, but the real story was seeing how the Huskies had developed over the off-season. How would MBA respond after a promising finish? How would Gaddy comeback from a hugely disappointing freshman year? Who would take over Quincy’s production? Will Justin Holiday become an equal offense force to match his defense? Which guards will step up to the challenge? Tonight we were able to see into the future of the 2010/11 Dawgs.
MBA: He has officially grown into his own. His 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks don’t even tell his full story. Not only was he the best player on the court tonight, he showcased some brand new post moves that should dominate the Pac-10. His new up-and-under moves are completely revolutionary to his game and show that he has grown from his great ending to the 2009-10 season. While his opposition was fairly weak, the moves he debuted were effective regardless of the defender. He finished offensive rebounds with effective double pumps and step back dunks. Don’t expect a slow start from him this year as his repertoire looks deadly from the get go. The only negative was his 2-9 from the charity stripe.
Gaddy: He might be the most over-analyzed player that we will be looking at in the early season. With Venoy out, he was given extra minutes to showcase his off-season development that he worked on with Ryan Appleby. It looks as if his ball handling as vastly improved already as he crossed over multiple defenders with ease and got the rim with extreme efficiency. He finished with 12 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals that were only marred by his 5 turnovers. He looks like a completely different player on the court. His change of number matches only his change of attitude on the court. Knowing that his skills were unmatched, his confidence oozed out all game as he knew he could dominate from the top of the key all night. Most improved player of the year candidate? You’re looking at him.
Holiday: The rumors of his three-point shot are true. The man has developed into a real threat from downtown. He was 4-4 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. While the Holiday-esque defense will not be tested until the true opponents come to Hec Ed later, his offensive game looks to take a huge chunk out of the vacated spot that Quincy left. His flashes of shooting prowess from last year appear to have been chiseled into a true deep threat that has COMPLETELY changed the dynamic of the Husky squad. If teams put a power forward on Justin, he will demolish them with his new-found range. If you’re looking for a 2010/11 game changer, this is it.
Scott Suggs: The newly announced starter (reported first here on MM) showed that he has staying power in the top 5. His 11 points (all in the first half) while being 3 for 4 from beyond the arc only continue to show that Elston Turner saw the writing on the wall. While he didn’t even attempt a shot from within the arc, his presence was always made aware as he roamed the court. With distributors like Gaddy, IT, and Venoy on the team, his shooting eye will always be a weapon on display.
Isaiah Thomas: He has taken a book out of Brockman’s book this year. He seems to be willing to sacrifice his scoring totals in order to help the team win. His overall totals may looks meek, but his effectiveness was easily noticeable. While only shooting 2-2 from the field, he finished with 8 points (4-5 from the line) 11 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and only 3 turnovers. He excelled with Venoy on the bench as he took the back-up point guard duties in stride and looked like a true distributor. While this stat line might not make him a favorite for the All-Pac 10 first team, he will certainly win more games for the Dawgs this way. Kudos to IT for realizing what his team needs.
Terrence Ross: Husky fans, prepare to fall in love. We may have missed out on the more famous Terrence, but like Justin Holiday before him (Jrue Holiday), we may have gotten the better end of the deal after it’s all said and done. This kid is the best athlete on the team and showed some real skill in juking defenders and getting to the rim. He finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds while only playing 21 minutes. His three point shot looked effective as well and he looks to be a true challenger for the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
C.J. Wilcox: Now I may be picking on a first timer, he was 4-10 from the field and only added 2-5 from beyond the arc. He finished with 12 points, but his most impressive stat was the 3 steals he garnered. He will have better shooting days, but when the team is shooting 59% from beyond the arc his lack accuracy will go excused.
Desmond Simmons: I hate to throw freshman on these lists, but he played as a freshman should. He played 11 minutes (mostly due to front court foul trouble) and only got 2 rebounds. He looked very capable on the defensive end, but he is far from becoming a key contributor on this team. Picky? Yeah, get used to it.
Aziz N’Diaye: While he played 11 minutes officially, his presence on the court was only felt for a two minute stretch when he recorded his 4 points (2-2 from the stripe) and 3 rebounds. As I tweeted, it felt like he recorded his five fouls in six minutes, and his play looked erratic most of the game. If you were hoping for an immediate relief in the post by Aziz, it appears that we will have to wait a bit longer until he gets the feel for Romar’s offense and defense to set in. While being 7 feet tall, his strength does not match. He was getting bullied by stronger bodies down low and would benefit from some added muscle. I’m in no way writing him off for this year, but tonight he was more of a hindrance than help.
Team Rebounding: The Dawgs got out rebounded 32-42. That is unacceptable. With the height advantage that the Huskies had combined with the talent level difference, this was embarrassing. If we are looking to replace Quincy’s rebounding totals from last year, it has yet to be found. Gant’s return should help a bit, but someone else (Holiday, Aziz, Simmons, etc) needs to step up. It must get better or else the Huskies offensive totals won’t matter.
It was a fully impressive day. We all know that Romar’s defense takes time to gel, so I’m not worried about that. The shooting was off the charts and teams will not know how to defend these Huskies. Bottom line, these Dawgs might have the best offense ever under Romar’s tenure. While the opposition may have been poor tonight (understatement) they showed that they are a true #1 Pac-10 predicted team. Look out nation, the Huskies are back.