Cal Poly (4-5), a team that upset the-than 11th ranked UCLA Bruins three weeks ago, never led as the Huskies fielded a healthy rotation for the first time this season.
Washington won behind the energetic play of Junior C.J. Wilcox, who stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots.
"I was very pleased with our guys’ effort tonight," said UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "I thought with the exception of the last three minutes where the game was out of reach, I think our guys put out the best defensive effort of the year in terms of our concentration and focus. Executing our defensive game plan, I thought our guys did a really good job. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is a team that makes the game slower and they are very deliberate. If you’re impatient, you don’t guard several positions or you’re not able to get up and down on possessions they can wear you down mentally. I thought our guys did a great job of not allowing that to happen. And we stayed with their shooters. We were very concerned with their three-point shooters, guys did a good job of contesting their shots and we were eventually able to pull away."
The Huskies (6-4) got off to a terrible start, coughing up four turnovers in the first four minutes of play. Senior captain Abdul Gaddy had a frustrating evening, yielding five turnovers while spending much of the night in foul trouble. Yet in spite of the team's early struggles, the Dawgs surged out of the gate to a 11-2 lead behind the timely shooting of Scott Suggs and CJ Wilcox who combined for nine of the team's first 11 points.
Washington quickly relinquished their advantage however, as the Mustangs finally started connecting from outside. They tied the game at 16 at the 7:22 mark.
As bad as Washington played during the first half, Cal Poly was even worse. The Mustangs, who led the country in fewest turnovers heading into the game, matched the Huskies' butterfingers miscue for miscue. But the Huskies pulled ahead late in the first via the charity stripe.
Gaddy's struggles would have been more alarming were it not for the return of freshmen Andrew Andrews, who came back from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for three games. His spinning lay in to close the first half put the Dawgs up 8 to lead 31-23 at the break. He ended the night with an efficient 8 points.
"He did some good things for us," Romar said of Andrews' return. "We were able to rotate guys a little more; I thought our guys were able to stay relatively fresh. There are some teams that sit back half court and not pressure you at all, sometimes a team can go out like that with five guys, but the way we want to play makes it a little bit difficult when you don’t have the reserves and give guys breathers. We had that tonight and I think it gave our guys a little bit of a breather. Doesn’t mean that will happen every game."
The Huskies came out of halftime with more energy. Abdul Gaddy's first field goal of the night came courtesy of an open three pointer on the Huskies first possession of the period to push their lead to double digits. And unlike the Jackson State game last Saturday, UW didn't let Cal Poly hang around. The Huskies amped up their defense, which put the Mustangs on their heals. It forced their opponents into a flurry of contested three point shots.
Wilcox continued his barrage late into the second half, while sophomore Desmond Simmons and senior Aziz N'Diaye cleaned up in the paint. Washington enjoyed one of their largest rebounding advantages of the season, especially in the second half, where they earned a 16-7 edge on the glass. Overall UW out-rebounded Cal Poly 32-17.
"N’Diaye, the 7 foot kid, just went over the top of us and snatched four offensive boards, they were critical ones because they were long and we had got a stop and they had missed and they were about 6-8 feet from the hoop," said Cal Poly Head Coach Joe Callero. "He reaches up to about 8 feet high, he’s a seven footer, about 8 and half, 9 feet with his arms so it was up there. We were out-rebounded 30-17, and that’s the game in a nutshell. You look at some of the other stats, certainly we would like to shoot better than 44 percent, they shot 51 percent, 44-45 can probably keep us competitive in a game. But you got to get those stops so you have those extra possessions."
Scott Suggs turned in another quality performance, scoring 12 points on 4-9 shooting. N'Diaye nearly netted himself another double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
The win gives the Huskies a 6-4 record with just two games remaining on the non-conference slate. They play Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon before heading cross-country to Storrs, Ct. where they'll face the 15th ranked Connecticut Huskies December 29th.
"We thought we felt like we took a step further today," said Wilcox. "We made a little bit of progress and hopefully we can keep building on it. Especially coming off a game like we did the other night, (it was important) to have a good game. I just wanted to come into the game and do a little bit more and help Des and Aziz out. Coach is always honest about helping the big guys out because they can’t be the only ones that rebound."
Points: Wilcox 21, Suggs 12, N'Diaye 11, Gaddy 10, Andrews 8, Jarreau 4, Kemp 4, Simmons 3, Overstreet 2
Rebounds: N'Diaye 9, Simmons 7, Wilcox 6, Jarreau 3, Suggs 2, Gaddy 1, Breunig 1, TEAM 1
Assists: Wilcox 5, Suggs 4, Gaddy 2, Simmons 2
Blocks: Wilcox 2, Simmons 1
Steals: Wilcox 2, Kemp 1