Junior forward Desmond Simmons had knee surgery last week. Senior forward Perris Blackwell watched Sunday’s game from the bench, not yet cleared to play after suffering a concussion in Wednesday’s exhibition game.
And fewer than two minutes into Washington’s season-opening 88-78 victory over Seattle University at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Jernard Jarreau lay on his back, slapping the floor beneath the basket and screaming in pain after landing awkwardly on a layup attempt.
It’s a right knee injury for Jarreau, who is scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Monday, after which more should be known about his availability.
Blackwell shouldn’t be out too much longer – he should play Thursday against Cal-Irvine – but Simmons is already out until mid-December, and now Jarreau, a 6-foot-10 starting forward, could be looking at some recovery time, too.
The third-year sophomore returned to the court in the second half, dressed in sweats, watching the game from a stool near UW’s bench.
He watched as the Huskies completed a victory that coach
Lorenzo Romar said was one of the more impressive he’s seen in his 12-year tenure.
“Down the road, people will look back and see we won this game,” Romar said. “I don’t think people understand how big of a win this one for us, and how gutsy, and how much of a character win this was for us.
“We’ve had big games, big stage in the past, and have come through. In terms of pulling a game out when the chips were really down ... it was one of the more special wins for me as head coach since I’ve been here.”
Jarreau was injured when he stole the ball from Seattle’s Isiah Umipig near midcourt, dribbled one-on-one to the basket, then took off for a layup attempt and landed awkwardly.
Umipig provided tight defense and was called for a flagrant foul, though it was unclear if his contact was what caused Jarreau’s hard fall. No replays were shown in the arena.
Romar’s only comment about the play afterward was that “it was a flagrant. They called it a flagrant.”
The good news for UW is that it played without three of its top four post players and still found a way to win. And that was largely thanks to the Huskies’ guards. They finished the game with five guards on the floor, and, as Romar said, “guys were learning positions on the fly.”
“We just had to stay within our offense,” said senior guard C.J. Wilcox. “I had to play the four (power forward) a little bit, which was different. Just staying aggressive and knowing where we wanted to get the ball.”
Wilcox was instrumental in that cause, scoring a team-high 22 points – he also made all 10 of his free-throw attempts – including a scoring flurry at the end of the first half that helped mask some of the Huskies’ offensive struggles during that period.
Andrew Andrews also stepped up offensively, tossing in 21 points and making a couple key jumpers to keep UW from digging too big of a hole in the first half.
“I was just taking what they gave me,” said Andrews, a third-year sophomore guard.
Washington led at halftime, 42-33, despite trailing 28-18 with 6 minutes, 14 seconds left in the half. Wilcox, who missed his first five shots, spurred a 24-5 run with a layup and free throw after getting fouled, and two 3-pointers, the last one coming with about six seconds left on the clock.
Four other Huskies joined Wilcox in double-figures, including Andrews and fellow guards Darin Johnson (16) and Mike Anderson (12). Shawn Kemp, one of two big men who played, scored 10 points.
Seattle, led by the 22 points of Umipig, pulled even at 44 with 17:06 left in the game before the Huskies moved ahead with a 15-3 run. Andrews scored six points in that stretch, and the Redhawks didn’t come close than seven points the rest of the game.
Umipig, a Federal Way High grad and transfer from Cal State Fullerton, didn’t do much in the second half – he shot 2-for-13 after halftime – as he was hounded by Anderson, who played 32 minutes off the bench and added eight rebounds.
“A lot of people think I couldn’t play at this level, so I’m just proving everybody wrong,” said Anderson, a junior -college transfer. “I just play with a lot of heart. That’s all.”
Undersized and undermanned, that’s what the Huskies had to do, too.
UW 88, Seattle University 78
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Andrew Andrews provided the kind of offensive output the Huskies needed from their guards, scoring 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting. C.J. Wilcox didn’t shoot particularly well, but finished with a team-high 22 points and scored nine of those in a crucial 24-5 run to close the first half.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Washington led by double-figures for most of the second half, and Nigel Williams-Goss’ floater with 2:27 left gave UW a 13-point lead that was too much for SU to overcome.
STAT OF THE GAME: After making just 62.2 percent of their free-throws in Wednesday’s exhibition against Central Washington, the Huskies made 33 of their 41 tries on Sunday.
QUOTABLE: “You asked me when Desmond (Simmons) got hurt if we were thin in the rotation, I said if no one gets hurt. Well, now we’re slim up there. But if our guys can go compete and scrap like we did tonight, then we’ll be able to get through it.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar on his team’s frontcourt injuries.
WHAT IT MEANS: Maybe more than a win over Seattle usually does. This looks like it could be coach Cameron Dollar’s best team, and the Huskies played without three of their four best post players after Jernard Jarreau went out with a knee injury early in the game.
NEXT UP: UC Irvine at Washington, 8 p.m. Thursday, on the Pac-12 Networks.