The Washington Huskies have been bolting out of the gates so quickly that they have largely settled their last two men’s basketball games in the first five minutes.
But impressive as that has been, it’s the following 35 minutes that have especially pleased coach Lorenzo Romar.
In back-to-back games, the young Huskies not only have taken control with double-digit scoring runs from the opening tip, but they have maintained enough focus to hold and build those leads to the end. The most recent example came Saturday, when Washington scored the first 16 points on the way to a 104-67 win over Pennsylvania at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“Our guys are ready to go from the outset,” Romar said. “In terms of sustaining it, I think our guys are doing a good job of remaining disciplined and pulling for one another. … Also we have — and this is really important — we have the personnel and the depth to rest guys and to keep guys fresh so that we can maintain that level of intensity.”
The Huskies did something similar Thursday when they bolted to a 17-0 lead over Mount St. Mary’s and extended it to a 100-67 victory.
“We get after it from the get-go,” freshman forward Noah Dickerson said. “We’re ready. … Preparation makes it easier too. The way to get up big, is you just have to know what the team does and what you need to do to get them out of playing how they play. That’s why we get into such big leads at the beginning.”
In this case, the Huskies swarmed the Penn offense, which Romar said is a challenging one. Defense generated offense, and the combination built to that 16-0 blitz. Then it was a matter of sustaining it, in a cold gym before an announced crowd of 6,495.
Washington was led by freshman Dejounte Murray, who scored 22 points — the third different Husky to lead the team in scoring through three games. Andrew Andrews, Marquese Chriss, David Crisp and Dickerson also scored in double figures, while five Huskies also had at least five rebounds.
“Because of our depth and quality depth we’re able to rest guys, and there’s not much of a drop-off in terms of intensity,” Romar said. “You also know when you’re in the game, you’ve got a guy over there on the bench who’s ready to come in and may do a better job than you — then you tend to play a little harder while you’re in there.”
Senior center Darien Nelson-Henry, who grew up in Kirkland and played at Lake Washington, led Penn (3-1) with 13 points.
Otherwise, the Quakers are mostly young. The 11 freshmen and sophomores on the roster tie them for eighth in percentage of underclassmen (Washington is tied for third). Four of those Penn sophomores played more than 400 minutes as freshmen, but whatever edge they had in experience couldn’t make up for the Huskies’ edge in athleticism.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team and how we went out and approached the game,” Romar said. “… I thought our guys were nails in defending … the entire game. We played together. We played with energy. You get guys diving on the floor in the last two minutes of the game, that’s special. Today I was very proud of our effort.”
Next, the Huskies head off for three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas — starting with a 9 a.m. Wednesday date against Gonzaga.