Even after a wake-up call loss to Tennessee, the No. 25 Washington men’s basketball team wasn’t able to come out strong in the first moments of its 72-53 win over Maine.
While a huge 27-9 run to end the first half had the Huskies (3-1) doubling up the Black Bears (1-3) at the break, through the first nine minutes, the game was tied at 9-9.
“It was just coming out with energy,” freshman Isaiah Stewart said. “We have to stop it with the slow starts, we can’t continue to do that. We came out slow against Tennessee and we were playing down and behind the whole game. That’s one thing we have to stop if we want to be great.”
Then Nahziah Carter created his own energy. The junior caught a lob from Jaden McDaniels to bring the crowd to its feet and open up an 8-point lead in the first half. Less than a minute later, he did it again off a feed from Quade Green. With just under four minutes to go, Carter threw down a Matisse Thybulle-esque windmill dunk in transition that raised the UW lead to 19.
Suddenly, it was all working.
“You better make it,” head coach Mike Hopkins said of the windmill dunk. “Or you’ll be sitting next to me.”
The Huskies carried that momentum over into the second half, winning easily and able to clear their benches in a dominant performance.
Along with Carter, Green had perhaps his best game as a Husky on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night. The sophomore transfer had 11 points, including a three-pointer, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
“He set the tone,” Hopkins said. “He shared the ball, he pushed the ball, he took the right shots, he played within himself. I thought he played exceptionally well on the defensive end. He got better tonight, no question.”
But despite the convincing win, the Huskies made it clear after the game that they are not happy with the slow starts that have plagued the team through four games. In every game they’ve fallen behind in the first half. Stewart said that the team has gelled well together and there is no excuse for a lack of execution at the beginning of games.
McDaniels’ shooting slump
The freshman phenom had a strong start to his career, but since a tough shooting outing against the Volunteers, McDaniels struggled with his shot again against the Black Bears Tuesday night.
While the Huskies were able to carry on without him on the offensive end, his offensive struggles are a concern. Carrying over from the Tennessee loss, McDaniels is shooting 10-of-34 for 26 points and seven turnovers.
“He’s fine, he’s just a young player,” Hopkins said. “We put him in certain situations and he’s going to have great nights and average nights. I think the thing he did tonight regardless of that is played great defense. He rebounded, he was disruptive, he’s great instincts. You can’t control making and missing shots but you can control effort and energy and your defensive intensity. He had a couple of great passes for guys. He’s an exceptional player, it will fall for him. He’s pretty special.”
McDaniels will have a chance to respond and get back on the right foot against Montana this Friday at 8 p.m.
Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AlecDietz
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