Austin Seferian-Jenkins energizes the Washington crowd
In a basketball game that at times felt like a boxing match, Washington suffocated Stanford with an aggressive, ball-hawking defense in the opening minutes before delivering a knockout blow midway through the second half.
Perhaps inspired by freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who made his UW basketball debut, the Huskies were unusually physical while bullying their way to a 76-63 victory.
While Washington’s big men — Aziz N’Diaye, Darnell Gant, Desmond Simmons and Seferian-Jenkins — dominated defensively inside, Tony Wroten Jr. muscled his way on dribble drives and Terrence Ross peppered the Cardinal with jump shots.
They crushed the Cardinal with an inside-outside combination that hadn’t been this lethal all season.
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“We hadn’t played this well, I don’t think, all year,” said Wroten, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We were able to get all facets of our game working today. It started with defense.”
In its previous two games, Washington struggled in the opening minutes and trailed at halftime.
Saturday, the Huskies held the Cardinal to 26.5-percent shooting in the first half and built a 32-25 lead at the break.
Stanford closed it to 34-31 with 18:09 left before Wroten, Ross and Darnell Gant took control.
Over the next 11 minutes, the trio combined for 27 points during the Huskies’ 29-10 run that gave them a commanding 63-41 lead with 9:12 remaining.
The spurt included Wroten’s alley-oop pass to Ross, who flushed a dunk and scored 10 of his 18 points during the run.
“That was a critical time in the game and to me it just shows we’re growing up,” said Gant, who scored nine of his 17 points during the spurt. “We pushed the lead to 10 and we were able to extend it to a point where they couldn’t come back.
“That tells me maybe we’re starting to understand what we need to do in these games to win like we should.”
The Huskies dominated the glass and won the rebound battle 47-32.
With his football coach, Steve Sarkisian, in attendance, Seferian-Jenkins made his debut with 14:04 left in the first half and received a raucous ovation from the 9,794 spectators at Edmundson Pavilion.
“I didn’t hear anything,” he said. “I was just listening to Coach (Lorenzo) Romar.”
Needing a spark off the bench and an emotional lift following a narrow defeat against California on Thursday, the Huskies got it from Seferian-Jenkins who delivered seven rebounds and gritty defense.
“I was just out there having fun,” he said. “I’m happy we got the win.”
Romar compared Seferian-Jenkins to a “poor-man’s Jon Brockman” while junior co-captain Abdul Gaddy said the newest Husky transforms UW’s identity from a finesses team to a physical squad.
“That has to be a staple of our team, being physical,” Gaddy said. “I think Austin gives us that physical presence along with Aziz, Desmond and Darnell. We get our identity from those guys and that’s our staple.
“We need to be the tougher team no matter who we play. Loose balls and charges, rebounding, those types of things, we always have to come up on the positive end.”
Romar captured his 300th overall victory and his 100th victory in conference play at UW.
Aside from the milestones, he was pleased Washington was able to stay in the chase for the conference lead.
Washington (12-7, 5-2) is in a third-place tie with Colorado (13-6, 5-2). Both teams are a half-game behind California (16-5, 6-2) and Oregon (15-5, 6-2).
The Huskies finished what might be considered the easy part of their Pac-12 schedule after playing five of their first seven conference games at home.
They finish the regular season with seven of 11 games on the road beginning Thursday at Arizona State. Washington is 1-5 in away games.
“We’re in a good position,” Gaddy said. “I feel like we can be in a better position, but we got the cards that we have.
“Now we got to go on the road and get two. Especially next week. Two big wins and take it from there.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.
Percentages: FG .359, FT .609. Three-point goals: 3-19, .158 (Bright 2-5, Huestis 1-4, Mann 0-1, Ant. Brown 0-2, Powell 0-2, Randle 0-5). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 2 (Powell, Zimmermann). Turnovers: 9 (Randle 4, Ant. Brown 3, Bright 2). Steals: 4 (Owens 2, Randle, Powell). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .508, FT .458. Three-point goals: 5-14, .357 (Gant 2-3, Ross 2-8, Gaddy 1-1, Wroten 0-2). Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots: 2 (Wroten, N’Diaye). Turnovers: 16 (Gaddy 5, Ross 4, Wroten 3, N’Diaye 2, Simmons, Gant). Steals: 5 (Wroten 2, Seferian-Jenkins, N’Diaye, Ross). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 9,794. Officials: Randy Burkhart, Jim Giron, Bruce Hicks.