Huskies take on team that just beat Arizona in Tucson
Washington basketball fans might expect a lopsided victory Friday when the Huskies make their 2011-12 season debut against Seattle Pacific.
However, the Falcons aren’t your run-of-the-mill tuneup opponent.
The Division II power is 3-0 the past two seasons against Division I teams, including the exhibition victory last week at No. 16 Arizona.
“It’s been fun,” SPU coach Ryan Looney said. “Our coaches have done a good job preparing for those games and obviously our kids are motivated to play them too. A big part of it speaks to the character of the kids we have on our team.
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“We’ve worked hard in recruiting to make sure we have sound kids who are competitive and have some type of toughness. In those games particularly, they’ve been able to demonstrate that.”
SPU dominated Arizona inside and on the perimeter, winning 69-68. The Falcons won the rebounding battle 29-20 and junior wing Jobi Wall drained 4 of 8 three-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points.
“That was just a great experience going into an atmosphere like that,” Wall said. “To go against teams you grew up watching in the NCAA tournament and to be able to compete with them and then go ahead and beat them, it’s just a blast. It was a special moment.”
Arizona and Washington boast a handful of high school All-Americans, while Seattle Pacific has just one player — Gonzaga transfer Andy Poling — who was recruited by a major Division I program.
But none of that matters to the Falcons, who toppled Eastern Washington 87-82 and Nevada 84-81 in exhibition games last season.
“When you step on the court, the D-II and D-I thing goes away and it’s just two teams out there,” Wall said. “In the first few minutes of the game we had a rough time adjusting to (Arizona’s) level.
“They’re more athletic and bigger than some of the guys we’ll play, but gradually you get into the flow of the game and it really does just come down to doing what you know how to do and competing one play at a time.”
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar isn’t taking SPU lightly.
“This is usually the type of team that you play maybe after your third or fourth game,” he said. “We played this type of game and this type of team in 2009 on the road against Portland.
“And I remember how that one turned out. And that one was for real and not an exhibition. So it is a great test for us because of the way they play.”
Washington lost 80-74 at Portland two years ago, which is a bad memory for Romar. Still, the Huskies haven’t dropped an exhibition since 2004, when they fell 85-76 to Athletes in Action.
“You always would like to win, but I think what’s really important is that we go through game preparations the way we’re going to go through it next Friday in our nonconference opener (against Georgia State),” Romar said.
“In an exhibition game, it’s not about the score. It’s about what we can learn through this exhibition game.”
The Huskies have plenty of questions surrounding a team that lost its top three scorers, while the Falcons are ranked No. 22 in Division II polls and seeking an eighth consecutive postseason trip.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org