Ultimately, the Washington men’s basketball team got what it wanted Friday night: a double-digit win against an overmatched opponent.
However, Mississippi Valley State made the Huskies work longer and harder than they probably expected before running away with a 95-80 victory.
“We won, but it wasn’t the way we wanted to win,” UW guard C.J. Wilcox said. “We came out a little flat in the first half.”
The Huskies were ripe for a letdown after falling to No. 15 Connecticut last Sunday and trying to get revved up to play a Mississippi Valley State that has just one win against a Division I opponent this season.
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It didn’t help that half of the Alaska Airlines Arena was empty and the announced crowd of 6,351 seemed as if it was simultaneously watching the Washington football team’s 31-16 win in the Fight Hunger Bowl on smartphones.
“It’s difficult when maybe not as many fans are there as you want, but every game is as important as the next one,” Wilcox said. “We have to treat every game from here on out like it’s a championship game.”
Considering their early-season setbacks, the Huskies have very little room for any more stumbles.
They were hoping for a flawless dress rehearsal before Thursday’s Pac-12 opener at Arizona State, but Mississippi Valley refused to cooperate.
The Huskies led 39-35 at halftime and with 12:40 remaining, MVSU tied the score at 56 when Jeffrey Simmons (16 points) cut through the middle of the defense for a layup.
From there, the Huskies broke the game open with an 18-0 run that put them up 74-56.
Washington held Mississippi Valley scoreless for nearly five minutes in the run.
Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss had 18 points each for UW. Washington (7-5) received double-double performances from Perris Blackwell (17 points and 10 rebounds) and Wilcox (15 and 10).
“First half, we were playing semi-good defense and they made a lot of tough shots,” Andrews said. “In the second half, we kind of dialed in and they were missing the tough shots and we weren’t giving them easy shots.”
Washington crushed Mississippi Valley State (3-8) on the glass 51-29, including 14 offensive rebounds.
“It was atrocious how we got outrebounded,” said MVSU coach Chico Potts, whose team has a 56-game road losing streak to non-conference opponents.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar also lamented another performance in which the Huskies lacked focus throughout the game.
“We didn’t put forth that focus for 40 minutes,” he said. “In the first half and the first few minutes, we were there. Our length was getting to that team. … But our turnovers, not unlike a couple of other games allowed them to get some energy.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.