UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye is so tall, the 7-foot 6-inch freshman from Dakar, Senegal can practically touch the rim when he extends his arms beneath the basket.
The Washington men’s basketball team knew it literally had a steep task against the Anteaters and the country’s tallest player, and the Huskies attacked the rim with little success in an 86-72 nonconference defeat in front of 5,875 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Mamadou maybe played his best game since he’s been in college,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He was a factor. I think he got in our heads a little bit.”
One by one, the Huskies threw bodies at the big man with the 8-foot wingspan and nothing worked.
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C.J. Wilcox said Ndiaye was “a tree.”
“He altered so many shots (for) everybody that went in there,” said Wilcox, who led UW with 24 points. “Just him being there you had to put a little extra on all of your shots. He got a lot of blocks. He definitely played a big part tonight.”
Ndiaye finished with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, eight blocks and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.
When he wasn’t rejecting shots, the UCI big man punctuated a two-hand slam dunk over 6-9 Perris Blackwell and yelled at the UW forward, which drew a technical foul.
“I was celebrating,” Ndiaye said. “And of course, he (Blackwell) got mad a little bit. He talked to me. I said I was sorry. That was my first (technical). I’m not going to do that anymore.”
Otherwise it was a near flawless performance for Ndiaye, who anchored UCI’s 2-3 zone defense that held Washington to 37.5 percent shooting.
The Huskies had more success behind the arc (6 for 16) and at the free-throw line (18 for 29), than they did inside the paint.
“I just love blocking shots,” Ndiaye said. “That’s my favorite. More than anything else.”
Without forward Jernard Jarreau, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, and injured forward Desmond Simmons (knee), Washington (1-1) had no answer for UCI’s big frontcourt that combined for 32 points.
The Huskies countered with Blackwell, who made his UW debut after missing the opener with a concussion, and Shawn Kemp Jr., however they quickly switched to a four-guard lineup that included 6-6 wing Mike Anderson in the high post.
Washington had early success and led 36-30 with 2:58 remaining in the first half.
However, the offense turned cold the rest of the way.
“The second half, we just came out so flat,” Romar said. “Second game of the season, that shouldn’t happen.”
The Huskies, which received 13 points from freshman Nigel William-Goss, never got closer than 13 points down the stretch.
Washington hosts Eastern Washington 5 p.m. Sunday before traveling to New York next week for two games at the 2K Sports Classic. The Huskies face Indiana Nov. 21 at Madison Square Garden. Connecticut and Boston College play in other semifinal.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.