NEW YORK – Perris Blackwell played the perfect defense and forced Indiana’s talented freshman forward Noah Vonleh into an off-balance jumper that rolled off the rim.
However, the Hoosiers’ other touted big man, Troy Williams, sliced through the defense, collected the rebound and flushed a putback jam before anyone could blink.
It was that type of night for the Washington men’s basketball team, which fell 102-84 in front of 10,064 at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic.
The Huskies did a decent job with their initial defense, but the Hoosiers pounded them with a dominant front line that won the rebounding battle 50-29. The Hoosiers had a 27-16 second-chance points edge.
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“We knew Indiana was a really good offensive rebounding team, but what they did decided the game on the boards,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Vonleh and Williams established themselves.”
Already down two injured forwards (Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons), the Huskies essentially play two big men — Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp Jr.
However, Kemp picked up an unnecessary foul on the first play while trying to set a screen. The miscue was a bad omen for the Huskies.
Kemp played just nine minutes before fouling out without scoring a point or collecting a rebound.
Without the 6-foot-9 forward, Washington put a four-guard lineup in a 2-3 zone in hopes of containing Indiana’s big front line.
Vonleh, Williams and Will Sheehey, however, had other plans.
The trio battered the smaller Huskies with an array of dunks that seemingly never stopped.
Williams, who finished with a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds, soared for a couple of acrobatic tomahawk jams. Vonleh, who had 20 points and nine rebounds, flushed several putbacks. And Sheehey (16 points and five assists) got loose on the baseline for a pair of two-handed dunks.
When the Indiana trio wasn’t rattling the rim, then Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell punished the Huskies with 20 points and five assists.
“We always want to establish attacking the rim,” Ferrell said. “Looking for drop balls, kick(out)s, different reversals and just make them close out for drives.”
The Hoosiers converted 31 of 36 free throws and the Huskies were 19 for 28 at the line.
However, the story of the game was rebounding.
Romar described the Hoosiers as “Dobermans on the boards, crashing the boards like crazy.”
Washington senior guard C.J. Wilcox, who scored a game-high 24 points, said: “Size helps. We have a lot of guys, mainly guards, leaking out, kind of expecting Perris to get all the rebounds, and we don’t have five guys going to the basket every time.
“They had everybody going every time and we struggled blocking a lot of them out.”
The Huskies had Blackwell inside, but they needed more than his 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Washington also received 14 points from Andrew Andrews. Nigel Williams-Goss had 13 and Mike Anderson 11 before fouling out.
“We just have to play better,” Blackwell said. “That’s all there is to it.”
The Huskies (2-2) return to Madison Square Garden on Friday to face Boston College in a 2 p.m. consolation game. The Golden Eagles fell 72-70 to No. 18 Connecticut in the semifinals.
Perhaps then Washington can snap its six-game losing streak at MSG.
The Huskies’ latest trip to New York started just like their last two games here. Washington fell behind early and spent the rest of the game digging out of a double-digit hole.
This time, the Huskies committed turnovers on two of their first three possessions and didn’t score until the 17:37 mark.
Meanwhile, Indiana (5-0) sank its first three shots and started the game with a 9-0 run.
Washington battled back and pulled to within two points (19-17) before the Hoosiers pulled away again with a 10-2 spurt to build a 10-point advantage (29-19) with 9:34 left.
The Huskies never got any closer than eight points after that and Indiana closed the period with a 4-0 run to take a 50-37 lead into halftime.
Washington never got any closer than nine points in the second half.
“We got off to as great a start as we could have for a team that is in this environment,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “Our guys continued to take it from there. We got ahead, we stayed ahead.”