No. 20 Washington never seriously offered much resistance against Tennessee, which handed the Huskies their first defeat 75-62 on Saturday in the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Washington’s offense, particularly the half-court offense needs plenty of work.
Or maybe, this young UW team with four new starters, just need more time together. (Although, a few more performances like this and that excuse will get old.)
The Huskies are loaded with three former McDonald’s All-Americans (Isaiah Stewart, Jaden McDaniels and Quade Green) and burgeoning star Nahziah Carter, but they’ve to yet get in sync on the offensive end.
Through three games, Washington is averaging 17.3 turnovers and is ranked 308th out of 350 teams nationally. Despite the careless ball-handling, the Huskies are still good enough to beat a lot of teams on their nonconference schedule, including a 67-64 upset win over then-No. 16 Baylor in the regular-season opener.
However, 17 turnovers proved costly against Tennessee. The Vols didn’t turn those miscues into points, but they were empty possessions for UW, which needed to be more efficient offensively.
The most frequent offenders – not surprisingly – has been primary ball-handlers Green and McDaniels, who average 3.3 and 4.7 turnovers, respectively.
And they’re not the only culprits. Every UW starter averages at least 2.0 turnovers, which indicates a fundamental dysfunction with the offense and not necessarily a personnel problem.
2. UW has to diversify it’s attack.
It was shaping up to be a coming-out party for Carter, who looked like the best player on the court while tying high-scoring honors with 18 points and collecting a game-high 12 rebounds. The Rodchester, N.Y. native had plenty of family and friends make the 170-miles commute to Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and he didn’t disappoint with four crowd-pleasing dunks.
As good as Carter was, Stewart dominated early inside and converted his first four shots before finishing with 14 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds for what’s likely to be the first of many double-double performances. The Huskies were unable to feed him more because of Tennessee’s double teams and their inability to knock down perimeter jumpers. UW made just 1 of 7 three-pointers in the first half and finished 27.8 percent (5 of 18) for the game.
McDaniels finished with double-digit scoring for the second time this season, but he needed 17 shots to score 15 points. Hopkins is giving the touted freshman plenty of leeway to learn on the fly, but the growing pains can produce these types uneven performances. McDaniels is a rare talent. There’s not many 6-9 forwards who can dribble and pass like him. He had two turnovers, which weren’t his fault because teammates mishandled his passes. Still, McDaniels has trouble getting to the rim and settles for jump shots. He’s fairly proficient with mid-range jumpers, but he’s 33.3 percent behind the arc.
The bottom line is UW needs much more from its supporting cast who combined for 15 points, including 10 from Green. Hameir Wright, who battled foul trouble, went 0 for 3 on three-pointers and went scoreless before fouling out. (He did finish with five assists). And reserve guard Jamal Bey, who was eight points this season, has yet to flash the potential he displayed while scoring 20 points in the exhibition.
Carter, Stewart and McDaniels are a dynamic trio and they were the only Huskies to score in the first half combinig to make 13 of 23 attempts. Six other UW players were 0 for 7. Simply put, Washington needs to find alternative scoring options.
3. Expect Hopkins to fix the defense.
Washington wins with defense and the Huskies allowed the Vols too many open shots in the middle of the zone, especially at the start. In the first half, UT shot 55.6 percent from the field and got into a rhythm offensively while building a 14-point lead.
The Huskies have the potential to be a terrorizing defensive unit. They entered the game leading the nation with 11 blocks per game and finished with four, including two from backup forward Sam Timmins. No doubt Hopkins made it a priority to slow down Tennessee’s backcourt of Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, who are two of the most prolific perimeter shooters in school history. UT made just 6 of 13 three-pointers.
However, Washington left the middle of the zone open and UT big men Yves Pons and John Fulkerson combined for 29 points. Adding to injury, Bowden was still able to make three 3-pointers while scoring a team-high 18 points and Turner hurt the Huskies at the free throw line while making 9 of 11 en route to 16 points.