So this is what Washington’s offense is supposed to look like.
Jaden McDaniels drilled long jumpers. Nahziah Carter flashed to the rim for fast break buckets. And Isaiah Stewart bullied past defenders in the post.
After sputtering and sometimes stalling through the first two weeks of the season, the 25th-ranked Huskies finally put together a cohesive performance in which their three stars shined in unison and overwhelmed San Diego 88-69 for their third straight win.
In front of 8,537 at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday night, Washington (5-1) delivered it’s most dominant outing and showcased the explosive fireworks of a team brimming with offensive potential.
“We’ve seen it in practice, but we just haven’t had it in a game, coach Mike Hopkins said. “We had eight minutes in Alaska (against Baylor) and a couple of other moments but for longer periods of time today we shared it. We moved better. We pushed it in transition and we had better offensive rhythm.
“This team has a lot of potential there’s no getting around it. They were really good tonight.”
For the first time this season, Washington’s touted freshman forwards took turns carrying the Huskies – albeit in vastly different ways.
Stewart lived in the paint and used his muscular 6-foot-9, 250-pound-frame to power through defenders for an assortment of dunks, layups and a career-high 25 points. He converted 10 of 18 field goals, 5 of 7 free throws and a game-high tying seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
“He does everything right,” Hopkins said. “He’s a dream to coach. From the locker room, to encouraging guys, to challenging guys, to competing, to work ethic, to going to class and to taking care of your body.
“Check, check, check, check, check. He’s just special. That’s what makes him different. He’s a different kid.”
When Stewart wasn’t punishing San Diego inside, then McDaniels torched the Toreros with a series of daggers from downtown. The 6-9 sniper used his height to shoot over smaller defenders while connecting on 7 of 10 shots, including two 3-pointers for a career-high 20 points.
Any concern about the partnership between the two projected lottery picks in next year’s NBA draft disappeared at least for a night.
“I know Mac’s game inside out,” Stewart said when asked if he had any concerns sharing the limelight with McDaniels. “Playing against him and playing with him. He’s a great player. Toughest player I’ve played against in high school.
“When he gets in his spot, you let him go to work and do what he do. He’s a great passer so if he ever gets stuck, he’s always looking to pass it.”
And then the high-flying Carter dazzled once again while dashing around the Toreros for 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting, seven rebounds and two steals.
Through the first five games, Washington had been a disjointed bunch while breaking in four new starters. Their unfamiliarity with each other partly explained why UW entered Sunday’s game ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring (66.0) and first in turnovers (15.8).
Against San Diego, the Huskies blew past their season scoring average midway in the second half shortly after administering a knockout flurry.
Washington led 43-37 when Stewart, McDaniels and Carter combined for 15 points during an 18-3 run that broke the game open.
Stewart muscled in a short jumper despite being fouled and hit the ensuing free throw to start the spurt. Then McDaniels took over and scored seven straight points.
And Carter drained an open 3 before blowing past a USD defender for a layup that capped the decisive run and gave UW a 61-40 lead with 13:19 left.
“We’ll play better if we’re both on the same page and doing well, but it’s not just us,” McDaniels said referring to Stewart. “Everybody has to be on the same page. If everybody is clicking and everybody is being unselfish, then we can be hard to stop.”
Washington stretched its lead to 28 points and the lopsided victory gave Hopkins a chance to empty the bench for the second straight game.
In their previous outing, the Huskies were 0 for 11 on three-pointers, but this time they converted 7 of 17 shots behind the arc. UW also outscored USD 46-28 in the paint.
Under the direction of sophomore point guard Quade Green, who tallied 10 assists, Washington shot 57.9 percent from the field and had 20 assists on 33 field goals, while committing a season-low 10 turnovers.
Marion Humphrey scored a team-high 13 points and Jared Rodriguez added 12 for San Diego, which lost its third straight game and fell to 2-5.
McDaniels cautioned the Huskies still need time to gel while talking about his burgeoning on-court relationship with Stewart.
“We have to be patient because it’s not the same as high school,” McDaniels said. “We’re not the only people on our team. We have to find ways to create for each other and other teammates.”
Still, Hopkins called Sunday’s game a positive step in the right direction.
“We talk about the dance partners and they’re starting to get a rhythm with each other,” he said. “You’re starting to see a little bit more chemistry and that’s always a great thing.”
The Huskies are off for a week before continuing their seven-game homestand Dec. 2 against South Dakota State.