Husky Defense Comes To Play
Dec. 5, 2004
by Mike Bruscas
While the Washington Huskies outscored the Eastern Washington Eagles on Sunday afternoon by an 89-56 spread, they also outworked, outhustled, and outmuscled their in-state rivals. The tenacious Dawgs held the Eagles to a paltry 41% shooting, a stark contrast to the 52% clip at which opponents had been connecting in UW's first five contests.
Utilizing constant pressure and quick hands in passing lanes, the Huskies forced the Eagles into a staggering 30 turnovers, including 14 UW thefts, and capitalized on the many Eastern miscues to the tune of 45 points off turnovers compared to just 16 for the Eagles. All this came despite the absence of one of Washington's best defensive stoppers, Hakeem Rollins, who was kept out as a precaution for knee tendinitis.
Leading the Huskies' defensive curtain were senior Tre Simmons and junior Jamaal Williams with four steals each. Williams also contributed two of UW's three blocked shots on the day, and credited the Huskies' hard week of preparation as the reason behind the defensive efforts.
'We've had tough practices the last two days. Our whole focus for this game was to come out and have good defensive pressure and try to improve from what we did last Wednesday,' said Williams.
The Huskies kept Eastern from ever seeming to find a comfort zone on offense. Washington's lead never dipped below 20 points after senior Will Conroy hit two free throws with 10:49 remaining in the first half, and as the game wore on Eastern's shooting percentage only continued to decline.
'One of the things we talked about was concentrating on defense and applying pressure for a whole 40 minutes and I think we came out and started to do that well,' Williams said. 'We had our lapses, but for the most part I think we were able to sustain our pressure and force them to play faster than they wanted to play.'
Eastern Washington Head Coach Mike Burns confirmed what the stats showed in the Husky win.
'Washington did a great job of getting out and making it extremely difficult to establish any offense,' said Burns. 'We told out guys that Washington plays with great meotion and if you can withstand those plays, then there will be some good shots available to you. If you can't withstand their initial wave, they are going to take the ball to the other end of the floor and get some great shots.'
Everyone knows the Huskies can light up the scoreboard. But if they can also flip the switch on defense as they did tonight, Washington will see the wins pile up.