By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It seemed like old times at KeyArena on Thursday night.
And not just because Shawn Kemp was throwing down a dunk eight minutes into the game.
The University of Washington men’s basketball team was back to its old tricks, hammering a crosstown school that continues to fail to prove worthy of the rivalry label in an 87-74 victory over Seattle University.
The Huskies (5-4) led wire to wire and held a double-digit lead from the 9:55 mark of the first half to the final buzzer, re-asserting themselves as the best men’s basketball program in the city of Seattle along the way. The Redhawks’ official jump to NCAA Division I gave no indication that the gap between programs was closing, particularly during a 21-2 UW run that turned the game into laugher midway through the first half.
Seattle U. (3-4) couldn’t even hit the easy ones, missing eight of its first nine free throws while falling behind 49-27 at the half. Leading scorer Clarence Trent, a transfer from UW, collected three fouls in the opening 13 minutes and finished with 12 points.
UW, meanwhile, was operating under the anti-Murphy’s Law in that everything could go right did. Reserve guard Hikeem Stewart hit his first two shots to score twice as many points in a five-minute span (four) as he had in the first eight games of the season combined. Offensively challenged big man Aziz N’Diaye led all scorers with 12 first-half points, making six of seven shots.
The Huskies’ transition game was at a season-high, with several uncontested dunks — including one by Shawn Kemp Jr. to spark the 21-2 first-half run — and UW shot a blistering 64.3 percent from the field during the opening 20 minutes.
“Our biggest focus was making sure we were dialed in at the tip,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward. “I thought our guys did a tremendous job of coming out ready to play in a businesslike fashion.”
It marked UW’s eighth consecutive win over Seattle U., and five of those victories have come by margins of 20-plus points.
This time around, the Huskies used a renewed focus on defense to put SU away early. The most visible UW celebrations came after C.J. Wilcox blocked a shot and Scott Suggs forced a five-second violation. The Redhawks needed a mini-run at the end of the first half just to crack 30 percent shooting for the half.
Seattle U. showed some fight early in the second half, using a press-inspired spurt of 11-2 to get within 13 points before the Huskies bloated their lead above the 20-point mark again shortly thereafter.
Scott Suggs led the Huskies with a career-high 24 points, despite playing through cramps in the second half, while senior point guard Abdul Gaddy played all 40 minutes, scoring seven points. An injury to freshman Andrew Andrews left the Huskies with one true point guard — not including walk-on Dion Overstreet, a transfer from Edmonds Community College who played the final 30 seconds.
N’Diaye matched a season high with 14 points and added 11 rebounds.
Stewart had the finest game of his UW career, with six points, but landed awkwardly on a Seattle U. defender with 1:45 remaining and appeared to suffer a serious knee injury. Gaddy and a team trainer had to help him off the court, but Stewart was walking on his own after the game and Romar said he “is going to be fine” after hyper-extending the knee.
That was one of the few lowlights for UW on Thursday night, when order was upheld in the crosstown showdown.
“With the exception of five or six minutes in the second half,” Romar said, “I thought we played pretty good basketball.”