By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Four minutes remained in Saturday’s home loss to Colorado State, the University of Washington men’s basketball team had fallen behind by 17 points and the fans were beginning to stream out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
At one point, UW’s new, fancy overhead scoreboard showed a shot of the students in the section known as the Dawg Pack, many of whom were silently staring at their cell phones, texting about their plans for the rest of the night.
It was a scene indicative of the Huskies’ early season, which already has had enough bumps to send fans bouncing off the UW bandwagon.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to get through the bad to get to the good,” senior point guard Abdul Gaddy said. “Now we know how bad we can be.”
The questions that have popped up through five games — two of them dismal losses at home — are plentiful, meaning tonight’s game against St. Louis University will be a search for answers.
Among the issues surrounding the Huskies (2-3) three weeks into the season:
n Rebounding: Coach Lorenzo Romar thought his team fixed this problem after UW gave up 19 offensive rebounds to Loyola (Md.) in the opener, and then Saturday’s game against Colorado State happened. The Rams out-rebounded the Huskies 45-21, with an excruciating 24 rebounds coming on the offensive end.
“We know what to do, and we have to go do it,” Romar said. “In years past, we’ve always had several guys that were able to do it. This year, there are some guys that have to come out of their comfort zone to go rebound the ball.”
Jernard Jarreau, a 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman starter, had just two rebounds in Saturday’s loss. “It’s something he’s going to have to get better at,” Romar said.
n Depth: Injuries to senior wing Scott Suggs and 6-foot-9 sophomore Shawn Kemp Jr. have left the Huskies with a thin bench that includes just three available scholarship players.
Romar conceded the lack of healthy players has affected the team on defense, where UW hasn’t been as aggressive as some of his recent teams and is relying more on zone than man-to-man.
“There are some adjustments that we have to make defensively while we have these guys out,” said Romar, who also admitted that this year’s team doesn’t have the on-ball defenders that recent UW teams have had. “To ask these guys to try to push the ball, to ask them to get out in attack mode defensively, it’s fine at first. But the second half, it just wears us down. So as much as I hate to do it, we’re going to have to make some adjustments there.”
n Secondary scorers: C.J. Wilcox scored 28 of UW’s 55 points in the loss to Colorado State, and the Huskies aren’t going anywhere unless they can find others who can help him on the offensive end.
Wilcox said the Huskies have enough scoring options “if the right people step up” and added that “with Scott (Suggs) in, it makes it a lot easier.”
Romar has said that the Huskies will immediately get better when Suggs and Kemp return — both should be back sometime in December — and hopes both can contribute significantly in terms of scoring and rebounding.
“I don’t know that all of a sudden they’re going to make us the No. 1 rebounding team in the league,” he said, “but we’ll have more bodies. We’ll have more depth, we’ll be able to rest guys more, and guys will be fresher. I think, as a result, we’ll rebound better.
“I also think that Shawn Kemp is potentially our best low-post scorer, and Scott Suggs is one of our top three scorers, we’re talking 20 to 25 points a game that those guys bring to the table when they’re playing.”
Yet UW’s problems run deeper than just getting back two players who aren’t necessarily considered all-conference performers. The Huskies are looking for players like 7-footer Aziz N’Diaye and backup guard Andrew Andrews to provide more offense, for better rebounding, and for more consistency from Gaddy.
Wilcox admitted that tonight’s game against St. Louis, which drubbed the Huskies 77-64 in a UW road game last season, could provide an opportunity to get things on track.
“It’s a good team,” he said, “especially after what they did to us last year. So I think this is a good game to get us going in the right direction.”
Wilcox added that the Huskies have “been looking forward to this game for awhile,” while Romar described UW’s performance in St. Louis last year as getting “ambushed.”
The Huskies would certainly like to get back at the Billikens (3-2), and yet UW has bigger issues heading into the 9 p.m. game tonight.
“We’re 2-3 right now, but anything can happen,” Gaddy said. “It can easily be turned around. But we could easily go to 2-6, which we don’t want to happen. We’ve just got to keep our heads up.”
Romar said Suggs (foot) will not be available for tonight’s game and added that the 6-5 swingman is “week-to-week” in terms of his availability. … Wilcox is nursing a bruised tailbone he suffered with just over a minute left in Saturday’s loss, but both he and Romar said he’ll play tonight. “It’s kind of sore,” he said. … St. Louis has been playing without star point guard Kwamain Mitchell, a senior who is out with a foot injury.