By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Already missing two of their frontline players for Sunday’s game against Seattle University, the University of Washington’s men’s basketball team suffered the loss of another big man in the early minutes against the Redhawks.
And this injury might be the most serious of all.
Washington forward Jernard Jarreau had to be helped from the court after suffering an apparently serious knee injury when he was undercut on a breakaway layin attempt. Jarreau was hit from behind by Seattle guard Isiah Umipig — it was not a dirty play, but it was darn reckless and certainly foolish, and Umipig was rightly assessed a flagrant foul — at the 18:25 mark of the first half.
For the rest of the game, Washington had to play essentially a four-guard offense, with Shawn Kemp Jr. and transfer Gilles Dierickx sharing time as the team’s sole big man. But in a hard-fought, sometimes rag-tag game at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies prevailed over their cross-city rivals, 88-78, in the regular-season opener for both teams.
“Down the road, people will look back and see that we won this game,” said UW head coach Lorenzo Romar. “But I don’t think people will understand how big a win this was for us.
“We’ve had games on the big stage in the past where we’ve come through, but in terms of pulling a game out when the chips were really down, our guys never got down on themselves or frustrated. It was one of the most special wins for me as head coach since I’ve been here.”
The Huskies were playing without forward Perris Blackwell, who suffered a concussion in Wednesday’s 95-65 exhibition victory over Central Washington, and forward Desmond Simmons, who injured his knee in the same game.
Blackwell will likely play in Washington’s next game, a Thursday night home game against UC-Irvine, while Simmons had surgery on Thursday and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
Against Seattle, the loss of Jarreau seemed to unsettle the Huskies for a stretch of several minutes. The lull allowed the Redhawks to push to a 10-point lead, 28-18, with six minutes to go in the first half.
But the Huskies rallied with 13 straight points and a 24-5 scoring burst to close the first half. Senior guard C.J. Wilcox was a big part of the flurry as he shrugged off a slow start — Wilcox missed his first five shots from the field — to close the half with a flourish, converting a three-point play in the late minutes and then adding two 3-point goals in the last minute.
Seattle, coached by former UW assistant Cameron Dollar, drew into a 44-44 tie early in the second half, but from there Washington pulled out to a lead that was in double digits for most of the game’s final 10 minutes.
“Our guys weathered the storm,” Romar said. “I was very proud of them tonight.”
Wilcox finished with a team-high 22 points and added seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Andrew Andrews contributed 21 points while guard Darin Johnson, a promising freshman, chipped in 16 points and seven rebounds. Junior Mike Anderson, a community college transfer, added 12 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
Romar said he knew nothing about the severity of Jarreau’s injury, but expects to find out more today.