The two biggest factors that we were able to win were the turnover battle and getting to the free throw line. On the shoulders of Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies got to the line 14 more times than the Raiders did, and were able to score 12 more points from the stripe. That's the difference in the game right there. Isaiah Thomas was heroic, getting to the line 18 times and hitting 14, which is huge. If he can keep hitting them at that percentage (obviously he's not going to be taking 18 every game) then the Dawgs are going to have little trouble putting opponents away toward the end of games.
The Huskies defense managed a +7 margin in turnovers, with both Quincy Pondexter and Venoy Overton getting 3 steals. Those extra possessions were critical in deciding the outcome of this game.
Offensive rebounding was basically a push, with the Huskies getting one more than the Raiders. Which, I might add, is unacceptable. Yes, Jon Brockman is gone. But that doesn't mean this team changes the way it plays. If the Huskies aren't going to pound the offensive glass like they've done year in and year out for the past five years, then kiss back to back Pac-10 titles goodbye.
As I said in my preview, Wright State was not an ideal team to open up against. They're going to be very good this year and have a shot at winning the Horizon League title. But because we played a quality opponent, we are able to look at more meaningful data than most teams can in their first game. The Huskies were lucky to come away with a victory in this one, and I really believe that if WSU had all of their players they probably would have taken this one. I expect them to compete for the Horizon League title, but that doesn't mean that they should be able to play with UW. If these teams were to play each other 3 months from now, my gut tells me the Huskies win by 20, but that's 100% dependent on them finding an interior identity. Matthew Bryan Amaning and Darnell Gant were underwhelming in this game. Yes, I know it's only one game, but it sure felt like they hadn't progressed a whole lot and weren't much different from what they were last year. Breshers again looked like he could be the UW's best interior presence, but I don't think we can wait until he gets back into playing shape for that to happen. If we were just content with making the tournament that would be fine, but I think I speak for everybody when I say that that "just making the tournament" isn't good enough. There's too much talent on this team for that. One of these three four star recruits needs to step up and TAKE the paint from the opposition. If MBA and Gant aren't going to do it in their 20 minutes a night, then Breshers needs to be the man and clean house when he's on the floor, even if it's only for 10 minutes.
Player of the Game:
Isaiah Thomas, without question. He made big shots, got to the line and knocked down treys, finishing with a career high 30 points. The biggest part of his game was getting to the line 18(!) times and knocking down 14 of them. While it's probably not the last time Isaiah will crack 30, it's not something that the Huskies should rely on. He's always going to score (he's a scorer, that's what he does), but this team needs a couple of other consistent options to step forward and take the burden from him.
Abdul Gaddy looked too passive. He made a few really nice passes and probably should have had 3 or 4 assists if guys had finished, but he's got to look at what Overton and Thomas are doing. They're putting their heads down and telling the defense that the ball is going in the hoop unless somebody stops them. Right now Gaddy seems content to just rotate the ball around the perimeter and take a couple dribbles toward the basket, but never really enter attack mode. That needs to change. Maybe if was first game butterflies, or wanting to be too much of a team player, but he needs to get that killer instinct back in him quick. I saw him play in high school. I know it's there.
Elston Turner is probably the team's best shooter. He shot the ball just once. I personally don't want to have to wait until March for him to begin to be an offensive threat like last year. If he has any daylight, he should be shooting. If he can get it, he should put up a shot fake, take a couple steps in and hit an 18 footer. He doesn't have to jack up shots all night, he just needs to stretch the floor like he did in the postseason last year. It's there. We've seen it. But if he doesn't assert himself Scott Suggs is going to take his minutes from him
Which brings me to Scott Suggs. Romar has done nothing but gush about Suggs since he stepped on campus, yet when he checked into the game in the first few minutes I was a bit surprised. I didn't think there would be many minutes for him this season, but if he plays like he did last night there's going to be plenty of time for him. He didn't force the ball, scored inside and out and flashed the talent we've heard so much about. The beauty of Scott Suggs is that as a 6-6 guard, he presents matchup problems for opponents and it showed against Wright State. Any coach or fan will take an uncontested layup every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Suggs might have the highest ceiling of any Husky outside of Abdul Gaddy, and his play was a step in the right direction.
The defense needs work still. Romar's defensive rotation is not an easy thing to learn, and to even diehard fans often looks like a Chinese fire drill, with players running around trying to find a someone to guard. But when it's run well the switches and rotations look much more smooth than they did last night. Last year's Husky team was very good defensively, and this team could be better on that end of the floor. Once the younger guys (notably Gaddy, Breshers and Suggs) get it down they'll be fine, but how long is that going to take? If I were Lorenzo Romar, that would be my primary focus, especially for these first three games.
Right now Quincy Pondexter is the team's biggest problem. Not in the way he's playing, but where he's playing. He's announced as a guard, which is fine. Announce him as the Queen of England for all I care, but right now he's the team's best post player. He needs to be in the paint. You can call it what you want, but if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and acts like a duck, well then it's a duck. He had three times as many rebounds as any other Husky, and was one shy of a double double. I'm not saying he has to play 5 feet from the basket with his back to it every possession, but does anybody else remember the way Brandon Roy was used during his senior year? He had similar size and skill set to Pondexter's and got the ball around the free throw line consistently. And he was unguardable from there. He could shoot gimme jumpers, drive, or turn around and back smaller defenders down. That's how Pondexter should be used. If he's worried about the NBA, how is Brandon Roy doing?
A win is a win, especially against a good team. But there's certainly a lot that this team can improve on.