Washington didn't have a lot they could prove against D-II Alaska-Fairbanks in an exhibition on Montlake. But the Dawgs took care of business anyways leading by double digits nearly the entire way in a 95-64 victory.
In out first chance to see this new roster, Keion Brooks Jr. backed his man down and hit a hook shot to start it off. PJ Fuller nailed a 3 on the next possession and the Huskies took a quick 5-0 lead.
True freshman Keyon Menifield Jr. was one of the first off the bench and made an instant impact. He stole an inbounds pass and quickly laid it in. A few seconds later Noah Williams stole it and found Menifield streaking deep with a full-court bounce pass for another layup. Williams quickly did it himself with a steal and layup jumping the passing lane. It was a 6-0 run in less than 30 seconds to put UW up 15-2 as Fairbanks called timeout.
On every steal or Fairbanks missed shot the Huskies tried to push the ball for a dunk or layup. That led to several turnovers on ambitious plays and Fairbanks finally hit a few contested jump shots to make things slightly more competitive. Still, Franck Kepnang and Keion Brooks Jr. were able to get a dunk any time they caught the ball near the basket with their size advantages.
Things moved quickly with no free throws granted until more than 10 minutes into the game. Any Fairbanks drive resulted in a steal or blocked shot while UW's drives were generally uncontested dunks.
Eventually though Fairbanks finally learned not to challenge UW's length inside and then started relying more on their jump shot. That approach worked as a couple of 3's and no Husky fast break points closed the gap a little. Washington went to halftime up 43-27 led by Keion Brooks' 12 points.
Washington's long range shooting got off to a better start in the 2nd half with early 3's by Jamal Bey and PJ Fuller. Braxton Meah split a pair of free throws after having a potential and-1 layup rim out to push UW's lead up to 20 at 50-30.
Washington went back to being overly sloppy for a few minutes after that. First Keyon Menifield overthrew a lob to a not open Franck Kepnang for a turnover which turned into an and-1 layup for Fairbanks. Then Noah Williams got stuck in the air and Fairbanks intercepted an attempted wrap around to Kepnang for another fastbreak and-1 layup. Mike Hopkins unsurprisingly called a timeout. Fairbanks answered with a fadeaway baseline jumper and an open 3-pointer over Jamal Bey to cut it to 58-42. Hop called another timeout very frustrated with the defensive intensity lapsing.
Keion Brooks helped end the run by hitting a tough step back corner 3-pointer. But after an airballed Brooks corner 3 attempt the Nanooks were able to answer with a 3 of their own. UW got back to basics at that point and Braxton Meah converted a pair of alley-oops pushing the lead back to 20 and prompting a Fairbanks timeout. PJ Fuller showed this game mattered to him diving on the floor twice in the same possession to ultimately force a turnover which led to a Noah Williams layup.
Langston Wilson got in the game for the first time in the 2nd half with about 8 minutes remaining and instantly had a thunderous put back slam to put UW up 25. Washington eventually extended the lead past 30 before Fairbanks hit a few 3's and pulled back the margin a little bit. With just over 4 minutes left there was a brief scare as Franck Kepnang rolled his ankle and limped back to the locker room. He returned to the bench though a few minutes later.
Koren Johnson missed a pair of FTs but hit a 3-pointer in the final minute to make up for it. Walk-on Kyle Luttinen got in the game late and also hit a 3 plus assisted on a Johnson layup following a steal to close the game on an 8-0 run in the final seconds.
Keion Brooks Jr. finished with a team-high 19 points while Noah Williams stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, 10 assists, 6 steals, and 5 rebounds. Keyon Menifield Jr. had 12 points off the bench. Alaska-Fairbanks shot 44% from 3 to keep it as close as they did and were led by Seattle Prep alum Tyler Mrus' 20 points. Washington finished with 16 steals.
The most interesting things to learn from an exhibition like this are the rotations and general defensive philosophy. The first surprise came right off the bat with Fresno State transfer Braxton Meah starting at center rather than Oregon transfer Franck Kepnang. Both played extensively and we could end up seeing something close to a 50/50 split at that position regardless of who starts.
Cole Bajema wasn't in attendance and obviously therefore didn't play. He and Sam Ariyibi were the only scholarship players not to get in the game. Ariyibi had already been announced as out for the season with an injury but we'll have to wait and see what the situation is with Cole. (EDIT: Apparently the broadcast said he was out with an illness so hopefully he should be back for the opener next week).
The first two players off the bench were Kepnang and true freshman guard Keyon Menifield Jr. Menifield was advertised as a dynamic scorer and very skinny and both look true. If his defense is able to hold up he looks like he could carve out some space in the rotation as the 3rd guard. Langston Wilson was next off the bench followed by the other true freshman guard Koren Johnson. Finally, we saw Jackson Grant and true freshman forward Tyler Linhardt as the last ones in the game in the first half. Wilson played with either Kepnang or Meah but Grant got most of his minutes at center.
It was also interesting that we saw none of UW's typical zone defense. Comments at Media Day suggested players were a little slow to pick up the zone. I thought that would mean working through it in the exhibition but instead they went 100% man. We'll see how that carries over to the regular season next week if they choose to start playing mostly man and mix in zone or do the reverse.
Washington starts off the regular season on Monday night hosting Weber State.