C.J. Wilcox knocked down 22 points and Abdul Gaddy added 17 as the Washington Huskies, jittery from the opening tip, began their 2012-13 season with an 85-63 victory over the surprisingly tough Loyola (MD.) Greyhounds Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena in the first round of the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic.
Minus Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, underclassmen who declared for the NBA draft last spring (both went in the first round), the Huskies drifted around in the first half and looked nothing like a potential postseason team. But UW busted loose in the second and won the game going away.
Leading only 33-31 at intermission, and lucky to have the lead against their Metro Atlantic Conference foe, the Huskies slowly pulled away and turned the game into a rout in the final five minutes. The difference: turnovers and 3-point shooting.
Washington committed 11 turnovers that led to 10 Loyola points in the first half, but turned the ball over just once in the second half to separate from Loyola, which made the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Huskies made just three of 10 3-pointers in the first half, but connected on six of seven in the second.
Washington is 9-2 in season openers under coach Lorenzo Romar, whose club will face the the University of Albany in the second round of the tourney Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
When Ross (Toronto) and Wroten (Memphis) went to the NBA, they took with them 45 percent of Washington's scoring offense from a year ago. If the first game of the season is any indication, Wilcox and Gaddy are the designated scoring replacements, with Scott Suggs also in the conversation.
Wilcox hit nine of 13 shots, including four of five from 3-point range, and added six rebounds and a blocked shot. Gaddy, more of an assist man than a scorer, made six of 10 shots and added three rebounds and three assists.
Suggs might have been Washington's leading scorer if he hadn't sat out a good portion of the first half after collecting three fouls. When he picked up his third, he had hit three of his four shots and scored seven points. He finished with 15 points after not committing a foul in the final 20 minutes.
Aziz N'Diaye also had a significant game for the Huskies, scoring 10 points and pulling down a career-high 16 rebounds. He also blocked three shots.
Wilcox scored seven as the Huskies jumped out to an 11-7 lead. Loyola tied it at 11 with 9:43 to play and took its first lead at 14-13 with 8:12 to play. The teams played evenly throughout the first half, the Greyhounds staying close because they outscored the Huskies 20-12 in the paint.
The Huskies began to assert themselves at the start of the second half. Gaddy gave the Huskies a 36-33 lead with three-pointer, then N'Diaye hit a baseline jumper for a 38-33 margin. Washington opened a seven-point lead at 42-35 with 15:57 to play, and extended it to 45-37, then 48-39 and then to 55-44 with nine minutes left.
The Huskies shot 54 percent from the floor, 52.9 percent from 3-point range, 73.3 percent from the line and out-rebounded Loyola 34-30.
Dylon Cormier led Loyola with 19 points and Erik Etherly had 15.
The Great Danes lost their first game in the tourney, falling to No. 4 Ohio State 82-60 in Columbus. Albany is 1-1 after opening with a big win over Binghamton.
Following Tuesday's game, the Huskies will continue tourney play, only on the East Coast. Saturday, the Huskies will face Seton Hall in Uncasville, CT., and Sunday will play the winner of Ohio-Rhode Island.