Sophomore forward Jernard Jarreau is comforted by Andrew Andrews after injuring his knee while driving to the hoop in the first half of Washington's 88-78 win over Seattle University.
Sophomore forward Jernard Jarreau is comforted by Andrew Andrews after injuring his knee while driving to the hoop in the first half of Washington's 88-78 win over Seattle University.Photo by Joshua Bessex
The season was less than two minutes old, and there was Jernard Jarreau, crumpled on the ground, a grimace on his face and his right knee in his hands.
The first game of a new year is always about promise and potential, and Jarreau, a sophomore, is full of both. He’s 6-foot-10 with plastic-man arms and the agility of a man eight inches shorter.
On Sunday morning, he had been ready to finally display the dividends of another offseason in the weight room and gym.
On Sunday night, he was writhing on the floor beneath the basket.
“The way he was reacting, I thought it was something serious,” senior guard C.J. Wilcox said. “We don’t really know what it is right now, but hopefully he can come back, because obviously we need him.”
Jarreau never returned, and he will undergo an MRI on the knee Monday. If he misses extended time, the UW could be in a pinch up front — two of the UW’s other forwards, Desmond Simmons and Perris Blackwell, were already sidelined with injuries.
Against Seattle U on Sunday, the loss of a third meant a new game plan. The Huskies had no choice but to go small, using Wilcox as a nominal power forward.
“We had practiced it a little bit,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “But C.J. was the only guy that could do it. It took us a while. We had to ad-lib a little bit.”
The Huskies were supposed to enter this season with a frontcourt deeper and more talented than in recent seasons. Transfers Gilles Dierickx and Blackwell are finally eligible. Jarreau is a year older and a year stronger. Juniors Shawn Kemp Jr. and Simmons are there to provide a spark on offense and defense, respectively.
And 95 seconds into the season, all that depth was a distant memory. It showed. The Huskies fell behind by 10 points midway through the first half, struggling to get good shots with unorthodox, four-guard lineups. At one point, they went to a five-guard look, in which the 6-foot-5 Wilcox was the tallest player on the floor.
Seattle U has been a pushover in years past, but that’s no longer the case. Former UW assistant and current Redhawk boss Cameron Dollar has his team primed to contend in the WAC. Star guard Isiah Umipig was on fire, pouring in 15 first-half points.
Yet despite it all, the Huskies slowly but surely turned the screws on the Redhawks.
In his debut, transfer Mike Anderson was a two-way force, scoring 12 points and locking down Umipig in the second half. Wilcox found his shooting stroke after a slow start. Down three big men and using lineups they never had before, the UW ended up coasting to a win that means more than most might think.
“Down the road, people will look back and see we won this game,” Romar said. “But I don’t think people understand how big a win this was for us. … It’s one of the more special wins for me as a head coach since I’ve been here.”
Special because it came in circumstances that were especially bad. It’s nice to know the Huskies can win a game like this, but one is enough. They’d rather not have to do it again.
Reach columnist Kevin Dowd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KevinDowd
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