When he played the game, Steve Alford was a hot-shooting guard who could put the ball in the basket, so well that he made a national champion out of the Indiana Hoosiers.
On Tuesday at the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Alford, now the Nevada basketball coach, showed he knows how to keep it from going in, too.
His Wolf Pack allowed Washington’s high-scoring guard Terrell Brown Jr. to get his points but bottled up the rest of the Huskies and left town with an 81-62 victory on the final night at the Sanford Pentagon.
After a pair of encouraging outings, the Huskies (4-3) turned in a noticeably flat performance, unable to respond as a two-point halftime deficit eventually really got away from them.
Coming off 23- and 32-point scoring outputs, Brown was limited somewhat to 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting. In three nights in Middle America, the 6-foot-3 Arizona transfer scored 74 points by hitting a dazzling array of field goals, overall sinking 27 of 46 shots.
Yet on this final outing in the Pentagon, he got almost no help at all from the rest of Mike Hopkins’ cast. After games of 21 and 14 points, reserve guard PJ Fuller was limited to 3 points on 1-of-7 shooting by the Wolf Pack.
No other Husky reached double figures against Nevada (3-4).
The UW was overly familiar with Alford, but hadn’t seen him in a competitive setting since 2018 when he was fired as the UCLA coach after six seasons.
On this night, he effectively mixed up his defenses, switching from a 2-1-2 zone to man and back, and it seemed to bother the Huskies who shot just 37.3 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the line.
Alford got big scoring nights out of guards Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge, who came up with 23 and 21, points respectively. He received solid inside production from 7-foot center Warren Washington, a former Oregon State player who chipped in 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Yet after beginning the season 1-4, Alford’s best move might have been tossing 6-7 forward A.J. Bramah off the team in the middle of this tournament. The Robert Morris transfer, who was averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, was dropped for what the school said was conduct detrimental to the team.
The Wolf Pack seemed to respond well to this personnel move. They definitely were a different group after losing their tourney opener to South Dakota State 102-75, a team the Huskies easily handled 87-76 on Tuesday.
Hopkins, while registering a positive outlook after this 2-1 road trip, still needs to establish some sort of inside presence to be more than a break-even team and be able to stay competitive in a far more formidable Pac-12.
His big man, 6-foot-11 junior Nate Roberts, supplied just 12 points and 14 rebounds in the three South Dakota games. Without a scoring threat inside, the UW often finds itself playing 4-on-5 going up and down the floor.
Jackson Grant, a 6-foot-10 true freshman and McDonald’s All-American, showed off a decent-looking outside shot with plenty of range on this trip while he slowly acclimates to the collegiate game. He had a 4-point, 6-rebound game against South Dakota State, which was encouraging. Yet he’s not there yet to take more minutes and even the starting spot away from Roberts.
The Huskies return home to face Winthrop (2-3) on Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena. It’s their last tune-up before they face some real heavy hitters in 17th-ranked Arizona (5-0), second-rated UCLA (5-2) and top-ranked Gonzaga (6-0) in consecutive outings in early December.
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