Two elite freshmen big men and one basketball.
Many college teams logically might have trouble making this dynamic work. Players need to get their touches, you know. NBA scouts might be watching. Ego plays a part in it, too.
Six games into the season, Washington has only thrived in putting Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels on the floor together, and the San Diego Toreros can attest to this better than anyone so far after losing 88-69 on Sunday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Working seamlessly and unselfishly in tandem, Stewart and McDaniels combined for 24 of the Huskies' first 41 points to build an 11-point halftime lead--and it only got worse after that.
Accepting feeds inside and fiercely creating his own space, Stewart led all scorers with a career-high 25 points. He had three dunks, a putback on his own missed dunk and a tip-in among his assortment of field goals.
The more laid-back McDaniels sank the Huskies' first 3-pointer in two games and ran the floor unheeded for his points, finishing with a career-best 20. His range of baskets included jumpers, drives and a putback of his missed dunk.
"I feel like us being unselfish as a team helps and the shots were just dropping for us," said McDaniels, who carries a distinctive 'Federal Way' tattoo on his right shoulder. "It was just our night."
Just imagine how effective this pairing might be once Pac-12 play begins, when they have considerable more college experience under their belts.
With 6:55 left in the game, the first-year UW players, both 6-foot-9, were at their unified best while racing down the floor on a well-choreagraphed fast break.
McDaniels led the sprint, gave up the ball to Quade Green and soared to the basket with his hand raised in what appeared to be a clever feint to draw defenders to him.
Following closely behind, Stewart received the ball on cue and slammed it home for his final points of the evening.
"We shared the ball a lot but I feel we can do better for sure," Stewart said.
The Huskies toyed with San Diego (2-5) for the game's first 17 minutes, before closing the half with a 12-2 run. Stewart and McDaniels combined for 9 of them.
Stewart, playing 29 minutes or double the amount he was permitted the game before against Montana, hit on 10 of 18 shots, and sank 5 of 7 from the foul line.
McDaniels connected on 7 of 10 shots, 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
"When you watched him play in high school, he was so unselfish, you wanted him to shoot more," UW coach Mike Hopkins said of McDaniels. "The same thing with Isaiah. They're guys who are going to have long careers because they're winners."
Junior forward Naz Carter added 16 points and sophomore point guard Quade Green supplied a season-high 10 assists for the Huskies. Hopkins again unloaded the bench, playing 17 guys.
After getting shut out in treys against Montana, the Huskies found the range, connecting on 7 of 17.
"It's going to be fun to work with these guys," Hopkins said. "They took more baby steps. They still have a long ways to go."