Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 at 04:20 PM
The Seattle University Redhawks wanted this to be the night they finally put the heat back into their rivalry with the Washington Huskies.
Instead, as guard D'Vonne Pickett Jr. said later: "When the game came, we kind of froze."
That allowed the Huskies to put this one on ice early, jumping out to a 27-point first-half lead and never being seriously threatened again in beating the Redhawks 87-74 in front of 6,137 at KeyArena.
UW never trailed and, while the Redhawks kept scrapping to the end, the game was never in doubt after the Huskies went on a 21-3 run over seven minutes of the first half.
It was the fifth straight win by the Huskies over Seattle U since the two teams began playing annually again in 2009, coinciding with the Redhawks' return to Division I.
A close Seattle U loss last year at UW (91-83) and a Husky team that has struggled out of the gate this season had some thinking this might be the time when the Redhawks could finally get the better of the Huskies.
But Seattle coach Cameron Dollar noticed trouble from the beginning.
"The first loose ball, they dove and we stood," he said. "We got spooked a little bit."
UW was coming off a disappointing loss to Nevada on Saturday night.
"They came out with great energy and emotion," Dollar said.
That was the plan, said UW coach Lorenzo Romar.
"Our biggest focus was making sure we were dialed in from the tip," Romar said. "And I thought our guys did a tremendous job of being ready to play and coming out in a businesslike manner against a really tough, physical, scrappy team."
Leading the way was senior Scott Suggs, who played what Romar said might have been his best game as a Husky, with a career-high 24 points. Suggs, despite battling through cramps in his legs and lower back, was one of five UW players in double figures.
The Huskies expertly handled Seattle U's full-court press, time and again breaking it with ease to set up layins and dunks.
"They broke our press really well," said Seattle U forward Chad Rasmussen, who led the Redhawks with 19 points. "That initial 10 minutes, they just beat us to the punch."
UW had just four turnovers in the first half and 12 for the game.
"Our guards did a lot of not holding on to the basketball and trying to dribble the ball through the press," Romar said. "I thought we moved the ball with the pass and we stayed spaced — we weren't getting bunched up."
And while the Huskies hit the floor a few times and even had a few players leave with varying injuries — none serious — they kept getting back up. No one more so than sophomore forward Desmond Simmons, who had 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
UW's biggest lead was 46-19 with 2:49 left in the first half before the Redhawks went on an 8-0 run to close to 49-27 at the break.
UW hit 18 of 28 field goals in the first half (64.3 percent) to 11 of 32 for the Redhawks (34.4). Seattle U also made just 2 of 12 free throws.
And while UW often scored at ease early, it was the offensive failures that most irked Dollar afterward.
"On the defensive side, they were all over us and we could barely move," he said. "We just couldn't execute anything on offense. ... That's on me. We've got to be able to do that."
Seattle U tried to make a game of it early in the second half, cutting the lead to 51-38 less than three minutes in. But a Suggs three-pointer quickly restored order as the lead again grew to as much as 21.
Romar later called the game the best effort of the year for UW, which improved to 5-4. The Huskies will try to build on the victory when they host Jackson State on Saturday.
Seattle U fell to 3-4 and also next plays against Jackson State, Monday at KeyArena.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @bcondotta
Attendance: 6,137. Officials: Randy McCall, Deron White, Sirallen Conner.
Jackson State @ UW, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The Huskies' Aziz N'Diaye powers into the lane for a slam dunk in the first half of Thursday's game against Seattle University at KeyArena.
DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Aziz N'Diaye is fouled as he attempts to enter the lane against the triple team of Seattle University's Chad Rasmussen (15), Deshaun Sunderhaus (11) and D'Vonne Pickett Jr.