With no exhibition games on the preseason schedule, the 40-minute scrimmage with referees, game uniforms and a PA announcer was SU's closest thing to a dress rehearsal before its Nov. 10 regular-season opener at Washington.
While Dollar said the roster was divided "right down the middle," the only player on the White team you would have previously guessed is competing for a starting job was sophomore power forward Deshaun Sunderhaus. Assisted by senior point guard D'Vonne Pickett Jr. and sophomore center Jack Crook, Sunderhaus led the White team over the Black team 79-76 in front of a few dozen fans, friends, family and media.
"We prepared for this as though it were a real game," Dollar said afterward. "We had two different scouting reports. We had game plans for keys to the game, so we can go in and talk about what we executed well and what we didn't execute well. Just give them a little simulation of what's coming up next Sunday and as the season goes on."
Running an offense heavy on ball screens and effective in spreading the wealth, Pickett held his own in a head-to-head matchup with Cal State Fullerton transfer Isiah Umipig -- the man widely expected to be SU's starting point guard on opening night. While Umipig drained pull-up threes and showed a talent for creating his own shot that hasn't been seen on First Hill in a while, Pickett was an efficient floor general whose strength and quickness left an impression.
Sunderhaus started 26 out of 30 games last season as a redshirt freshman and was the Redhawks' leading rebounder (6.0 rpg), but he's not guaranteed a starting job. The biggest threats to his playing time are senior forward Clarence Trent (SU's leading scorer with 9.8 points per game last season) and junior-college transfer Shore Adenekan, who gave the Black team an athletic and active interior duo on Sunday. But Sunderhaus used superior positioning and some crafty post moves to anchor the White team inside.
As the primary screen-setter for Pickett in the White team's halfcourt sets, the 6-foot-11 Crook showed a reliable jump shot between 15 and 18 feet and was solid defensively.
After the first half went back and forth, Umipig opened the second half with two quick threes that put the Black team ahead by eight. They soon extended the margin to double-digits, but the White team rallied to take the lead. The White team was up by four with seven seconds left when Umipig tripped on his way to the basket and lost the ball, sealing the deal.
"I definitely think we're there," Pickett said of the Redhawks as a whole. "We have stuff to work on, and we'll have stuff to work on after the (UW) game, but as far as any team I've been a part of, this year we're ready. We've got depth, as you can see with this being a pretty even ballgame tonight."
Shooting guard Emerson Murray, a junior transfer from Cal-Berkeley who sat out last season, was wearing a walking boot and did not play. (He sat on the Black team's bench.) Dollar said Murray has a stress fracture and will be re-evaluated Wednesday.
Assistant coaches Pape Koundoul and Darren Talley guided the teams during the scrimmage, while Dollar took an overall view of the action from the scorer's table and occasionally jumped in with a few words for either side.
Dollar and Pickett admitted SU's defense wasn't where it should be -- "We were terrible on both sides," Pickett said -- but both praised the offensive ball movement and chemistry. With another week of practices to go before the opener (including a Saturday session at UW), whoever steps up defensively in the next few days may win themselves a spot in the starting five.
"It's good to get that first one out of your system," Dollar said. "Put your game jersey on, play with people in the stands, feel a little bit of that pressure under the lights. And it's good for the fans to see a preview of what will be in store this season.
"Obviously it's early in the year and there's a lot of work to be done, but we've got some good pieces. We're doing some things well already that it usually takes longer to do."