The Huskies won a game! The men’s basketball team from the University of Washington played a 40-minute basketball game against an opponent from the Pac-12 and finished with more points than the opposition. Yes, after losing nine straight and 13 of 15, this singular achievement is news.
Before the win, UW had the same game they’ve had about ten times before against Stanford. They f ought hard early, entered halftime with the lead (37-35), kept it close into the second half, and then completely forgot how to put the ball through the basket. This time, it came in the form of a 21-5 Stanford run over a 14-minute stretch. As usual, Isaiah Stewart still managed a decent game despite constant double teams, Jaden McDaniels did something to highlight his immaturity (fouled out in 16 minutes), and the team collectively shot well under 40% (35.5%, to be precise).
But let’s not dwell on that loss any more than we have to. We have been down that road enough times this season. The Huskies finally bounced back with a dominant win over a very poor Cal squad. In a nice reversal, UW trailed 20-19 and exploded for a 24-5 run. The offense kept clicking all night in a way it hasn’t against major conference opponents. In spite of 17 turnovers, the Dawgs tallied their largest point total since they hosted Eastern Washington. The 87 points really stand out since UW had only reached 70 three times in 14 prior conference games. Marcus Tsohonis, Nahziah Carter, and Hameir Wright made 8-12 threes, Stewart and McDaniels both got to the line and made plays for others, and Sam Timmins continued his resurgence with a strong performance off the bench. No, Cal is not a good team and this win does not suddenly redeem the squad, but it’s nice to know they haven’t entirely given up.
On Friday, the Dawgs have a chance to redeem one of their more frustrating losses of the year. The previous loss to Cal was probably the worst from a quality of opponent standpoint, and the Oregon loss at home had fans pulling out their hair, but the hopeless loss in Pullman to Washington State is high on the list of bad losses. The Cougs come to Seattle losers of four straight. WSU continues to take care of the ball, led by a pure PG in Isaac Bonton, and force turnovers at a high rate. That’s a dangerous combo for the Dawgs, but UW will definitely enter the game with a considerable advantage in both size and pure talent.
The race at the top of the conference remains as tight as ever. Five teams- Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, and Arizona are within a game of each other atop the standings. Oregon and Arizona have received the most attention from that group all year. They faced off in Tucson last weekend and had a classic slugfest for the second time this season. Once again, the Ducks snatched away a game that looked like Arizona was about to win. Payton Pritchard carried the load with 38 points on 27 shots, but it was Shakur Juiston’s last second layup on a dish from Will Richardson that sealed it.
Arizona State started Pac-12 play 1-4, but they’ve won nine of ten since then to pull unexpectedly into first place. They swept the Oregon teams over the weekend including surprising the Ducks on their way to Tucson. They travel to Los Angeles this weekend for two tough road games. The one against an even more resurgent UCLA squad tonight might be the most important Pac-12 game of the weekend.
If it feels like this column keeps coming back to the Kansas Jayhawks week after week, that’s because they keep earning it. KU beat reigning #1 Baylor in Waco last week to avenge their only conference loss. I wrote last week that the determining factor in the game would be which team’s lead guards would be able to create decent looks against the dominant opposing defense. Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett ran pick and rolls for Udoka Azubuike all game and it ended with a 23 point, 19 rebound output for the seven-footer. While Baylor kept it close to the end with better distance shooting and more offensive rebounds, they had tougher looks all game and probably overachieved to keep it as close as the 64-61 final.
In addition to Baylor’s loss, Gonzaga couldn’t stop a hot-shooting BYU team on their home court. It was the Zags’ second loss and first in conference. Likewise, San Diego St. dropped their first game of the entire season against UNLV. Still, the national top five looks like someone pulled names out of a hat. After Kansas, it goes historical doormat Baylor and three mid-majors (Gonzaga, Dayton, SDSU).
Heading into the homestretch of conference season, it’s not just the Pac that has a cluster at the top of the standings. Maryland leads the Big-10 by two games, but Michigan State has a chance to cut that lead in half when they travel to College Park on Saturday. Kentucky also leads by two in the SEC and hosts second-place Auburn on Saturday before wrapping up with tough games against Tennessee and Florida. Seton Hall leads Villanova and Creighton by a game in the Big East but has to play both of their pursuers next week and travel to Marquette this weekend. Florida State did some of its work earlier this week with a decisive win over Louisville. If the Noles can win out over Clemson, Notre Dame, and Boston College, Leonard Hamilton will have himself a conference title. If not, the Cardinals and Blue Devils are nipping at their heels.
Who will win the Pac-12 regular season?
This poll is closed