As the game wound down Saturday (Feb. 14), some of us at Hec Edmundson Pavilion dared to wonder whether the University of Washington men’s basketball team could put a triple-digit finish to the Valentines Day lovefest that had Cupid-struck fans swooning.
Then there were those of us who thought 200 points might have been possible, if only the Huskies could score from the two- to three-foot range. Getting easy buckets from underneath the basket has been the hard part for a club that otherwise has gotten the rest of its game together. The getting-together has resulted in a 19-6 overall record and a 10-3 mark in league play. A long-weekend sweep of the Oregon teams leaves the top Dawgs alone at the conference apex and gives the Huskies as good a chance as any of the league’s five best programs to become the regular-season conference champ.
Not everybody was ecstatic Saturday afternoon. Marquee star Jon Brockman told radio announcers that he’s been feeling a little “grouchy” and “grumpy” about his team’s tendency to take lapses during games. Coach Lorenzo Romar noted that he was particularly alarmed that a Husky club leading 49-25 at halftime actually would be outscored by five during a second half featuring 10 three-pointers by a lame flock of Oregon Ducks still awaiting a conference win.
Brockman warned of approaching let-downs when his team travels to Los Angeles in a few days to take on a pair of desperate opponents, especially UCLA, loser of both its recent games in Arizona. Whether they acknowledge it in public, Husky personnel are well aware that they’re NCAA tournament-bound, especially given a remaining schedule with at least one gimme win (against Seattle University) and maybe even five or six more. Given a few more victories, a five or six seed in the tournament seems likely.
The Dawgs beat the Oregon teams by equal margins (79-60 against Oregon State, 103-84 against Oregon), but the approaches were different. Against the Beavers Thursday night Brockman took just three shots from the floor and had a mere five rebounds, none on offense. Two days later the Huskies showed scoring balance, with Brockman picking off 18 rebounds while he and three others tallied at least 20 points.
And yet, with one exception, the Huskies couldn’t seem to score with a two-footer or a put-back shot. The exception, as usual, was lefty freshman phenom Isaiah Thomas, who repeatedly broke through Duck defenders to put up his patented port-side lay-up. The one-time Curtis High (University Place) star has mastered playing the lay-in by extending his arm wide as if it’s a hook shot. It prevents defenders from blocking the ball and no doubt frustrates opponents and their coaches. Thomas led Husky scoring with 24.
Brockman said the 100-plus Valentine's Day effort (the Dawgs also had 105 during the season-opener against Western Washington) "really shows we can attack from different areas and we have a lot of different guys who can put the ball in the hoop.” Certain fans, while love-struck about the Huskies and equally smitten with getting to vent their enmity for all things Oregon, no doubt wish those “different areas” included the areas within a few feet of the basket.
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