Huskies basketball: Always thinking of others

This holiday season the University of Washington men’s basketball players seem, like many, to believe ’tis better to give than to receive. This afternoon, for example, the Dawgs gave Georgetown an extra 24 possessions on the way toward a 74-66 gift win for the Hoyas. The Huskies had recently awarded 20 and 19 turnovers to consecutive opponents, meaning perhaps they’re on a trajectory be giving it up 40 times a game by the time league play starts at home against Oregon State the final night of the year.

And yet, those who merely glanced at the final score or the Hoyas’ 30-29 halftime lead at a game played in Los Angeles as part of the John Wooden annual event could be convinced that this was a close contest. It was. Then Georgetown rode a 23-2 second-half run to garbage time and the Dawgs ran their record to 6-2.

It’s notable that UW’s losses both happened away from the comfort zone of the home court. The Dawgs now play seven of the next nine (through Jan. 16) at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, leading fans to suppose the record could (perhaps should) be at least 13-4 by then. This is because Seattle-area teams seem inordinately better at winning at home and nearly incapable of winning away games, even when they’re playing on a neutral court, as was the case against Georgetown.

But the Huskies’ woes scarcely end with a propensity to yield leads via turnovers. They also have a hard time scoring under the bucket, which has been a chronic affliction the past several years.

Yet, optimists must have been inspired by the idea that the Dawgs mounted an impressive first-half comeback to take a lead with a few seconds left in the period. The Georgetown 12-0 run to start the second half showed, among other things, that college-basketball rankings are a science right up there with water-witching and astrology. The Hoyas came in ranked 15th in the NCAA, with the Huskies at 17th. Neither looked top-25-caliber or, put another way: Certainly there were at least a few dozen clubs at game time Saturday better than these two groups.

Poll rankings, fortunately, mean much less in basketball than football, as the Dawgs proved by seizing a first seed in the 2005 NCAA tournament. This season they’re likely to make it to the tournament but the caliber of Pac-10 competition remains a mystery. The Huskies probably could qualify just by winning most of their remaining home games and a couple more on the road. That would put them at the magic 20-win mark.

Here again, they’re going to need to be a lot less prone to giving up the ball. Georgetown turned the ball over five fewer times and led substantially in free-throw conversions (largely because of deliberate Husky fouls late in the game).

Lorenzo Romar’s youngish club, with a measure of better discipline, should improve and maybe even repeat as Pac-10 regular-season champs. Maybe they just need to remember that, while gift-giving time is what we think of with “’tis the season,” they’ll need to be a lot less generous when their more important season starts New Years Eve.

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