Huskies win on road, perhaps four more times?

The University of Washington men's basketball team beat the University of New Mexico, moving to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
The University of Washington men's basketball team beat the University of New Mexico, moving to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

The Washington Huskies won their first road game of the season on Feb. 23. Since then they've triumphed in all eight away games. After riding an apparent month-long sugar high into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Saturday (March 20), 'ꀜjust'ꀝ four more road wins would give them the national championship.

The 82-64 blow-out of the New Mexico Lobos, ranked eighth in the nation coming into the tournament, has some believing a championship actually could happen.

Unfortunately, the UW, along with most of the 16 surviving teams, may face nearly an exponential progression as far as the level of competition (though, with the early exit of number-one-seed Kansas Saturday, who knows?).

But the Huskies by-Dawg can play on the road now and they know it.

In Pullman on Feb. 27 they beat a Coug team despite typically high anti-Husky sentiment. How high? That day Washington State patrons put a purple-and-gold-painted vintage Pontiac on campus and attracted obliging members of the Wazzu posse to beat it with a sledge hammer.

The next week, the Huskies answered their last chance to play at the University of Oregon McArthur Court 'ꀜPit'ꀝ with a 14-point beat-down of the Ducks. During the next week they defeated Oregon State both in Corvallis and Los Angeles, then stayed in L.A. for two extra days to put away Stanford and Cal.

I got a text from a friend when the Dawgs were down by 15 during the second half of the Thursday (March 18) Marquette game.

"They're freaking toast," was the message, and I agreed.

A half hour later they'd won by a couple and were a victory from the Sweet Sixteen.

Few expect the Huskies to become national champs. The greatest worry among many partisans has been that the Dawgs, with an exemplary bench to go along with tested starters, might not mature enough this year so that a team losing just one senior might be ready to display greatness next season.

Maturity is evident, even though greatness scarcely is guaranteed. Much of the credit for the late-season turnaround belongs to coach Lorenzo Romar, who could moonlight as an eye doctor the way he's brought focus to his team.

"I think they didn't have focus early (in the season)," broadcast color man Bob Wenzel said when the Dawgs were up by 14 with 16 minutes left against New Mexico. "I think they have focus now."

As though on cue, the Huskies popped a three-ball and were up by 17. Two minutes later the spread was 21.

The good news early during this season was that the Huskies were playing at home. Now the best that can be said is that they'ꀙve got another road game . . . or maybe four?


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