It’s appropriate that the new corporate moniker for what sufficed for decades as Hec Edmundson Pavilion is Alaska Airlines Arena. The University of Washington men’s team that plays there flies, or often seems to.
For a time Saturday (Jan. 22), however, the Huskies landed . . . with a thud. The club went into the home game against Arizona State 6-1 in league and 14-4 overall. But the Sun Devils, just 1-5 in the conference coming in, were undaunted by the Dawgs and, like other Pac-10 competitors this season, seemed to save their best effort for the league leaders. UW led by just two with five minutes left before pulling away to an 88-75 victory.
The Huskies are strong enough this season that they seemingly can use the conference schedule to practice for the postseason. At 15-4 with five remaining home games (six if you count a Feb. 22 tip-off against Seattle U. at KeyArena) they’re already a mortal lock for a spot in the NCAA tournament, probably with a high seeding, maybe even a number one.
The Dawgs’ one league loss was a two-point lapse at Stanford that never should have happened, not with a seven-point lead with seven minutes left. Perhaps to assert their supremacy they followed the Stanford collapse with a 21-point road trouncing of Cal.
A problem for Dawg competitors is that the Huskies seem to be 10 players deep. They can play a big but athletic contingent or a smaller, faster five.
Their best asset, junior Isaiah Thomas, has become a superb point guard who sees the flow on the floor like a seasoned pro and passes magically. He also plays shooting guard when needed, frustrating defenders with an outside game as well as penetration ability reminiscent of the great Nate Robinson, who bequeathed to Thomas the No. 2 jersey.
Maybe Thomas should’ve lofted a few more long balls against ASU. The Huskies shot from the outside like they were blindfolded, hitting just three of 10 each half. It was the main factor in the Sun Devils staying alive late in the game and needs to improve if the Dawgs expect to beat a capable Washington State team in Pullman next week.
In the absence of three-balls it fell upon Matthew Bryan-Amaning to score inside. The senior forward had his highest-ever point total at 30.
The success of the men’s team comes as the women’s record has disappointed fans. Tia Jackson’s legions obviously play at the same airline-named arena but they haven’t gotten off the runway this season, taking an 8-9 record into Arizona Saturday.
A Monday (Jan. 24) dinner gathering had been planned at the UW Club as an opportunity to broach with the public the topic of Husky women’s sports programs. The event was anticipated by some of us who signed up early, though, alas, not enough did; the event was canceled three days prior for lack of interest.
The men’s program has been such a success that many don’t even seem to bring up anymore the fact that a Husky player is being investigated about allegations of having raped a 16-year-old girl. While untold hundreds seem certain about the identity of the athlete (I’ve heard the same name from at least four professional journalists, maybe 40 fans and a Washington defense attorney), the player hasn’t been cited publicly.
Apparently undistracted, then, the team plays on at Alaska Airlines Arena, flying high, albeit, under the proverbial radar as far as one team member is concerned.