For a basketball team that beat three worthy opponents in as many nights last year at about this time, the University of Washington men’s team on Saturday (Feb. 25) in Pullman didn’t look ready to win once during a 12-day span.
Consider that, on the way to a 59-55 “triumph,” the Dawgs found themselves down, with 11:58 to play, by 13 to host Washington State, the Huskies having at the time scored precisely no points during the recent six minutes and just four for the half.
The club, now clinging to a share of the Pac-12 lead at 13-3 in league and 20-8 overall, also was in severe foul trouble while players were creating a cacophony of clangs at the free-throw line.
Yet, evidently the Huskies had their cross-state cousins right where they wanted them. During the final 12 minutes UW outscored the suddenly free-throw-challenged Cougs (6-10, 14-14) 27-to-10. A California loss at Colorado on Sunday(Feb. 26) would give the Dawgs sole possession of the conference lead and a chance to wrap up league laurels for the regular season by winning later in the week at USC and UCLA.
Does the name Terrence Ross come to mind? Ross, of course, is the talented Husky sophomore guard from Portland. 'Twas T.R. who, during the Dawgs’ home encounter with Wazzu on Jan. 15, put up four points during the first half, then 26 more after intermission, earning instant national recognition. At Saturday’s tiff, Ross during the first half had three fouls and as many missed three-pointers as well as a turnover and a pair of rebounds before taking a seat with nearly eight minutes remaining in the half. By the time Ross fouled out late in the game he had just two points.
Perhaps it’s worth bringing up because the potential (but not-yet-actual) college-level star is presuming to envision making himself available for the National Basketball Association draft this year, same as freshman Tony Wroten, who led Washington with 21 points. Before either can seriously contemplate such a future (and many believe neither should), they and their teammates, along with coach Lorenzo Romar, must be thinking more in terms of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
If nothing else, Saturday’s late comeback should make it clear to any future opponents that this Husky club can summon another gear to make gains late in a game. Such an advantage may not be necessary against the Trojans on Thursday, given that USC, at 1-15 in conference this season, is an opponent more suited to Blanchet High than the Huskies.
But the Dawg’s Saturday meeting with UCLA probably won’t feature any easy opportunities. The Bruins nearly beat Arizona on the road Saturday and played tough enough against the Huskies at Hec Edmundson on Ground Hog Night to come within two points of victory.
After the meeting with the Bruins comes another Husky trip to L.A. for the occasion of the Pac-12 tournament. That’s where many of the present Dawgs clawed to an astonishing three wins within a few dozen hours to claim the 2011 league title.
Unfortunately, the trifecta had much to do with the presence on Saturday of one Isaiah Thomas, making a visit during the NBA all-star break and already showing his worth as an early-exit college player by starting (and recently scoring well) for the Sacramento Kings.
Indeed, Thomas’s NBA success, unexpected by many, no doubt presents much of the rationale for Ross and Wroten looking at early college departures. The irony for them could occur if it proves that the absence of a senior season for Thomas is what keeps this Husky team from performing well when it comes time to play much more frequently than once in 12 days.