The Huskies have lost two games in a row and now face an Oregon team in Eugene that has won eight straight games and hasn't lost at home all season.
The calendar says it’s too early for the term “must-win” to be used for a college basketball game.
However, the Washington Huskies sense a recent slippage in play that’s put their season on the brink.
“It could go either way,” senior co-captain Abdul Gaddy said. “This is a critical point for us. But we’ve got to take it one game at a time. We can’t look ahead. That’s the main thing for us.”
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Washington (12-7, 4-2 Pac-12) might not want to look ahead because of the daunting schedule, starting with Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at No. 16 Oregon.
Next week the Huskies host sixth-ranked Arizona and the following week they travel to Los Angeles to face UCLA.
The next few weeks could define Washington’s season, which has been filled with more than a few surprises.
Considering the unpredictable nature of the Huskies, junior guard C.J. Wilcox said he’s unsure which UW team will step on the floor at Matthew Knight Arena.
Will it be the defensive-minded squad that allowed fewer than 63 points and 40 percent shooting from the field in wins over Washington State, California, Stanford and Colorado?
Or will it be the team that allowed 74 points in each of its past two games, both defeats?
“We’re definitely embarrassed,” he said following Wednesday’s defeat at Oregon State. “We dropped two to teams that have the worst record in the conference. That’s not good for us.
“We’re trying to keep our head up and see if we can get one down in Oregon.”
A week ago, Washington and Oregon were tied at the top of the Pac-12 standings.
While the Huskies stumbled, the Ducks (17-2) continued rolling. They lead the conference with a 6-0 record. They’re riding an eight-game winning streak and they’ve been perfect at home, winning 13 in a row.
Five Oregon players average double-digit points, and the Ducks rank among the top three in the conference in scoring (75.9 points per game) and fewest points allowed (62.3).
“They are just all over the place on both ends,” USC interim coach Bob Cantu said. “Those are the things necessary to win a conference title.”
It’s been nearly four years since Washington has beaten a ranked team on its home court, which is an indictment of UW’s lackluster nonconference schedule and the Pac-12’s recent futility.
Still, the main point is the Huskies have traditionally struggled on the road against good teams. They’re 11-109 on the home court of a ranked opponent. The most recent win was an 84-71 victory over then-No. 14 Arizona State on Jan. 31, 2009.
The Washington players understand what a win Saturday would do for their battered psyches, not to mention their No. 76 RPI.
“If we can get this done at Oregon, I think it will shoot us in the right direction,” Wilcox said. “If we lose, you never know. We just want to get this one done and see what kind of run we can make.”
It’s a daunting task for Washington, which was hammered 82-57 last year at Matt Arena and suffered an 81-76 setback there in 2011.
Coach Lorenzo Romar wants the Huskies to focus on the process, rather than winning and losing.
“Sometimes if you’re focused on the outcome — we have to win, we have to do this — you forget about the process,” he said. “Right now we need to worry about the process.
“Are we going to come to play? Are we going to have a high level of intensity? Are we going to focus and execute? Those are the things we have to concentrate on.”
Saturday’s game at No. 16 Oregon will be the first time Washington will play on the home floor of a ranked opponent in almost two years. Under coach Lorenzo Romar, the Huskies are 4-14 against ranked teams on their courts. UW’s last win was nearly four years ago.
Jan. 11, 2003/No. 2 Arizona/Loss, 89-57
Jan. 23, 2003/No. 23 Oregon/Loss, 91-66
Feb. 13, 2003/No. 24 Stanford/Loss, 78-69
Feb. 15, 2003/No. 22 California/Loss, 58-53
Jan. 4, 2004/No. 5 Stanford/Loss, 85-72
Feb. 26, 2004/No. 17 Arizona/Win, 89-84
Jan. 27, 2005/No. 11 Arizona/Loss, 91-82
Jan. 14, 2006/No. 11 UCLA/Win, 69-65
Dec. 31, 2006/No. 1 UCLA/Loss, 96-74
Feb. 3, 2007/No. 20 Arizona/Loss, 84-54
Feb. 17, 2007/No. 7 Pittsburgh/Loss, 65-61
Feb. 24, 2007/No. 23 Oregon/Loss, 93-85
Jan. 10, 2008/No. 5 UCLA/Loss, 69-55
Jan. 24, 2008/No. 24 Arizona State/Win, 72-61
March 8, 2008/No. 23 Washington State/Loss, 76-73 OT
Jan. 31, 2009/No. 14 Arizona State/Win, 84-71
Feb. 19, 2009/No. 20 UCLA/Loss, 85-76
Feb. 19, 2010/No. 12 Arizona/Loss, 87-86