In a game the Cardinal dominated statistically, the Huskies still played hard enough to stay in it. And soon enough, UW will be beating teams such as Stanford.
One more bucket, and Hec Ed would have exploded. Two more points, and you’d have been able to hear the crowd from Spokane.
If Washington would have completed the comeback, 8,256 throats would have needed a lozenge, and for a moment, UW basketball would have felt like it was back. Then, Stanford gave the Huskies a reality check.
Sorry, everyone, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Washington came into Saturday’s game having won 10 of its last 12 games. Its 13 wins through Jan. 11 were four more than all of last season. The hiring of first-year head coach Mike Hopkins sparked optimism on Montlake, but few would have predicted the Huskies to be this good this quickly. This past game was a reminder why.
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Stanford downed Washington, 73-64, Saturday night, but the damage probably should have been worse. Shoddy foul shooting prevented the Cardinal from flat-out embarrassing the Huskies, but it was clear who the dominant team was.
Looking for a specific number? How about Stanford’s 48 rebounds to UW’s 28? Or maybe its 14 offensive boards to the Huskies’ three?
Washington point guard David Crisp didn’t mince words when asked about the disparity on the boards: “They out-toughed us.”
Even so, there was a stretch Saturday when the not-as-tough got going. Despite trailing by 13 at one point in the second half, Washington cut the deficit to two with 3:52 to play.
Then Stanford (10-8, 4-1 Pac-12) placed a rug atop the Alaska Arena Airlines floor — and pulled it from right underneath the Huskies.
With, 3:25 remaining, Garfield grad and former UW commit Daejon Davis drilled a three-pointer with two seconds left on the shot clock. A minute after that, Dorian Pickens nailed a three to put Stanford up by eight.
Had the UW managed to tie it, the arena noise alone might have been enough to spur them to victory. But let’s be real: This wasn’t one UW deserved.
You can’t win when you go six minutes and four seconds without a single point, as Washington (13-5, 3-2) did in the second half. You can’t win when the offense goes stagnant, and Hopkins’ “turn a good shot into a great shot” motto goes kaput. You can’t win when you go 5 for 22 from beyond the three-point arc, as Stanford’s length clearly bothered the Huskies’ sharpshooters.
As Hopkins said, “You’re not going to win at this level not making shots.” And as evidenced by Washington’s performance against UCLA — when it went 19 for 68 from the field and 2 for 27 from deep — sometimes shotmaking is a real issue.
I don’t want to give the impression that Washington’s résumé thus far is fool’s gold. The Huskies beat No. 12 Kansas in Kansas City when the Jayhawks were ranked second in the country. They beat USC on the road, and earned home wins over Belmont and Montana — both of which might end up in the NCAA tournament.
Hopkins can coach, and his players can play, but this is still very much a work in progress — even if it’s progressing faster than most people expected.
It’s worth noting that before the season started, Pac-12 media picked Cal and Washington State to finish 11th and 12th in the conference. Those are two of Washington’s Pac-12 wins. The other is against USC, which the San Jose Mercury News recently called “one of the most disappointing teams in the country.”
We’re still learning what the Huskies are capable of on the hardwood. The upcoming road trip against Colorado and Utah could prove pivotal if Washington wants any chance of sneaking into the Dance. Those are winnable games for any team worthy of playing beyond the conference tournament.
And for what it’s worth, Saturday’s result was a rarity for the Huskies in one area. Before losing to Stanford, they were 11-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer. Last year they were 4-10.
Maybe that’s a testament to the composure of this year’s players, who now think winning should be the norm. Or maybe it’s a suggestion that UW’s record could be a lot worse.
The Huskies were 42nd in the RPI rankings before Saturday, but 140th in ESPN’s BPI rankings. The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in the middle.
At some point in the Hopkins era, the Huskies are going to give Hec Ed — and the city of Seattle — a reason to erupt. It’s coming. It’s just not quite here yet.