Last season, Washington allowed a conference-worst 81.8 points in Pac-12 games. This season, the Huskies are tied for second in the Pac-12 while allowing 69.0 points through four games.

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Nearly lost among the many contrasting aspects of Washington’s 66-56 victory over California on Thursday night was the fact that the Huskies allowed its second fewest points this season.

It was also the fewest points UW had surrendered to a Pac-12 opponent since 2016 and one of its best defensive performances in a league game in the past six seasons.

And here’s the crazy thing, coach Mike Hopkins believed Washington played an ‘ugly’ game and wasn’t very good for long stretches of the game.

He also thought the Huskies got a little lucky, which maybe they did.

The Golden Bears could have made things much more interesting if they had shot better at the free throw line where they converted just 7 of 17 attempts. You can’t credit UW’s 2-3 zone defense for Cal’s inability to make its freebies.

However, the Huskies shutdown everyone not named Justice Sueing, who finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting including 4 of 5 behind the arc.

The rest of the Bears managed just 29 points and shot a combined 30.5 percent from the field and 11 percent on 3-pointers.

Last month, Washington overwhelmed Bethune-Cookman 106-55 in a non-conference tuneup that’s difficult to extract many meaningful observations because of the disparity in talent between the two teams.

A fairer apples-to-apples comparison is how UW stacks up against its Pac-12 counterparts.

The Huskies (13-4, 3-1 in Pac-12) have played just four conference games and granted it’s a relatively small sample size, but the early reviews on UW’s new defense are raving.

Last season, Washington allowed a conference-worst 81.8 points in Pac-12 games. In 2015-16, UW also ranked last while giving up 84.6 ppg. to conference opponents.

This season, the Huskies are tied for second in the Pac-12 allowing 69.0 points through four games.

UW’s scoring defense in Pac-12 games the past four seasons

Season,Points per game,Pac-12 rank

Hopkins’ new 2-3 zone defense has given Washington an identity that’s enabled it to win games when the offense struggles as it did in last Saturday’s 70-65 win at Washington State and again Thursday.

After collecting a season-high 23 turnovers against WSU, the Huskies forced Cal into 18 turnovers and held the Bears to nearly 20 points below their season average.

The last time Washington limited a Pac-12 opponent to fewer than 56 points was nearly two years ago when they beat Stanford 64-53 on Feb. 20, 2016.

Fewest points scored against UW by a Pac-12 opponent the past six seasons

Oregon State,W 56-43,1/15/15
at California,W 62-47,1/9/13
Washington St.,W 72-49,2/28/14
at Colorado,W 52-50,1/22/15
Stanford,W 64-53,2/10/16
Colorado,W 71-54,1/12/16
Colorado,W 64-54,1/16/13
California,W 66-56,1/11/18