These are giddy times for the Huskies (20-5, 11-1 Pac-12) who are enjoying a historically successful season. Washington, which is 12-0 at home, is looking to finish undefeated on its floor for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
It took some time, but a once-skeptical Husky fan base is back on the UW bandwagon. The roar has returned to Montlake.
“When this team is good, this place is right up there as the best home court in the conference because of the noise,” said Pac-12 Networks basketball analyst Mike Montgomery, who coached at Stanford and California. “Arizona ranks first in my opinion, but second is Washington. I know firsthand just how tough it is to play here and it looks to me like it’s as good now as its ever been.
“It always starts with the team, the coaches, the players and the administration. But when you get all that going in the right direction, and then you add the fans – that’s what every coach is hoping for. That’s when you take your program to the next level.”
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In its last home outing, Washington attracted its first sellout of the season on Feb. 2 as the Huskies clobbered UCLA 69-55.
The 10,000 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena nearly doubled the attendance on Jan. 1 when UW attracted 5,087 to watch its nonconference finale against Cal State Fullerton.
“I like not being able to hear myself,” senior forward Noah Dickerson said smiling. “It’s wonderful having that crowd in there. It’s contagious, especially for us. I’m happy that people are excited for Husky basketball again all over the city.”
These are giddy times for the Huskies (20-5, 11-1 Pac-12) who are enjoying a historically successful season.
Washington, which is 12-0 at home, is looking to finish undefeated on its floor for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Still, coach Mike Hopkins has steadily repeated his catchphrase “Don’t eat the cheese,” which is his way of saying “Don’t buy into the hype.”
“Our message is always the same,” he said. “We have an underdog spirit. We’re at our best when we’re gritty and we’re sharing and we’re tougher together.”
Washington, which has a three-game lead in the conference race, has emerged as the presumptive league champion and could clinch the Pac-12 title later this week.
“Nothing has changed,” Hopkins said. “This is a team that’s still trying to earn respect. And you earn respect by going out and playing well and winning. That’s how you earn respect. We haven’t done anything.
“We got six games left. That’s what we’ve done. … That’s the bottom line.”
Hopkins is adamant on maintaining the status quo, but admits that winning has changed the environment at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I’m big into energy and when you have that 10,000 strong, that energy is infused,” Hopkins said Monday on his weekly radio show. “Especially when you need stops, when you need extra possessions. And it’s also intimidating for the opponent.
“Great programs have great fan bases and great home court. We have unbelievable fans. The Dawg Pack (UW’s student section) has come in and given us the support. Students start everything.”
Hopkins recounted a story from last season when UW drew a near-sellout crowd of 9,749 and the Huskies were embarrassed 97-70 by No. 12 Gonzaga.
After the game, he went into the stands and told UW fans: “Thank you for coming. Stay with us. Trust me. We’re going to be good.”
A year later, Hopkins has delivered on his promise.
“That was my best recruiting pitch of all time,” he said. “I was so emotional because you know the impact that they have. When you have a sellout crowd – when you got 9,000-10,000 strong – you don’t understand what the means not only to recruiting, but your team, to television, to perception and to the national (audience).
“We’ve got the best fans in America. And it’s time to show it. And we have shown it. And it ‘s a big boost. We’re going to keep doing it. The support has just been incredible. So I’m so happy.”
About 1,000 tickets at Alaska Airlines Arena remain for Washington’s game against Utah (14-11, 8-5) at 8 p.m. Wednesday on FS1.
The Huskies are looking for their first season sweep since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011-12. UW won 69-53 at Huntsman Center on Jan. 10, which snapped a six-game losing streak to Utah.
However, the Utes have a three-game winning streak at Alaska Airlines Arena and they’re 8-2 in their past 10 meetings against UW.
“Last year at the end we started to get it (going), but this year right from the jump you could see it building, and building and building,” Dickerson said. “It’s great having all that fan appreciation.
“I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to get a lot of my family in the (regular-season finale against Oregon) because the game is sold out. … But its awesome just for all the seniors to go out the right way.”
Washington is 12-0 at Alaska Airlines Arena. Here’s a look.
UCLA,Feb. 2,10000,W 69-55
USC,Jan. 30,9121,W 75-62
California,Jan. 19,9225,W 71-52
Stanford,Jan. 17,7852,W 80-64
Washington State,Jan. 5,8028,W 85-67
CS Fullerton,Jan. 1,5083,W 86-74
Sacramento State,Dec. 31,6888,W 57-41
Seattle U.,Dec. 9,6688,W 70-62
UC Santa Barbara,Dec. 2,6533,W 67-63
Eastern Washington,Nov. 27,6054,W 83-59
San Diego,Nov. 12,6219,W 66-63
Western Kentucky,Nov. 6,5721,W 73-55