It’s been a weird period for the Husky basketball team since the Crossover Classic. At that point, I was watching them – rain or shine – pretty much every game. They returned home and lost in miserable fashion to Winthrop (who is pretty mediocre and almost certainly not a Tournament team). Then, COVID cost us three high-profile games (against Arizona, UCLA, and Gonzaga, the latter destined to not be rescheduled). We beat an undermanned Seattle U team, then bafflingly lost to Utah Valley of all teams. Our game against Wazzu was postponed due to COVID (this time it wasn’t our fault), before our makeup game on the road against the Wildcats saw us soundly defeated (though I hear we covered the spread, which is pretty good against a Top 10 team in the nation).
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see any of those games, but given our 1-3 record since the Crossover Classic, I figured we’d just reverted to the Same Ol’ Huskies. I decided to jump back in last night – after my workout at the gym, because of course a public gym wouldn’t have the Pac-12 Network, that would require people actually giving enough of a shit to have it on their cable package – with about 14 minutes left in the game.
When I jumped in, the Huskies were down 14. I didn’t realize in the moment that most of that run happened just before I turned the game on (we were only down 4 at halftime). I was resigned to suffer through another dull, double-digit defeat, but then – as if a treat just for me – the Huskies started turning it on! The defense picked up, the outside shooting caught fire, and the Dawgs ran away with it in the second half, ultimately winning 74-68.
This had all the elements of the Huskies at their absolute best. They hit 10/22 on threes. They racked up a whopping 17 assists (considering how shitty we’ve been on that stat alone, this must’ve been a season high). They forced 19 turnovers, getting 13 steals and 3 blocks. They lost the rebounding advantage pretty soundly, but I didn’t see that as a super major issue in the second half portion that I witnessed; they were able to tighten up and get to balls as needed. They even hit 10/14 free throws, which isn’t terrible!
Most importantly, they found alternatives to Terrell Brown. As great as Brown is – he’s indeed my favorite Husky we’ve had in ages – he can’t do it by himself. Sure, hero ball-ism is a big reason why we don’t have many assists this year, but also our terrible outside shooting has cost us COUNTLESS dimes!
What’s disappointing is that we all know this is the exception and not the rule. Cole Bajema had 15 points off the bench, on 5/8 shooting from behind the arc. That’s not happening too many more times, if ever again. Daejon Davis had 16 points and played the best I’ve ever seen from him; he hit 7/12 overall and 2/4 from behind the arc. That’s not real. Jamal Bey stepped up with 14; he’s hard to trust. Even Emmitt Matthews hit two huge threes in the second half.
It was fun to see, and it’s easy to get your hopes up for the rest of the way, but you know as early as this weekend, the Huskies are going to turn back into a pumpkin. There’s only one way to unlock the potential of this Husky basketball team and that’s by making shots. The defense has shown up on a regular basis – especially when we continually switch it up from zone to press to man and back around again – but if we’re not hitting threes, we’re not winning games. Anecdotally, this might only be the second or third time we’ve hit threes at a high percentage; not surprisingly we’ve won those games.
But, you know, if there was ever a game to incite a season-ending run, this might be it. On the road, down 14, and to win as decisively as we did, can only flood this team with the confidence they need to parlay that into better shooting down the stretch. I hope it catches on. I like this team, even though it’s not a March Madness team. I’d still like to see them play some NIT games or something.