Huskies might not be who we thought they were
Washington's men's basketball team is playing well, doing things it wasn't thought capable of — winning on the road, playing good defense against opposing guards, making free throws and developing a low-post scorer.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW @ Stanford, 8 p.m, ROOT
STANFORD, Calif. — With each victory during their recent turnaround, the Washington Huskies are breaking myths about who they are and what they can be.
The knock on them used to be they couldn't win games on the road.
They couldn't defend opposing guards.
They couldn't make free throws or develop a big man.
And they couldn't win games when their offense faltered.
Turns out, the book on Washington needs to be rewritten and the scouting reports were way off base.
In the past 10 games, the Huskies have won eight games while laying to rest misconceptions about a team that started the season with a 3-4 record.
Saturday's 8 p.m. contest at Stanford (10-6, 1-2 Pac-12) marks the midpoint of the regular season for Washington (10-5, 2-0).
FICTION: On the road, Washington struggles.
FACT: Historically the Huskies have played poorly in early games away from home. This season is an exception.
The Huskies are 4-2 in games away from Alaska Airlines Arena. Their most impressive wins this season are last Saturday's 68-63 victory at Washington State and Thursday's 62-47 win at California.
In fact, Washington's worst games have been against lesser opponents at home, where UW has traditionally dominated.
FICTION: Washington guards can't defend without fouling.
FACT: California guard Allen Crabbe scored nine points against UW, which snapped his streak of 20 double-digit scoring games. The Huskies held the Pac-12 scoring leader 12 points shy of his average.
"We learned it's not one guy who can stop anyone," said senior co-captain Scott Suggs, who defended Crabbe for most of the game. "You do it as a team."
FICTION: Washington's poor free-throw shooting is a liability that will lead to losses.
FACT: The Huskies are shooting 70 percent at the line. Six players with at least 18 attempts are shooting better than 72 percent. C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs are shooting better than 82 percent.
Take away Aziz N'Diaye, who is 31 of 70, and UW is 76.8 percent on free throws.
In the past two games, the Huskies secured victories with last-minute free throws.
FICTION: The absence of a post presence will hinder Washington's offense.
FACT: After Wilcox, N'Diaye is UW's most consistent offensive threat. The 7-foot center has scored in double figures in 12 games, which is second on the team. He leads the Pac-12 with a 63.6 shooting percentage.
"When he's set and in position, I think our guys are more comfortable throwing him the basketball," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They feel he'll catch it and then do something positive with it."
On Wednesday, California used two defenders against N'Diaye, who averages 11.1 points. It's the first time during his three years at Washington that an opponent routinely double-teamed N'Diaye.
"It just makes everyone else a better offensive player because now you have to guard Aziz," Romar said.
Romar has seen a progression in the past few weeks that began days before the Dec. 29 game at Connecticut.
"In the preseason, we weren't playing as good as we are now," he said. "We weren't playing as good of defense, as tenacious of defense, (and) we didn't get it offensively.
"Our offense sometimes affected our defense because we're thinking a lot offensively and just never got kind of in a rhythm."
Romar also attributes much of the early-season struggles to injuries that forced Suggs (sprained foot) to miss three games, Andrew Andrews (knee) to sit out three and Shawn Kemp Jr. (knee) to miss seven games.
"When you have some of your guns in there, and healthier guys, you can find a way to will your way to a couple of those wins and we weren't able to do that," he said. "It helps that we have everybody back."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org