Now That's Husky Basketball!

Andrew Andrews (USA TODAY SPORTS)

The Washington Huskies put on quite a show Wednesday night at Cal. Their most complete win of the season was a shot in the arm - not just for the team, but for a fan base badly in need of a lift. It also served as a reminder that the road to the conference title still needs to run through Seattle.

The last two months have been pretty painful for Husky basketball fans, mainly because what we've been served so far hasn't looked much like Husky basketball at all. Non-conference play was a total debacle - one of the worst stretches of the Lorenzo Romar era. But after opening Pac-12 play with a couple of respectable road wins, things are suddenly looking up for the Dawgs.

Boy was it a sight for sore eyes! They won, and won convincingly because they played the kind of basketball we've been accustomed to seeing from Romar's teams: Tough, physical defense and relentless offensive pressure while dominating the boards. That's Husky basketball in a nutshell, and that's what we saw Wednesday night.

Finally.

And the upside is that they stuck to their game plan on both ends of the floor despite a poor shooting night. In fact they shot it horribly - even worse than Cal. But they were so effective in every other facet that it didn't matter. The Huskies totally overpowered the Pac-12's leading rebounding team, and it wasn't close. Coming into the game, California averaged a stout 40.2 boards a game, yet Washington out rebounded them 30-13 in the first half. UW's work on the offensive glass appeared to have a demoralizing effect on the Bears, who would earn a defensive stop only to be outmuscled on the glass for relatively easy put-backs. It wasn't just Aziz N'diaye and Desmond Simmons either, although they combined for 17 rebounds. Two guards - C.J. Wilcox and freshman Andrew Andrews - combined for 15 boards out of the back court, with seven of them coming off the offensive glass.

Statistically speaking, the Huskies' defense entered the game among the worst in the conference, but they didn't play like it on Wednesday. It's what Husky defense is supposed to look like. The bewildered Bears were completed overwhelmed by Washington's size and physicality. N'Diaye was an absolute monster, swatting four shots to accompany his double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Bears, despite their own size, had no counter. UW's defensive rotations were crisp, as was the switching on the perimeter. With N'Diaye playing basket repellant, the Dawgs kept Cal's guards out of the paint. There were simply too many long, outstretched arms and diving bodies for the Bears to handle.

The Huskies took care of the ball too. Washington gave up the ball only six times on the night. For the most part they played with purpose on the offensive end for the entire game even when the jumpers weren't falling. They played unselfishly, finally looking comfortable in the new high post offense. They stuck with it even when it seemed like there was a lid on the bucket. They executed their offense fluidly which yielded a steady stream of open jump shots. They pushed the ball in transition and played aggressive basketball.

Not only did the Huskies earn a convincing win, they got it on the road - their second in a row after beating Washington State Saturday. Consecutive roads wins in league play are rare. They did it once last season on the road against the Arizona schools. With two road wins to open Pac-12 play, Washington suddenly finds itself very much in control of its own destiny. Heading into conference play, statistical guru Ken Pomeroy predicted the Huskies would earn one win during the month of January. You can throw that prediction out the window. Five of UW's first eight conference games will be played on the road. It's a daunting task to say the least but they've passed their first two tests with flying colors.

Do Dawg fans dare get excited, or is this just a tease? Imagine if they hit their jump shots Wednesday night, and the margin of victory could have been 25 points. It's too early to start popping the corks just yet. UW's dismal non-conference performance dug them a hole that's going to be a tough, tough climb. But their RPI is still in the 70's and they've got some RPI boosters against Arizona and Colorado on the horizon, so it's not inconceivable that the Hoop Dawgs can still find their way to the NCAA Tournament.

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