GAME NOTES: The 2014 Pac-12 Conference Tournament gets going on Wednesday when the ninth-seeded Washington Huskies challenge the eighth-seeded Utah Utes in the first round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Washington never really made much of a run in either direction this season, finishing an even 9-9 in league play and just 17-14 overall. The Huskies did win three of their final four games of the regular season, however, and have made it to at least the second round in three of the last four Pac-12 tournaments.
Utah was one of the most polarizing teams in the country this season. When the Utes were at home they could not be stopped, going 18-2 as the hosts. However, the tables turned on the road where they were just 2-8. Still, the team's 20-10 overall mark is the best of its three years in the conference. Utah made a surprising run a year ago when they upset USC and California before bowing to eventual champion Oregon in the semifinals.
These teams split the season series this year, with Washington notching a 59-57 victory at home and Utah getting payback with a 78-69 triumph when it was the host. The Huskies hold a slim 8-7 edge in the all-time series.
The winner of this matchup faces a real challenge in the next round when it challenges No. 1 seed and regular-season champion Arizona.
Led by 24 points from C.J. Wilcox, the Huskies were able to end the regular season on a high note by defeating USC, 82-75. Washington only connected on 39.1 percent of its field goal attempts in the victory, but it owned scoring advantages off turnovers (20-16) and in second-chance points (20-15) over the Trojans, who only hit 40.3 percent from the field themselves.
Wilcox (18.5 ppg) is one of the best pure scorers in the Pac-12, ranking fourth in the league in points per game, while sinking a career-best 46 percent from the floor, including 39.6 percent from 3-point range. He was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team for his performance this year. Also picking up all-league honors for the Huskies was point guard Nigel Williams- Goss (13.3 ppg, 4.4 apg), who was named to the All-Freshman squad. Andrew Andrews (12.6 ppg) and Perris Blackwell (10.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) weren't named to any all-league teams, but are important contributors just the same.
A free-throw from Stanford's Dwight Powell with 36 seconds to play doomed Utah to a 61-60 loss on the road in the regular-season finale. The Utes did sink 54.5 percent from the floor, but they turned the ball over 17 times and were doubled-up in offensive rebounds (16-8), leading to a 20-9 deficit in second- chance points.
Utah rarely ever has an off night in terms of shooting the ball. The Utes are sinking the fourth-best percentage from the field in the country (.497), leading to a respectable 77.2 ppg scoring average. Making the extra pass on offensive possessions is the key, as the Utes rank 18th in assists (15.8 apg). Versatile swingman Delon Wright (16.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 spg) stuffs the stat sheet and earned All-Pac-12 First-Team honors for his work. In support, Jordan Loveridge (15.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is a solid forward who can spread the floor.
Although Utah struggles away from home, the Utes won't be in an entirely hostile environment. That should help them maintain their efficiency on offense and push them forward.
Game Date and Time