Students planned to camp outside Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Friday night, the first such gathering in recent memory for a Washington Huskies basketball game. They already turned out in surprising numbers for each of UW’s past three home games, filling the “Dawg Pack” cheering section to capacity and establishing a helpful din for the home team.
As of Friday afternoon, fewer than 400 tickets remained for UW’s 1:30 p.m. game Saturday against the 23rd-ranked Arizona Wildcats — capacity is 10,000 — so the Huskies are fully expecting their first home sellout since February 2012.
These are the positive circumstances wrought by a 15-7 record and 7-3 mark against Pac-12 opponents. The Huskies enter the highly-anticipated contest tied for second place in the Pac-12 standings, one game ahead of the visiting Wildcats, and an opportunity to move ever closer to inclusion in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
“I love it. I like seeing everybody supporting us and that they’re coming to watch a good game,” said freshman forward Marquese Chriss. “But we have to focus on it like any game, and just come out and play our type of basketball.”
If the crowd really does influence UW’s play the way coach Lorenzo Romar and the players say it does, then the Huskies are going to need every bit of that encouragement.
Remember what happened in Tucson in January? The Huskies trailed Arizona just 44-41 after an entertaining first half, then imploded in every conceivable manner in the 20 minutes that followed, losing 99-67 after allowing Arizona to shoot 70.4 percent — that’s seventy, with a seven and a zero — in the second half.
It was the Huskies’ most lopsided, humiliating loss of the season, and showed just how far they had to go before they could hope to compete for a Pac-12 championship.
Arizona’s leading scorer at the time, freshman guard Allonzo Trier, didn’t play in that game due to a broken hand. He hasn’t played since, but Wildcats coach Sean Miller told the Arizona Daily Star that Trier will be “a game-time decision” on Saturday.
Romar said he expects that Trier, a Seattle native who averaged 14.8 points in Arizona’s first 16 games, will play.
And even if he doesn’t, the Huskies still must contend with a squad by which they were decimated just 23 days ago.
“We obviously went through that second half and tried to sort it all out, what happened, (and) try to capitalize and be better at what we did in the first half,” Romar said of the first meeting between the schools. “They’re a different team. I’m sure Allonzo Trier will play this game. That gives them an added dimension, another guy that can make baskets and get to the free throw line and get you in foul trouble. It’s going to be even more of a challenge this time.”
The Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) stumbled a bit shortly after that meeting — they lost consecutive games at California and home against first-place Oregon, their first home loss in 50 games — and enter Saturday’s game in a three-way tie for fourth place in the crowded Pac-12 standings.
But they remain dangerous, particularly across a front line that includes two 7-footers (Kaleb Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic); 6-foot-9 forward Ryan Anderson, one of two players in the conference averaging a double-double; and 6-foot-9 senior Mark Tollefson, a transfer from San Francisco who made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points against the Huskies in Tucson.
In that game, Arizona diced the Huskies with dribble penetration and easy passes around the rim for a litany of layups and dunks. Sophomore guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright finished with 11 assists in 23 minutes. Five Wildcats scored in double-figures and Arizona outrebounded the Huskies 43-26.
Senior guard Andrew Andrews said his Huskies can probably learn more from that awful second half than it can from the encouraging first.
“We know what we’re doing when we’re playing right,” said Andrews, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring but is just 12 for 47 from the field in his past four games. “And when we’re playing wrong, it’s just kind of, well, what do we need to do to get back on track?
“But (Arizona), they’re such a good team and a great program that any time we made a couple mishaps or a couple bad plays, they can capitalize quick. So if we focus on trying to limit those, we’ll put ourselves in a good position.”
They’ll begin the game in an ideal position, at least, playing a nationally-televised game in front of a season-high crowd.
“I feel like it shows we’re headed back in the right direction,” Romar said of the atmosphere surrounding the game. “Order, not ‘has been,’ but ‘is being,’ restored. That’s what I would say. Not ‘has been,’ because we could go 0-8 in these next games. So we have not arrived, by any stretch of the imagination. But we’re headed in the right direction.”
No. 23 Arizona (18-5, 6-4 Pac-12) at UW (15-7, 7-3)
1:30 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM
All-time series: Arizona leads the series 49-28.
PROJECTED STARTERS (statistics for 2015-16):
1 Gabe York, G (6-3, Jr.): 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg
0 Parker Jackson-Cartwright, G (5-11, So.): 5.1 ppg, 3.7 apg
23 Mark Tollefson, F (6-9, RSr.): 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg
12 Ryan Anderson, F (6-9, RSr.): 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg
35 Kaleb Tarczewski, C (7-0, Sr.): 10.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg
12 Andrew Andrews, G (6-2,RSr.): 20.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.7 apg
5 Dejounte Murray, G (6-4.5, Fr.): 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.8 apg
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, Fr.): 6.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, Fr.): 8.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg
0 Marquese Chriss, F (6-9, Fr.): 12.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Scouting report: The Wildcats used the aforementioned starting lineup in their 79-64 victory at Washington State on Wednesday night, but it could change a bit depending on the status of a pair of guards. Kadeem Allen was sick during that game and played only seven minutes, though Arizona coach Sean Miller told the Arizona Daily Star on Friday that Allen is feeling better and should have a bigger role against the Huskies. Freshman guard Allonzo Trier is the bigger storyline. He’s considered “questionable” to return from the hand injury that has kept him out of the Wildcats’ past seven games. He didn’t play in the first meeting between the teams, and Arizona had little trouble disposing of the Huskies without him. … Arizona slipped to No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll after losing at home to Oregon last week. The loss snapped the Wildcats’ 49-game home winning streak. … UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Dejounte Murray, who scored 34 points in the Huskies’ 95-83 overtime win over Arizona State on Wednesday, didn’t do much during practice Thursday while he rested a sore left ankle. But Romar figured Murray would be fine for Saturday. … Arizona leads the Pac-12 in scoring margin (14.0 points per game) and field-goal percentage (49.6), and ranks second in the country in opponent offensive rebound percentage allowed (21.7), per KenPom.com. … UW’s last sellout at Hec Edmundson Pavilion also came against Arizona — a 79-70 UW victory on Feb. 18, 2012.