In the midst of an extended bumbling run, Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said he thought the Huskies were close.
There was little evidence to support his point of view when Washington lost seven of eight. But, now, after winning three in a row and four of five, the argument appears more sound.
"I just kind of looked at it as we’re going to get it, we’re going to catch on," Romar said. "When we lost three out of four I was saying it. When we lost four out of five I was saying it. We’re going to get this. I think if you recall I was saying we’re that close. We can’t quit because we’re that close to getting it. I’m not saying we’ve got it now, but we are playing better basketball and I think it has been coming for a while. Now, we’re seeing the scoreboard in our favor as opposed to just us getting better."
Shooting 36.1 percent on the night in a 65-57 win over USC would support the notion Washington still doesn't fully have it.
But, there were multiple good signs against USC, which had won six of eight:
> Rebounding. The Huskies clobbered USC on the boards, 48-29. Andrew Andrews and C.J. Wilcox had eight each. Five of Andrews' boards were offensive. Asked about what spurs his rebounding mentality, Andrews indicated the threat of running a lot in practice tends to be a motivator.
"I just don’t want to run 17’s for not rebounding, so I just go to the boards," Andrews said.
When a player does 17's, he typically has to run sideline to sideline touching the floor each time and counting out the number of touches. It's at least better than suicides. But, if tearing down some boards in the game keeps you from it, that's a Jason Varitek/Derek Lowe-for-Heathcliff Slocumb level trade.
> The bench. Big night for Jernard Jarreau and his Go-Go Gadget frame off the bench. Andrews scored seven points and Jarreau had a career-high 12. He was eight for eight at the free-throw line. His activity put USC seven-footer Dwayne Dedmon into foul trouble. Dedmon went out with his fourth foul with 11:51 to go and SC up 41-39. He came back with 6:10 to go and UW up 48-41.
"At the beginning of the season, I was just so happy to be in the starting lineup," Jarreau said. "I really wasn’t finishing well. After that, I started to get in the weight room more often. Just little things, trying to get stronger. Just trying to be aggressive."
Romar said this is the best he's seen from Jarreau.
"It’s the most aggressive I’ve seen him with a purpose," Romar said. "Earlier in the year he would go, but wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do. This particular game he went with a purpose. And just about every time he drove with contact and went to the foul line a lot."
> Suggs, again. Scott Suggs remained hot. He was 8 for 13 from the floor. The eight field goals made were a career-high. He played with effervescence we've rarely seen from him. He jawed a bit at SC players, showed out after hitting 3s and woofed on defense. He even had three rebounds and three assists to keep from going totally Allan Houston on us.
> The Huskies made 16 consecutive free throws after starting 1 for 5 at the line.
Now, to the troubling:
> C.J. Wilcox couldn't maintain the decent shooting night he had last game. He was 2 for 9, making him 5 for 16 this season against the Trojans. Only twice this year has Wilcox been held to less than 10 field-goal attempts. Both were against USC.
> Washington shot 36.1 percent for the game. Outside of Suggs, it was 14 for 48 (29.2 percent).
> Once again, more turnovers (13) than assists (nine).
> Washington didn't exploit injured USC point guard Jio Fontan until the second half. Fontan's right wrist was sprained, and it was apparent from warmups on that he couldn't go right, to his natural strong side, yet the Huskies never set up to force him that way. He also couldn't shoot jumpers, though he was able to get one 3-pointer to go down. He finished 2 for 10 on the night.
"I couldn’t really shoot the ball, and I couldn’t drive to my right," Fontan said. "They did a good job of catching onto it in the second half, and they made adjustments.”
Andrews said after the game he didn't know Fontan was hurt, which is something you would expect the coaching staff to relay at some point. Fontan's wrist was wrapped to start the game, and USC trainers added more and more tape throughout the night.
So, overall, Washington gets everyone doing a little something, which it has to to win. It beat USC to loose balls and long rebounds. It forced a shot-clock violation (which is rare for this group). It even moved into the six seed, via owning the tiebreakers with Arizona State and USC, if the Pac-12 Tournament started today. The Huskies can move as high as the No. 5 seed in Vegas.
The six seed plays the 11, which, at the moment, is Utah. That would mean the three seed, Cal, would be next, with UCLA to follow, if the seeds hold. Washington would like the look of that.
At the very least, the Huskies are moving in the right direction with UCLA coming to town Saturday morning to close out the regular season.
“We’re definitely getting closer to playing the way we’re supposed to play,” Wilcox said. “Especially at the right time.”