Washington’s 86-84 victory at UCLA on Thursday night moved the Huskies up 19 spots in this morning’s RPI rankings.
UW now sits at No. 53 -- the highest the Huskies have been since Pac-12 play began -- after beginning the week at No. 72. That can all change in a hurry, of course, depending on how they fare at USC on Saturday (and how the rest of their opponents fare, too), but it’s another sign that UW’s NCAA tournament hopes are trending in the right direction.
The Huskies are eighth in the RPI among Pac-12 teams, now ahead of UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State. Seven other Pac-12 teams rank in the RPI top 51.
--- Here’s my story from last night’s game, including some details about the foul Andrew Andrews drew against Tony Parker with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Never miss a local story.
--- Here are the radio highlights from play-by-play man Bob Rondeau:
Had a chance to talk to UW coach Lorenzo Romar earlier today about the Huskies’ 12 p.m. Saturday game at USC. A few notes from that conversation ...
--- Romar said he thought USC was the most impressive team the Huskies had seen when they played each other Jan. 3 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. You’ll recall that USC had a 22-point lead in that game with 14 minutes remaining before UW erased that deficit and escaped with an 87-85 victory.
A major factor in UW’s comeback, of course, was an ankle injury to USC guard Julian Jacobs, who was 7-of-9 from the field with several resounding dunks prior to leaving the game.
Asked what gives him confidence the Huskies can compete against the Trojans with Jacobs healthy, Romar said he thinks UW is a better team than it was in early January.
“They were athletic and quick and had so many guys that could score and make plays, so we definitely remember that,” Romar said. “So we know in spite of us coming back, this is going to be a serious challenge for us. But on the flip side, as I look at our game from (earlier this) year, I think there’s a marked difference in how we are … I think we’re a better team than we were on that opening weekend.”
As for USC?
“If they improved from the time we played them,” Romar said, “they might win a national championship. I just think they were already good when we played them. We weren’t there.”
--- Freshman forward Noah Dickerson led the Huskies with 15 points (and grabbed eight rebounds) against UCLA on Thursday night, and played the second half with what appeared to be an injured left ankle. Dickerson said the pain is actually just below the ankle, and that he’s not quite sure when or how he hurt it.
Romar kept Dickerson out of Friday’s practice -- it was a relatively light workout at Galen Center, which is typical for a Thursday-Saturday turnaround -- but expects that he’ll be able to play against USC on Saturday.
--- Romar said he thinks UW’s defensive woes in the second half of games are attributable to two things -- some possible fatigue, and foul trouble leading to more tentative play. He’s trying a new tactic when it comes to managing foul trouble for starting forward Marquese Chriss, who has fouled out of UW’s past six games. Romar said he’ll leave Chriss in the game until the 13 or 14-minute mark if he can play that long without fouling, but if he picks up his first foul before then, he’ll immediately take him out. That’s what he did in each of UW’s last two games (though against UCLA, Chriss still managed only 18 minutes before fouling out).
Pac-12 opponents are shooting 49.8 percent from the field in the second half of games against the Huskies.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Romar said. “The two areas I’ve thought about is making sure we’re fresh and hopefully we can stay out of foul trouble. We’ll see if the trend changes. We’re going to get to the bottom of it. And again, every now and then, the youth kicks in, and maybe that’s where it’s kicking in now. I don’t know. But we’ve gotten better in so many areas that we have to realize that’s the next area we have to get better at.”
--- Have the past couple weeks changed Romar’s expectations of what the Huskies could accomplish this season?
“I always thought because of the learning curve with so many new players, that around this time is when we would start to get it,” Romar said. “I didn’t know what our record would be, but I think we’re probably further along. We got further along quicker than I had anticipated.”
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple