After playing Wednesday/Saturday games for the first three weeks of conference play, the Huskies shift to Thursday/Saturday, giving them an extra day of rest and preparation.
Washington goes to Thursday/Sunday games next week, including a trip to Los Angeles during which the team will stay in L.A. the entire time. On prior conference Wednesday/Saturday trips, to the Bay Area and Oregon, UW returned home in the middle. It will also stay in Arizona for Feb. 20 and Feb. 23 games in Tucson and Tempe, respectively.
The Huskies follow the Los Angeles swing with four consecutive games that start at 8 p.m. The final week of the season, Washington hosts USC for an 8:30 start on a Wednesday night before closing conference play with an 11 a.m. Saturday game against UCLA. Only Stanford has as many (five) 8 p.m. or later starts remaining. Arizona, Cal, Colorado and UCLA have just one. Utah has none.
Washington is also one of two conference teams to have played just two home games at this point, with this week bringing everyone to the midway point of conference play. In those two games, the Huskies have averaged 8,391 fans in 10,000-seat Hec Edmundson Pavilion. That’s sixth in the conference. Perhaps the empty seats are byproducts of start times, UW’s record and the fans’ option of kicking back on the couch and watching games on TV.
CANTU DOESN’T SHY AWAY
USC interim head coach Bob Cantu did not balk when asked about the importance of playing UCLA, which the Trojans will do tonight in Pauley Pavilion during the only game this week for each.
“Any time you’re playing UCLA in any sport, it’s huge. It just means everything,” Cantu said. “In my 12 years here, circle that game.”
Cantu said his players have more of a “pep” in their step this week because of it. That’s a surprising admission in this one-game-at-a-time unquotable era. Maybe it’s because Cantu has been at USC so long, or maybe it’s because he’s the interim coach. Either way, in public, he put extra weight on the rivalry game.
If the Trojans are to win it, they will have to recall how to shoot straight. The rims had to be repainted in Arizona after USC went there last Saturday and shot 28.1 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from the free-throw line. USC’s field-goal percentage was its lowest in a game since shooting 27.6 percent at Washington State on Feb. 11, 2006. USC entered the game leading the Pac-12 in shooting percentage in league games.
STANFORD FEELING IT
The opposite of USC’s shooting woes happened in Utah for Stanford. The Cardinal had been building brick by brick throughout the season prior to shooting 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from behind the 3-point line in an 87-56 blowout win against the Utes on Sunday.
On the season, the Cardinal is last in the Pac-12 in shooting percentage at 40.5 percent and 11th in 3-point percentage at 31.7 percent. The 60 percent shooting against Utah catapulted it out of the cellar in 3-point percentage. Cal is now last at 31.2 percent.
John Gage from Vashon Island scored a career-high 19 points against the Utes and went 6-for-8 from the field, including 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line.
NO STEP FORWARD
Despite beating the Huskies, Utah and Oregon State continue to struggle. The Utes lost at home to Cal and Stanford last week, and Oregon State followed its win over Washington with a 71-68 loss to Washington State, giving the Cougars their first road win of the season. Utah and Oregon State are a combined 2-13 in conference play.
Oregon point guard Dominic Artis (foot) will not play this week, according to Ducks coach Dana Altman. Altman did not have a time line for Artis’ return. … UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muhammad did not practice Tuesday because of an gastrointestinal illness. … Cal’s Allen Crabbe continues to lead the conference in scoring at 20.0 points a game in Pac-12 play. Washington’s C.J. Wilcox is second at 19.0, just ahead of Washington State’s Brock Motum (18.9).todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas