SEATTLE — C.J. Wilcox sees overall good in Stanford’s victory at 10th-ranked Connecticut last week.
But that doesn’t mean the Washington Huskies guard isn’t a little disappointed UConn won’t be undefeated when it visits UW on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“It’s good for us, but we wanted to be the ones to knock them out,” Wilcox said after a late-morning practice Saturday. “It’s good for a Pac-12 team to get a win against them. It shows they are beatable, and we’re capable of getting it done.”
Indeed, the Cardinal handed UConn its first loss of the season Wednesday, 53-51, after Stanford allowed only 13 points in the second half.
But the Cardinal didn’t necessarily provide a blueprint on how to beat the East Coast’s Huskies. Stanford played its zone defense well, and UConn, the nation’s top 3-point shooting team, missed 16 of its 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
All fine and good for Stanford, certainly, but it also benefited from an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance by UConn.
And don’t expect Washington to play a ton of zone defense, anyway. UW doesn’t usually play zone for longer than a few minutes at a time, so it will be more important than ever that Washington’s man-to-man fundamentals — recently tweaked as they are — continue to progress.
If they don’t, UConn guards Shabazz Napier (15.0 points a game) and Ryan Boatright (11.5) will make UW pay.
“We’ve got to contain those guards. We’ve got to get back in transition,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Part of containing those guards is to try to keep them out of the lane as much as possible. I think those things are really important.”
Neither Napier nor Boatright had particularly strong performances when these teams met last season in Hartford, Conn. Napier scored 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting and Boatright scored 12, but UConn held UW to 29.7 percent shooting and won, 61-53.
Wilcox doesn’t have fond memories of that game. He made two of his 12 shot attempts and scored five points. This season, he’s UW’s leading scorer at 20.9 points a game.
He seems more concerned about defense, though.
“I’ve got the opportunity to guard Napier, so it’s going to be a personal challenge to me, as well as a team,” Wilcox said. “Not one guy can stop him. He’s a really good guard. So we have to take it as a team challenge to try to slow him and Boatright down.”
Regardless of the outcome, it’s a bit of a victory that Washington even persuaded UConn to play in Seattle (the series started with last December’s game in Hartford).
Most high-major programs, Romar said, don’t want to make this long of a trip. He said UW frequently approaches those kind of teams — “the North Carolinas, the Kentuckys” — about the possibility of playing home-and-home series.
Most of those inquiries prove futile.
“I just think it’s a long way to go, and sometimes — for instance, Syracuse — they don’t want to go anywhere,” Romar said. “There’s a lot of programs that make so much money for home games. If you look, I think the game and the non-conference has shifted to a majority of neutral-site games and tournaments, and that’s kind of how they do it.
“Teams have offered to play us in KeyArena, and we go back and play them like in Chicago in the United Center or something like that. It’s been hard to get teams to come play on our campus.”
It’s hard to beat them, too.
“You want to play the best people, the best guards, the best bigs,” UW sophomore guard Andrew Andrews said, “and tomorrow, we have an opportunity to do that.”
No. 10 Connecticut (9-1) at Washington (6-4)
12:30 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Connecticut leads, 4-0.
Scouting report: This is Washington’s marquee non-conference game, the return trip of a home-and-home agreement after UW visited UConn in Hartford last season. … UConn has nine players who have appeared in every game this season, and eight who play an average of 13 minutes or more per game. Napier and Boatright get most of the attention, but forward Daniels has been effective at power forward. … Entering the week, UConn led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 46.2. Napier makes 51.4 percent of his attempts. … UW coach Lorenzo Romar said it’s possible forward Desmond Simmons could make his 2013-14 debut Sunday. He had knee surgery before the season started. If he doesn’t play, Romar said Simmons will “definitely” play in the next week, when the Huskies host Mississippi Valley and Hartford. … Of UW’s four all-time losses to UConn, two came in the NCAA tournament (1998, 2006).
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