BERKELEY, CALIF. - One of the Washington Huskies' boldest goals for the season fizzled Thursday with their loss at Stanford.
The players didn’t make much of it publicly, perhaps because it was so ambitious and unlikely all along. But these Huskies hoped to make history with an 18-0 unbeaten run through this Pacific-10 Conference season.
“Yeah, no doubt,” junior Isaiah Thomas said. “That was one thing we were thinking the whole time. I mean, I feel that we’re that good. Now, we’ll try to go 17-1. Not to look past any other team, but that’s the goal.”
History says it’s a more realistic goal. While no team has ever made an unbeaten run through the Pac-10, seven teams have gone 17-1.
These Huskies got off to a 4-0 start in league before a second-half flurry of missed chances doomed them to a 58-56 loss against the Cardinal.
They return to Pac-10 play at 7 p.m. Sunday at California.
“I don’t think we’ve ever as a team just sat down and talked about going 18-0,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “That’s a long ways. There are a lot of things you’ve got to be able to do. You’ve got to keep a lead by 11 with 10 minutes to go before you start talking about that. ... We’d love to be able to go undefeated in league, but no one’s done that.”
In terms of a Pac-10 championship, Washington and most of the league still has a bit of breathing room. Seven champions have been crowned with two league losses, nine with three losses, seven with four losses, and two with five losses – including Cal last season.
With Washington standing 12-4 halfway through the regular season and 4-1 almost a third of the way through the Pac-10 season, Romar said he likes his team and the way it has positioned itself in the conference race.
For now, UW is alone atop the league standings – although Arizona and Stanford could draw even today, when the Wildcats face Arizona State and the Cardinal plays host to Washington State.
“Who knows what’s going to happen (against Cal on Sunday),” Romar said. “But if we are able to get something done, you’re talking 5-1 with four of your first six on the road. That’s a good way to start – and those teams have to come back to us. Other than (Thursday), we’ve been ahead at half every game. All of our games in our losses have been close. I just think we’ve played good basketball, but it’s disappointing we don’t have more wins to show for it.”
Washington has held second-half leads in every game this season. And the losses have come by seven points, five points, one point and two points.
However, Romar doesn’t believe the close ones have gotten away because of poor shooting or even the lack of an obvious go-to guy down the stretch.
“You know what the common denominator has been? Rebounding down the stretch,” he said. “(At Stanford), whether we lost concentration or whatever it was, we gave up a 11-point lead with 10 minutes to go. That game still came down to a couple of missed box-outs.
“And when we lost to Michigan State and Kentucky, it came down to a couple of mixed box-outs at the end of the game. We’re a better rebounding team now, but we still have to, down the stretch, do those type things. Since Texas A&M (on Dec. 11), we’ve made plays down the stretch, we’ve made baskets down the stretch.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwspots