The last time the Washington Huskies tipped off against Stanford, an ambitious goal glittered before them.
The Huskies were ranked 17th in the nation and stood at 4-0 in the Pacific-10 Conference. With what they considered their toughest league road trip safely behind them, the Huskies dreamed of being the first team to go unbeaten through its Pac-10 season.
Those hopes vanished with a 58-56 loss at Stanford, which started a 4-4 stretch that has dropped the Huskies out of the national rankings and into third place in the conference heading into the rematch with the Cardinal today.
“Obviously, we have high aspirations for our team,” senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. “... We know what we want to try and do, and I think it grounded us. ... We just felt that it was a close game, and with this team and with this league anybody can beat anybody, and that has been shown.”
In the first meeting, Washington led by double digits midway through the second half before losing in the final seconds.
“I feel like we had so many chances to win, and it came down to executing,” captain Isaiah Thomas said. “We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of bad plays toward the end – the last 10 minutes of the game. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen (today). We’re going to play our hearts out and play good defense and just bring it. ... They’re a good team.
“And we remember that they threw the ball in the air. They celebrated. And we’ll be ready.”
Given the ground that Washington has lost in the conference, coach Lorenzo Romar doesn’t believe his team can devote much energy to viewing this game in terms of payback.
“I know our guys are aware of it,” he said. “But coming off the heels of a win (Thursday against California), that’s got to be your motivation. You’re circling every game now because you’ve put yourselves in a hole. But I’m sure that’s in the back of the guys’ minds.”
And while that loss is now seen as the start of a bumpy stretch for the Huskies, it did not serve as a launching pad for the Cardinal.
After knocking off UW, Stanford lost its next four games. However, the Cardinal has won three of four since then and arrives at Hec Edmundson Pavilion today hoping to build on back-to-back wins over Arizona State and Washington State.
“The Pac-10 is a tough conference, but also we’re still trying to find ourselves,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said Friday. “We’re really focusing on Stanford now from the standpoint of the kids that we have.
“We have nine new faces; we’re trying to integrate them and find continuity and chemistry. That takes time. I think we show potential at times, but we have to realize that we have to keep getting better.”
One thing the Cardinal does well is defend. Stanford leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, while Washington leads in scoring offense.
“They’re not a huge team, but they’re not small either,” Romar said. “And they’re just well-coached on the defensive end. They play a conservative Pac-10 style defense. They don’t take many risks, and they try to make you score over them. And they do a good job of it.”
Stanford at Washington, 5:30 p.m., FSN, 950-AM
STANFORD (13-10 OVERALL, 6-6 PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE) AT WASHINGTON (16-7, 8-4)
5:30 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion
TV: FSN. Ra dio: 950-AM
Series: Stanford leads 70-65 overall, while UW leads 45-19 in Seattle. The Cardinal won the Jan. 13 meeting on its home floor, 58-56.
Statistical leaders: For Stanford – Jeremy Green, 15.2 ppg; Josh Owens, 6.8 rpg; Jarrett Mann, 3.7 apg. For UW – Isaiah Thomas, 16.8 ppg and 5.9 apg; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, 7.9 rpg.
Scouting report: Washington leads the Pac-10 in scoring offense (85.9 ppg), while Stanford leads in scoring defense (62.1 ppg). UW also leads the conference in assists, scoring margin, rebounding margin, assist/turnover ratio, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds. Stanford is last in assists and steals, and ninth in scoring offense, assist/turnover ratio and 3-point percentage defense. ... Green is third in the Pac-10 in 3-point field goals made and seventh in scoring. Owens is fifth in field-goal percentage and eighth in rebounding. ... With his next steal, Bryan-Amaning will join Chris Welp as the only UW players with 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in a career. ... Stanford is 3-5 since its win over Washington at Maples Pavilion but has won three of its last four, including back-to-back wins against Arizona State and Washington State. ... Two Stanford freshmen are returning to their home state today: center/forward John Gage of Vashon Island and guard Aaron Bright of Bellevue.
Next: 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Arizona State, Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe.
Don Ruiz, staff writer