Opening Weekend Hoop Thoughts

Washington opened their Pac-12 season in grand fashion with two double-digit wins over both Oregon schools. A 16-point win over Oregon preceded a 15-point win over Oregon State that was a real test.

Both contests were similar in that the Huskies exchanged baskets early with their opponents, and once they got untracked on their shooting they opened up sizable leads about 10 minutes into the first half.

They steadily built on those leads, going into the locker room with double digit advantages in both contests. They used the second half to continue growing their lead, staving off mini-runs, and down the stretch, with the lead, locked down the defense and pulled away.

It was impressive.

Chemistry problem? Don't know much about history….don't know much Biology…Sam Cooke said it, and for a while the Huskies looked as if they were going to flunk Chemistry this term. However, it is very apparent that the coaching staff has tutored their young charges in that department.

When Tony Wroten drives, the others no longer stand around and watch. The wings are putting bodies on their men, shielding off would-be rebounders so that the powerful freshmen has a good lane to the hoop where he can either score or rebound his own miss for easy put backs.

Aziz N'Diaye is catching the ball better, C.J. Wilcox is vocally calling out adjustments, and when Wroten was accosted by a bigger player tonight, senior Darnell Gant was right there to protect the freshman.

Whatever Lorenzo Romar was teaching last week in practice, it got through. In spades.

Not in our house. It is VERY clear that the Huskies have worked on their defense. Guys are buying in, and it's leading to those signature transition buckets that have been such a huge part of the Romar offense over the past decade.

Tonight CJ Wilcox was suffocating on the Duck guards, Aziz N'Diaye was a serious presence inside the paint, blocking two shots on the same possession on penetration drives, and Desmond Simmons alternately flying out to passing lanes as well as moving his feet in time to take a charge. These kids are playing HARD.

Abdul Gaddy and CJ Wilcox held Duck sharp shooter Devoe Joseph to 1 of 13 shooting tonight.

"This game was won on defense for us tonight," agreed Romar. "I thought Aziz N'Diaye was sensational tonight. The big guy really came to play," after the game in the press room.

"On defense, we've been stressing it for a couple of weeks now and I think guys are buying into it now. We are still building to become a cohesive team unit, and you are seeing strides being made now."

I sure saw them tonight.

Tony Wroten added, "It's just we realize what we're capable of. We play team basketball. Obviously, we didn't have a pre-season we would've liked to have. We realize defense wins championships, so we've changed game by game – one game at a time. We're playing good defense and coming out with good wins."

Who cares who starts? Not CJ Wilcox. CJ Wilcox came off the bench tonight and had one of his best games as a Husky. He showed a real knack for going to the hoop and finishing, displaying more than just his dead-eye outside shot.

"If CJ starts or if he comes off the bench, it doesn't matter. He is a very versatile player. Whatever we want to do, he fits in. You love having someone coming off of your bench to either keep things at a good level or even elevate you. CJ gives us that. He and Desmond coming off of the bench really can do that for us."

Wilcox didn't show any displeasure coming off the bench, and THAT, my dawg friends, is a good sign that team chemistry is on a serious uptick.

Hot out of the gates. "Happy New Year," said Romar as he greeted the press assembled to meet him after the game. He was all smiles as he spoke.

"I was very concerned about this game because of the way Oregon has been playing. That was as well as we've defended all year, hats off to our guys."

"That being said, there are now 16 Pac-12 games to go. This was good, we are 2-0, but we have to keep getting better and keep improving. Sure we opened the way we wanted, but if we're not careful, we can find ourselves in 8th place. We have to get to a point to where we go out on the road and take care of the ball, defend, and everything. 2-0 is a good start but we have to keep getting better. There's a long ways to go."

There is a lot of room for improvement, but sitting at 2-0 after the first weekend is about as good as you can hope for if you are a Husky fan.

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