Beach's Bits - ASU

The Washington Huskies' flagging season got a huge shot in the arm after earning an unexpected, yet dominant 76-65 win on the road over a quality Arizona State team. For a team that looked as bad as Washington did in December, Thursday night's win over Arizona State came out of nowhere.

The game was energetic, fast-paced and entertaining; everything that Husky basketball has been with the best Lorenzo Romar-coached teams. They sprinted out of the gates right from the tip and put the game out of reach by halftime. That's how dominant their best performance of the season was. In fact, ASU pulled star Jahii Carson and another starter, Jonathan Gilling, with 6:40 left in the game and UW up 24 - THAT is dominant.

Washington spread the floor and turned on the jets. The first half was their best of the season by a country mile, and they spent it in transition. They ran the floor and attacked the paint despite the presence of Jordan Bachynski, one of the top shot-blockers in conference history. Forty-two of their 76 points came in the paint.

They connected from beyond the arc and C.J. Wilcox drilled several daggers, giving Washington offensive leadership when ASU tried to rally back with a 9-0 run early in the second half by coming back with an 8-0 run of their own. They out-rebounded their taller foes 40-34, and did it by committee.

The Huskies played unselfishly, made the extra pass, and mostly made good decisions - at least in the first half, where they committed just three turnovers. This was an example of team basketball at its best. Despite lacking a player who can consistently get his own shot the way Terrence Ross or Isaiah Thomas did, the entire backcourt rotation made up for it with their movement and fearlessness at the rim.

Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss hit several runners, and Andrew Andrews continues to get to the basket and draw contact. Freshman Darin Johnson showed some craftiness penetrating the paint and hit tough shots, while Mike Anderson continued to do the dirty work playing out of position at power forward.

Washington have much size or athleticism in the front court, but Desmond Simmons' return gives the Huskies a big boost in toughness and physicality. Same for Perris Blackwell. The senior center held his own against the 7-foot-2 Bachynski, who managed just seven field goal attempts.

And defensively, though they still have a long way to go, the good news is that they're improving. They got beat off the dribble, but Carson beats everyone off the dribble. They did an excellent job forcing him to his weaker left hand and bottling him up in the paint.

The Sun Devils shot the ball horribly, but the Huskies deserve some of the credit as they did a much better job contesting shots. Their interior defense remains an issue and that isn't likely to change, but with Simmons back the rotation of Blackwell, Simmons and Kemp is serviceable.

The Huskies made a statement Thursday night knocking off one of the better teams in the conference on its home turf. It was a gritty, confident showcase of what Husky Basketball is supposed to look like. They executed their game plan, stayed focused for all but a brief moment early in the second half, and responded to the momentary threat with confidence and a collective sense of purpose.

As wins go, this was quietly one of the better wins the program has earned in the last three years. With their only match-up versus Arizona looming Saturday, Washington has a chance to earn their biggest upset in years against a No. 1-ranked team they've fared well against recently.

If they can replicate Thursday night's, they might actually have a shot.


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