“I thought our guys defended with a lot of confidence and purpose,” Romar said post-game. “And I thought that was the difference in the game.
“We talked about (San Diego State) all week on the backboard and they still got 21 offensive rebounds. They were relentless.”
But the Huskies were equal to the task, and even upped the defensive pressure a notch on their own end. They held the Aztecs to 20 percent shooting (11-54), including 2-15 from deep. One of those threes, by San Diego State’s Matt Shigley, came with 17 seconds left in the game and the outcome already decided.
“We all contribute in all areas,” said sophomore center Robert Upshaw, who had seven points, seven rebounds, and four blocked shots in 23 minutes of play. “We start out rough at times and we don’t make shots but we come together and we rebound the ball, get stops and just keep going.
“We worked hard. We had high energy throughout the whole game. We just had to out-compete ‘em. And that’s what we did.”
The Huskies withering defensive pressure kept San Diego State at bay all game long. They didn’t reach double figures until nine minutes from intermission and they finished with 15 points the entire first half.
“In the first half we were pretty stagnant on offense because we didn’t know how good of a defensive team they were,” said junior guard Andrew Andrews. “They showed us in that first half. The second half, we kind of loosened up a little bit and got it going.”
The co-captain from Portland did his part, canning three three-pointers in the second half to help stretch the Huskies’ lead to as many as 21.
But the defense never rested.
“They are a great defensive team but we also feel like we’re a great defensive team,” said Williams-Goss. “We wanted to contest every shot, try and limit them to one shot. It’s even tougher on the road when you’re not making shots.”
Romar said they reinvented their defense after last year, started from scratch. They are also playing more zone than before. The switching between man and zone Sunday was just one aspect of Washington’s defensive effort that overwhelmed the visitors.
“Just evaluating, watching a lot of film, watching how teams score, what could work - and then put it together,” Romar said on how he came up with his current system. He added that he envisioned a defense modeled after the great Louisville defenses under Denny Crum where they switched everything using like sized players to run players off the three-point line. Romar built this defense to fit this personnel, and the results are showing.
Romar added that before the season he told the team they had the potential to be one of the best defensive teams he’s ever coached at Washington. “We kind of challenged them, and it’s a challenge they’ve accepted,” he said.
If the Huskies made a statement, they certainly aren’t concerned about what everyone outside the program thinks. “If there’s any statement to be made, it’s to our team,” Romar said. “If we buy in and do at a high level what we’re supposed to do we have a chance to be successful. That’s the biggest statement I’m concerned with.”
Williams-Goss was more to the point: “We did make a statement, and we’ll try and make another one on Sunday (versus Eastern Washington).”
Upshaw, Andrews, Williams-Goss