“This qualifies as progress," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "That’s what I would say. The wins haven’t shown, but I still feel like we are more of an efficient basketball team than we were three or four weeks ago. You would think ‘well then you should have more victories.’ Yeah, I would think that too. But I do think we are a more efficient team offensively and defensively right now. That zone- we face that zone a month ago, I think we would have had even more problems.
“It feels good to be back on the other side tonight. I thought our guys did a tremendous job on the defensive end. Very proud of what we were able to do. That team is very deliberate. That team knows exactly what they want to do. They’re very precise in running their offense. We were able to force 20 turnovers. That just doesn’t happen very often with that team. Their length in that zone is pretty impressive. But I thought our guys came out in the second half and did a nice job of adjusting and we got some easy baskets.”
Washington (16-11, 8-7), despite shooting 3-22 from outside the arc, played strong defense and held the Cardinal (13-12, 6-8) to 33 percent shooting from the field, including 3-14 from three.
"That made a difference," Romar said of Washington's defensive effort. "It made a huge difference. We talked earlier about being able to sustain effort and play through games where the ball doesn’t go in the basket and I thought tonight was a great example of that. But we’ve had a few other games – the last game, Cal, the ball didn’t go in the basket and we came up a little short.”
Rosco Allen led the Cardinal with 20 points.
Besides Murray's 25, Marquese Chriss chipped in with 11 and Malik Dime 10 for the Huskies.
Despite not one basket from the bench - they were a combined 0-14 from the field - Washington used key defensive contributions from David Crisp to keep the Cardinal from utilizing their length to any great effectiveness offensively.
Defensively, Stanford employed a zone that looked like it started out in a 1-2-2, but then would morph into either a 3-2 or 2-3 matchup depending on the time left on the shot clock and how much pressure they would try and apply to the ballhandler. Romar said it resembled the zone defense Syracuse is well-known for.
"They’ve been doing it that way the whole season," said senior guard Andrew Andrews. "They average like 60-something points, so they like to play slow tempo. I don’t think it was their defense; I think it was more so our defense that slowed the game down. We made them have the ball for the whole shot clock and have a lot of shot clock violations. I think it was a little bit of their zone and our defense.”
But Washington started the second-half with back-to-back alley-oops from Andrew Andrews to Chriss to not only re-energize the crowd that had been lulled to sleep in a very lackluster first half that saw both teams struggle to a 26-all tie, but it helped to loosen up Stanford's matchup zone to a straight 2-3 traditional zone.
“They had to adjust to what we were doing, I felt," Romar said. "They began to flatten out a lot more as opposed to having three guys up.”
Romar revealed post-game that Andrews played with an MCL strain, but he should be fine for the Huskies' next game at Oregon State Wednesday night. The guard had eight points and six assists with no turnovers. Stanford, by comparison, had four assists as a team.
It was Murray, who had 14 first-half points, that helped keep the Huskies going when they needed a spark.
“He was tremendous against the zone," Romar said of Murray. "This was the best he’s played against zone all year. He did a very good job. He’s very calculated. He was very, very efficient. Him, Andrew (Andrews), and David Crisp all did a good job of penetrating and getting into gaps in the second half. Even Matisse Thybulle has a couple of good drives in there."
A rare made three by Chriss and two Andrews foul shots with 11:58 remaining in the game helped push the Huskies to a five-point lead, 40-35. A Rosco Allen layin with just under 10 minutes to play cut Stanford's deficit to one, but that was as close as the Cardinal would get the rest of the way.
Dime, who was 4-4 on the night, all of them dunks, had three of them come from inside the 9-minute mark - the last with 3:39 to play to push Washington's advantage to six, 53-47. Murray came up huge on the offensive glass on UW's next possession, snagging a backside rebound after an Andrews missed three-point opportunity. Murray was fouled by Stanford's Grant Verhoeven, his fifth foul of the day, and two free throws later the Huskies had an eight-point lead.
Allen, who was the only Stanford player to score in double-figures, hit two free throws with 2:09 left, but then Murray hit another runner to cap off a resounding day for the frosh from Raininer Beach.
"Coach tries to tell me if I get the rebound to break out as fast as I can and get down," Murray said. "And same with Andrew. Every time I got the rebound I look to make sure I have a lane. I had lanes so it was important."
From that point on it was Andrews who ran the show, hitting four-straight free throws to seal the win for Washington.
"Andrew, I thought, was very, very good," said Romar. "He totally used his head and he came out that second half and was like a maestro. He was getting guys easy baskets, fanning the ball all over. He did a tremendous job.”