Apparently, they’ve learned a thing or two since then.
“I thought our guys came out with tremendous focus today,” said a pleased UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar after the game. “Just really dialed in offensively and defensively, and I thought it showed in our play. Guys played very unselfish basketball again on the offensive and defensive end.”
In the opening round of the 2016 Pac-12 tournament, the Huskies came out firing on all cylinders, sprinting to a 22-4 lead as the Cardinal misfired from the field, missing their first 8 shot attempts and turning the ball over three times.
It was perhaps, the Huskies finest half of basketball all season. They shifted into cruise control during the second half of play.
“I don’t know if it was our best half of basketball,” Romar said. “Haven’t played like that in a long time. Maybe I forgot, but in terms of lately, I thought we were as dialed in and efficient as we have been, so I thought it was a very good performance. I thought today we could have beaten a lot of teams playing that way.“
“Give Washington a lot of credit,” said a downcast Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins after the game. “They came out fright from the tip ready to compete and got off to a fast start. By trying to force plays, we turned it over a little to much. Allowed them to play to their strength, getting out in transition and running and free shooting. They started the game very aggressive. They started the game off defensively strong, and executed well offensively.”
The pups have matured immensely over the last five months since the start of the season, but the NCAA’s fifth-youngest squad clearly wasn’t intimidated by the tournament atmosphere.
“It was just really good to see this early game – over half our team is playing in their first Pac-12 Tournament,” said Romar. “Guys played here today like they had done it before. I thought Andrew (Andrews) did a great job of leading and we were able to come out on top.”
While the Huskies’ blistering shooting helped them sprint to an early 15-2 advantage, it was their inspired team defense that left Stanford bewildered.
Focused and energized, Washington kept Stanford from scoring a field goal until the 11:16 mark of the first half. Over the entire forty minutes, the Huskies would showcase all the traits that made them the surprise team of the Pac-12 during the first half of conference play.
With Andrews, Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss finding the bottom of the net early and often, UW quickly pulled away, leaving Stanford reeling.
Washington played the game we all knew they had in them.
“I’ve continued to say that our team has improved and have become a better team,” Romar said. “But we don’t have the wins to show for it. We’ve been very close and today was a day where we kind of put it all together.”
Washington’s defense was superb. The Huskies prevented Stanford from getting anything going in the paint despite an advantage in size, and their seven blocks leave them just one block shy of the all-time Pac-12 season mark of 211.
Malik Dime, who earned a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, swatted three shots to tie Robert Upshaw’s single season record of 85, set last season.
UW forced 15 Stanford turnovers and out-rebounded the bigger Cardinal 45-39.
“We were all on the same page for most possessions, especially in the first half,” Romar said. “When we switched, two guys knew exactly what the other was doing. We were timely. We were communicating. When we’re playing defense the way we’re capable of you’ll see five guys moving at once. The ball moves inside and you’ll see five guys moving at once, and we saw that a lot. Our guys were extremely alert on the defensive end.”
Much of their success had to do with Andrews, named to the All-Pac-12 first team earlier in the week. He was in a zone and in full command of his team. It was a quiet scoring night for the Husky captain but he narrowly missed a triple double anyway, scoring 14 points, grabbing nine boards and dishing nine assists while also nabbing two steals.
“Andrews scores 47 points in our last game and I didn’t think at all he came out to say. ‘now I know how to get 47 points. I’m going to get 50 this time,’” said Romar. “He just went out and played basketball and ran the team. I think that’s a real sign of maturity and a credit to Andrew to come out and do what he did. He set the table for us.”
As a baseline observer, Andrews’ leadership was evident everywhere, whether it was by directing his teammates positioning or some post play coaching. Andrews has become quite comfortable in his role as player-coach to the Husky youngsters.
Not to be outdone, star freshman Murray duplicated his 25-point effort against the Cardinal three weeks ago with another outstanding 25-point performance. Whether it was transition dunks, jump shots, or his gorgeous baseline teardrop, the former Rainier Beach standout had it going again.
“I stayed aggressive both games, and coming in to this game – every game – we try to come out and play together,” said Murray.
Chriss had another solid game as well. Despite being limited by foul trouble in the second half, he also recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“There’s not much he can’t do on a basketball court,” said Andrews about the gifted freshman. “He’s a special player, and for us he helps us in so many ways. Puts out so many fires.”
The Huskies face top seeded Oregon tomorrow at 12:10 pm Pacific Time in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament. The came can be found on the Pac-12 Networks.