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Huskies square off against Huskies

Washington faces stiff challenge against No.10 UConn today in rare home game vs. major program from east coast.

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By Christian Caple
The News Tribune
SEATTLE -- C.J. Wilcox sees overall good in Stanford's victory at No. 10-ranked Connecticut last week.
But that doesn't mean the Washington Huskies guard isn't a little disappointed UConn won't be undefeated when it visits UW on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
"It's good for us, but we wanted to be the ones to knock them out," Wilcox said after a late morning practice on Saturday. "It's good for a Pac-12 team to get a win against them. It shows they are beatable, and we're capable of getting it done."
Indeed, the Cardinal handed UConn its first loss of the season on Wednesday, a 53-51 victory that Stanford obtained by allowing only 13 points in the second half.
But the Cardinal didn't necessarily provide a blueprint for how to beat the east-coast Huskies. Stanford played its zone defense well, and UConn, the nation's top 3-point shooting team, missed 16 of its 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
All fine and good for Stanford, certainly, but they also benefited from an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance by UConn. And don't expect Washington to play a ton of zone defense, anyway. The Huskies don't usually play zone for longer than a few minutes at a time, so it will be more important than ever that UW's man-to-man fundamentals -- recently tweaked as they are -- continue to progress.
If they don't, UConn guards Shabazz Napier (15.0 points per game) and Ryan Boatwright (11.5) will make the Huskies pay.
"We've got to contain those guards. We've got to get back in transition," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Part of containing those guards is to try to keep them out of the lane as much as possible. I think those things are really important."
Neither Napier or Boatwright had particularly strong performances when these teams met last season in Hartford. Napier scored 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting and Boatwright scored 12, but UConn held UW to 29.7 percent shooting and won, 61-53.
Wilcox doesn't have fond memories of that game. He made only two of his 12 shot attempts and scored only five points. This season, he's the Huskies' leading scorer at 20.9 points per game.
He seems more concerned about defense, though.
"I've got the opportunity to guard Napier, so it's going to be a personal challenge to me, as well as a team," Wilcox said. "Not one guy can stop him. He's a really good guard. So we have to take it as a team challenge to try to slow him and Boatwright down."
Regardless of the outcome, it's a bit of a victory that Washington even convinced UConn to play here (the series started with last year's game in Hartford). Most high-major programs, Romar said, don't want to make this long of a trip. He said UW frequently approaches those kind of teams -- "the North Carolinas, the Kentuckys" -- about the possibility of playing home-and-home series.
Most of those inquiries prove futile.
"I just think it's a long way to go and sometimes -- for instance, Syracuse -- they don't want to go anywhere," Romar said. "There's a lot of programs that make so much money for home games. If you look, I think the game and the non-conference has shifted to a majority of neutral-site games and tournaments, and that's kind of how they do it.
"Teams have offered to play us in KeyArena and we go back and play them like in Chicago in the United Center or something like that. It's been hard to get teams to come play on our campus."
It's hard to beat them, too.
"You want to play the best people, the best guards, the best bigs," said sophomore guard Andrew Andrews, "and tomorrow, we have an opportunity to do that."
Story tags » Huskies Basketball

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