By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — A quick turnaround notwithstanding, the Washington Huskies are glad to be home.
This is, after all, where they do almost all of their winning. UW’s road record — 1-6 in Pacific-12 Conference play, with the six losses coming consecutively — has prevented the Huskies from competing for a spot in the upper quadrant of the conference standings.
Their road woes also have made it quite unlikely that anything better than an NIT bid awaits them at season’s end. But the Huskies (13-11, 5-6 in Pac-12) are trying to live in the present, and that means focusing on tonight’s 6 p.m. game against Stanford at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Seven games remain on UW’s regular-season schedule. Five of those will be played at home. This knowledge helps to keep alive the Huskies’ hopes of playing beyond the Pac-12 tournament.
It also might help them forget about the past two weeks, which produced road losses at Washington State, Utah and Colorado, that trip to Boulder resulting in a 26-point defeat.
“We’re just being optimistic,” UW guard Andrew Andrews said. “We know the last three games we didn’t come out with the intensity we needed to on defense. We felt like with Colorado, we came out with the intensity on defense, they just made a lot of uncharacteristic shots. … This week, we’re just focused on playing Stanford and coming out and protecting our home court.”
That means preparing for guard Chasson Randle, who dropped 33 points on the Huskies in a game the Cardinal won, 79-67, at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 18. Stanford (15-7, 6-4) shot 54.2 percent from the field in that game. That was three days after California beat UW, 82-56, and shot at a 55-percent clip. In losses last week at Utah (60 percent) and Colorado (55.4 percent), the Huskies’ defense was just as bad.
So it’s no secret that containing Randle — and starting forwards Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis — will be a priority for a Huskies team that wants badly to pride itself on preventing teams from scoring.
To that end, UW coach Lorenzo Romar is asking his team to “do it the way we’re supposed to do it. Do it the way that we’ve practiced. That’s it. Not rocket science. It’s no new revelation. Just do what we know to do. That’s it.”
Washington also would benefit from finding more open looks for senior guard C.J. Wilcox. The team’s leading scorer has scored in double-figures in every game this season but two — Sunday against Colorado (eight points), and the last time UW played Stanford (nine points).
That was thanks to a concerted effort by the Cardinal to hound Wilcox at every opportunity, and make the Huskies work just to pass him the ball. As a result, Wilcox shot 4-for-13 from the field.
“Obviously other guys have to step up and make baskets when that happens,” Romar said. “I felt like they kind of just did that and dared the rest of us to shoot, so hopefully we can take the pressure off C.J., if that’s how they’re going to defend.”
The Huskies are more likely to accomplish that in Seattle than anywhere else.