By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — One day after St. Patrick’s Day, the University of Washington men’s basketball might as well be wearing green this afternoon.
Make that green and gold.
It’s true. The Huskies will be — gulp — Oregon fans for a couple hours today when the hated Ducks face Iowa in a National Invitational Tournament game in Iowa City. UW plays the winner on Tuesday night, and the Huskies would love nothing more than to get another shot at Oregon.
“I would love to play them because they embarrassed us last time,” UW freshman Tony Wroten Jr. said after the Huskies beat Northwestern in a second-round game Friday night. “We have no problem playing Iowa, but I would love to play (the Ducks) again. … We’re going to come out pumped and ready. They pretty much embarrassed us last time, in Eugene, so it’ll be about revenge.”
During Friday night’s postgame press conference, junior Abdul Gaddy was asked whether the Huskies were hoping to play the Ducks again and answered with a quick, “yeah,” before coach Lorenzo Romar gave him a playful elbow to the ribs and delivered the company line.
“We’d like to play whoever we’re going to play,” Romar said, shaking his head with a playful glance toward Gaddy.
Oregon (23-9) handed UW one of its most humbling losses of the season, and recent memory, with an 82-57 pasting on Feb. 9.
“Embarrassed,” Wroten said when asked about the emotions that followed that game. “Very frustrated. That lost us first place in the Pac-12, that game right there. We’ll never forget that one.”
Regardless of which team wins today, the Huskies are excited to have another shot to play at home Tuesday night. While they might have had mixed feelings about the NIT when it started, they’re all-in now.
“We want to win it,” Gaddy said. “We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder. We want to prove that we should’ve been in the NCAA tournament. But we’re not, so we’re just playing the cards we were dealt. We’re trying to win this whole thing and keep our season going.”
More than 5,700 fans showed up for UW’s second-round win over Northwestern on Friday, doubling the attendance from last Tuesday’s NIT opener. The energized crowd seemed to push the Huskies in a 76-55 Friday win, and afterward Romar addressed the crowd and made a plea for them to come out in droves Tuesday.
“We started to get a bigger crowd, so we were hyped,” Wroten said. “It’s going to be hard for us to lose here.”
In the unique position of playing at home with a chance to go to the semifinals of a national tournament, the Huskies are looking forward to their final performance in front of the fans at Hec Edmundson Pavilion — no matter who is in the visiting locker room Tuesday night.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good atmosphere,” senior Darnell Gant said. “The fans are going to come out, we’ll be ready¸ and we’re going to get it done. … I can’t wait.”