PALO ALTO, Calif. — Rest will come Sunday. For now, Washington has to keep on trucking.
The Huskies play their fourth consecutive road game overall and third in a row to open Pacific-12 Conference play when they face Stanford tonight in Maples Pavilion.
Conference road wins are like gold, and Washington (10-5, 2-0) is in position to grab a third one just two weeks into the conference season.
The Huskies used dominant rebounding and sticky defense to stifle California on Wednesday. In both conference-opening road wins, Washington has shut down one of the top scorers in the Pac-12, locking down WSU’s Brock Motum in Pullman and Cal’s Allen Crabbe in Berkeley, Calif.
Stanford presents a different challenge because it doesn’t rely on a single luminary. The Cardinal (10-6, 1-2) is a more balanced offensive team than either of UW’s first two Pac-12 opponents. The Cardinal has five players averaging 7.1 points or more. Its leading scorer, big man Dwight Powell, scores 14.5 a game. He’s one of two Stanford starters in double figures. Guard Chasson Randle adds 13.3 points a game.
The Huskies counter with center Aziz N’Diaye, who’s had an uptick in scoring, and a growing chemistry, which is a result of their depth increasing.
N’Diaye is shooting 76.5 percent from the field (13-for-17) in UW’s two Pac-12 games. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against Cal.
“Our guys are more comfortable throwing him the basketball,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They feel he’s not only going to catch it, but he’s going to do something positive with it.”
N’Diaye’s inside presence will be countered by Stanford’s high-flying Powell, a 6-foot-10 junior who also leads the team in rebounding. He even shoots a 3-pointer on occasion, making him a mobile big man that N’Diaye will have to chase. But, unlike earlier in the season, N’Diaye will have Shawn Kemp Jr. available to help off the bench.
This is just the sixth time since the Huskies’ first season in 1896 that they open conference play with three consecutive road games. The other years were 1911, 1912, 1943, 1993 and 1999. They won all three just twice: 1911 and 1912.
UW last won its first three conference road games in 2009 — a season which they won the league’s regular-season title.
The Huskies have started conference play 2-0 four times in Romar’s previous 10 seasons, including each of the past three. They have started 3-0 twice during that same span: 2011 (4-0) and 2005.
“Everybody’s playing really well, and we can continue to get better,” UW guard Abdul Gaddy said. “There are players that haven’t even reached their potential yet. We can be even better. We’re doing good right now, but we’re not trying to settle for this.”