LOS ANGELES — The Washington Huskies saved their loudest cheers for the locker room following the Huskies’ 80-58 victory over USC on Thursday night.
They were happy to have clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title, but the idea of sharing doesn’t much appeal to them.
“We knew the only way Saturday would be a big game for us is if we won tonight,” said Terrance Ross, who had 18 points in the victory. “We can win the whole league, we just have to play well Saturday. We’re going to have to focus.”
The Huskies can win the conference title outright for just the second time since 1953 if they beat UCLA on Saturday and complete a sweep of the Los Angeles schools for only the third time since 1979. Washington (21-8, 14-3) has won 10 of 11 and six of its last seven on the road. It last won the league title outright in 2009.
“This was only half of the piece of the whole pie,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We’ve had some recent success on the road, so that always helps with your confidence.”
A Washington loss to UCLA could allow California to share the regular-season title if the Golden Bears win at Stanford on Sunday. Cal would earn the top seed because it beat the Huskies.
Byron Wesley scored a career-high 23 points and Garrett Jackson added 14 for the Trojans (6-24, 1-16), who lost their eighth in a row and fell to 4-12 at home with one game left before next week’s league tournament down the street at Staples Center.
“Nobody is enjoying this,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said.
Washington scored the first two baskets of the second half, extending its lead to 44-26.
Led by Wesley and James Blasczyk, the Trojans chipped away and reduced their deficit to single digits for the first time since early in the game. The duo combined to score 12 of USC’s first 14 points to get within 49-40.
“I thought we needed to get to five to have a chance,” O’Neill said. “But they made three 3s in four possessions and that made it harder.”
Wesley has been a bright spot for the Trojans, notching a career high for the second straight week. Blasczyk added a career-high 10 points.
“There’s definitely some positives of our situation,” Wesley said. “I’m getting lots of minutes and touches. But at the end of the day, we want to win games. I’m just trying to focus more on making shots. Early in the year, I was just focusing on getting shots.”
The Huskies ran off seven straight to lead 56-40 and cruised the rest of the way. Darnell Gant added 14 points and nine rebounds, helping the Huskies dominate the boards, 49-23 — the 16th straight game the Trojans have been outrebounded.
“They don’t send too many guys to the boards, maybe one or two,” Ross said. “We didn’t really do anything different.”
Washington owned a whopping 20-3 edge on the offensive boards.
“They got nine guys, they’re all legit size,” O’Neill said. “They’re a tough matchup for us the way we’re currently constructed.”
Washington led by 17 points in the first half, getting two separate 8-0 runs early and then a 12-8 spurt capped by Abdul Gaddy’s three-point play that made it 36-19. Gaddy botched an alley-oop dunk play near the end of the half, but the Huskies were ahead by a comfortable 40-26 margin at the break. Washington’s 40 points in the first half and 80 total points were the most allowed by the Trojans this season.
USC shot just a tad worse than Washington’s 43 percent in the half, but the Trojans were dominated in the paint, while the Huskies had more points off turnovers and second-chance baskets.