SEATTLE — Even after Sunday’s convincing victory over USC, Quade Green was still angry about Washington’s loss to UCLA three days before. The Huskies’ point guard didn’t try to hide it, and he didn’t mince words when he talked about it.
He said UW should have won the game it eventually lost, 66-64. And the whole team, he added, was mad when the Bruins dropped their next game at Washington State. Green made sure to note that UW will have another chance against UCLA on the road in February.
Unfortunately for USC, the Trojans took the brunt of all that anger. The Huskies rolled to a 72-40 victory on Sunday in their most complete performance of the season.
“We had to make a statement off the loss,” Green said. “Couldn’t lose twice on our home floor.”
The performance was exactly how head coach Mike Hopkins wanted his team to respond. For a young team still finding its way, the process started in the days in between.
“The biggest thing is you’re always worried as a coach, the game is a contagious game,” Hopkins said. “Selfish plays become more selfish plays. Lack of energy, losing, winning is contagious. There is an energy to that. We saw a resilient group. Our staff does an incredible job of keeping these guys confident on a day-to-day basis. Our energy team does a great job of keeping them there.
“You’re always asking questions. As much as they were disappointed, they were really bonding, staying together. Good energy in the weight room, good energy in practice. That goes just back to a mindset. I thought our guy were really locked in on a game plan. They executed the game plan. That goes back to having great energy and great focus.”
If winning is contagious, surely Hopkins is hoping UW will carry the same energy it had against USC through its upcoming Pac-12 road swing against Stanford and Cal. If Sunday was any indictation, the Huskies are beginning to figure out what makes them tick.
Like all Hopkins’ teams, everything starts with defense. But with a roster full of athletes who thrive in transition, getting down the floor quickly has become a point of emphasis. It’s one of the reasons the Huskies played so well against the Trojans.
“You want to hit some singles,” Hopkins said. “You don’t want to hit home runs. It’s something that we’re learning. We like getting out in transition. That’s when we’re best. (Jaden McDaniels) is unstoppable. (Nahziah Carter) is unstoppable. You get Isaiah (Stewart) early, you can’t double-team him.”
And Green? He’s the key to making it all happen. After taking a few games to adjust after transferring to UW midway through last season, Green has thrived running the offense. He’s making some shots now, too. But lately, it’s his outlet passes that have caught Hopkins’ attention.
“Boom, he pushes it up,” Hopkins said. “That allows (McDaniels) and Naz to get out there. When you’re playing against non-set defenses, you’re in a good position. I love that about him. His assist-to-turnover ratio makes a coach fall in love with him. He does make some silly turnovers, but he’s looking to make other guys better.”
The Huskies weren’t perfect against USC — “I nitpick a lot,” Hopkins said — but they were about as close as they’ve been all season. Coming off the disappointing loss to UCLA, Hopkins said they played “fired up.” It’s that kind of energy he wants to see consistently as the conference season progresses.
“There were still some mistakes on the defensive end,” Hopkins said, “but a lot of it was made up by their multiple effort mentality, flying around, you saw our athleticism on display. We were really, really disruptive.”