SEATTLE — In a proverbial sense, the University of Washington men’s basketball team got a taste of its own blood over the weekend.
The champs took a shot to the chin, so to speak.
Saturday’s loss to Oregon dropped the Huskies to 1-1 in the Pac-10 Conference and showed an unexpected vulnerability for the defending champions and odds-on favorite to repeat.
But when it comes to panic, don’t look toward these Huskies. A team that has been accused by outsiders this week of being overly cocky has not lost confidence despite the imperfect conference record.
“From now on, we can go on a 16-game winning streak,” freshman point guard Abdul Gaddy said. “We just have to prove it.”
Sophomore Isaiah Thomas, who radiates confidence the same way Angelina Jolie gives off beauty, said he still sees UW as the team to beat in the Pac-10.
“No doubt about it,” he said.
The Huskies (9-3 overall) are still in line to compete for another Pac-10 title but have seen first-hand that the conference might have more contenders than initially believed. Led by senior Tajuan Porter, improved sophomore Michael Dunigan and junior-college transfer Malcolm Armstead, Oregon simply outplayed UW for 40 minutes on the Huskies’ home court last Saturday.
Along the way, the Ducks (10-4, 2-0) exposed a few chinks in UW’s armor.
There were times when the Huskies did not get back on defense, allowing Oregon to respond to almost every UW basket and prevent the Huskies from going on a run bigger than 5-0.
There were also struggles in containing the Oregon backcourt of Porter and Armstead, who combined for 37 points, 10 assists and three steals.
But perhaps the most alarming statistic, moving forward, was the combined six points and six rebounds from UW starting big men Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant.
“We probably could get more, more scoring,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said of his frontcourt. “Right now, Quincy (Pondexter) is probably our best low-post scorer. After that, (reserve) Tyreese (Breshers) does a pretty good job. We could probably get more.”
After the 90-79 loss to Oregon on Saturday afternoon, the biggest question has been whether the Huskies carried a sense of overconfidence. Pondexter was asked as much in the post-game press conference and admitted that there were times that his teammates seemed “cocky.”
Pondexter was asked again Tuesday whether his team was “cocky,” and he was singing a different tune.
“Maybe people from the outside see our team that way, but that’s our individual personalities,” said Pondexter, who may be the most humble of the Huskies off the court. “I really don’t think we’re cocky like that, like people say. We’re young guys that like to play basketball and have fun.”
Romar isn’t concerned about a sense of cockiness with this year’s Huskies, saying that some of the best players in basketball history carried a confidence that helped them succeed. He pointed toward Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as examples, then added a few recent Huskies to the conversation.
“If you want to talk about cocky, in 2005, that was the most cocky team we had — with Nate Robinson and Will Conroy and those guys,” Romar said, referring to a UW squad that won the Pac-10 Conference tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. “Those guys brought it, though. Every minute, they brought it. They were coming at you.
“I don’t know of any successful basketball player that’s not cocky. Now, it manifests different (in players).”
Romar also admitted that this year’s Huskies “need to understand that we need to go out and get it done as opposed to just saying we’ll get it done; we need to go do it.”
Now that they’ve tasted their own blood, the Huskies certainly have something to prove when they return to the court Friday at Arizona State.
“We just know we have to take care of business,” Romar said.