SEATTLE – It isn’t uncommon for the Washington Huskies to hold a team meeting the night before a game. Usually, coach Lorenzo Romar says, those sessions focus on the opponent.
Friday was different.
The Huskies had lost their first two Pac-12 games – both at home, to Washington State at Oregon – and didn’t look particularly inspired while doing so. They spent their margin for error long ago. A loss in Saturday’s game against Oregon State would have been catastrophic.
So, they reset.
“We usually talk about the other team. Last night we talked about the other team, but we spent a whole lot more time talking about us,” Romar said. “Just trying to identify some areas that if we didn’t change the mindset, things that have been happening are going to continue to reoccur.”
They didn’t on Saturday. Washington awoke ready for its noon tipoff against the Beavers, pummeling the Pac-12’s worst team in an 87-61 victory before a crowd of 7,781 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The Huskies led by 15 points at halftime, led by as many as 31 points in the second half and were never challenged in the final 20 minutes.
The message, sophomore guard David Crisp said, was received: “This is what it’s going to take – all you’ve got, and then some.”
This was their best game of the season, no doubt. The Huskies have played little defense this year, but played enough Saturday to limit OSU to 41.8 percent shooting from the field, speeding up the game with a full-court press that helped force 15 turnovers. UW turned those takeaways into 29 points.
“We know they don’t really want to play fast, so we tried to speed that up,” Crisp said, “and with our length and athleticism we know we can cause problems pressing teams.”
The opponent likely has more to do with this two-hour resurgence than any meeting or pep talk. Oregon State (4-13, 0-4 in Pac-12), by any objective measure, is one of the worst power-conference teams in the country. The Beavers, hamstrung by injuries and lacking meaningful experience, look like a team that will struggle to win a league game this season.
But the Huskies have played poorly against inferior competition before, so there is something to be said for the way they dismantled OSU on Saturday afternoon.
“Everybody just played with a sense of urgency this game,” said Crisp, who had a double-double with 14 points and a career-best 10 assists.
The Huskies (8-7, 1-2) trailed just once, at 8-7, before a 12-0 run made it 19-8 early in the first half. It was 43-28 at halftime before star freshman Markelle Fultz scored nine points in five minutes as part of a 13-2 run that put UW ahead 56-30.
There was little reason to watch after that. Skilled big man Drew Eubanks and Peninsula High School alumnus JaQuori McLaughlin scored 19 points each to lead the Beavers, but they were otherwise overwhelmed by UW’s length and athleticism.
Fultz led all scorers with 20 points in 31 minutes. He left the game after tweaking his ankle in the final minutes, though Romar said he will be fine. Senior forward Malik Dime injured his finger on the same play, though Romar said he didn’t think it was an ailment that would keep Dime out of UW’s next game.
Sophomore guard Matisse Thybulle made three 3-pointers and scored 17 points. Freshman guard Carlos Johnson scored 15 points in 17 minutes.
“It helps when these guys find me wide open in the corners, or trailing for 3s,” Thybulle said.
Afterward, Romar spoke of “mindset,” a word he used repeatedly while describing what changed – and what must continue to change – for the Huskies to turn their season around.
“Winning the game was one thing today, but the way we did it was refreshing, in that I just thought we did a lot of things the right way,” Romar said. “I think this is a great situation to be used as a springboard to head on to the Bay Area, because it’ll be two tough games down there.”
The Huskies visit California on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday, their first two road games outside the city since a Dec. 7 loss at Gonzaga.
“If we found something, it’s the right mindset, the right approach,” Romar said. “But even when it’s positive, I still look at patterns. So we’ve got to see when we go on the road, see what happens Monday in practice, all of that, (to) see if we’re prepared to build on what happened today.”
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