Well it looks as if Isaiah Thomas wasn’t the only one stepping up his game as the Pac-10 season approaches. Perhaps sensing “the real season” is about to start, several contestants in the Guess the UW Score contest brought their A-game last week.
Many posters were close to correctly predicting Washington’s 90-60 win over Nevada, but only person guessed the correct score. Congratulations wilkdawg. You’re the first person this season to guess the score and the third since we started the contest.
We should come up with a special prize for the perfect winners. As it is, we’re offering a choice between a hot dog and soft drink at a UW game or a promotional coupon for the 2010-11 Husky basketball app.
Let’s get to the picks.
Today’s games (times are local)
Washington at USC, 7:30 p.m. (delayed on USCTrojans.com)
Washington State at UCLA, 8 p.m. (FSN)
AND THE UW-USC WINNER IS …
The Trojans 80-78.
Washington should win. The Huskies are a 3 1/2-point favorite, the law of probability says they’re due to win on the road against a good team and on paper they probably hold a slight advantage over USC, which has a shorter bench and two freshman in its eight-man rotation.
We’ll see how much Washington has learned from its games against Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas A&M. The Huskies led at halftime and trailed by just two points in the final minute in each of those games before losing all three by a combined 13 points.
This is going to be a test of wills once again. Washington (8-3) likes to run and has the second most prolific offense in the nation that averages 90.5 points per game, while USC doesn’t score a lot of points. The Trojans average just 69.1 points. Their season high is 86 and the last time they scored more points, they beat Washington 87-61 last season in Los Angeles.
The Trojans (8-5) are all about defense and rebounding. They’ve won the battle of the glass in 9 of 13 games.
USC coach Kevin O’Neill instructs his players to pack the middle, which makes it virtually impossible to score inside. USC allows 62.3 ppg. and in the last five games, which includes games against Texas, Kansas and Tennessee, the Trojans have allowed an average of 58.2 points per game and held opponents to .353 shooting percentage (94-for-266).
Washington should arrive at Galen Center earlier than normal and get up a few extra shots on the perimeter because they’ll get some good looks from outside.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said Monday it’s difficult to run against the Trojans because they’re disciplined defensively.
“They are really kind of a percentage-playing type of team,” he said. “They’re very conservative in how they play. They’re very well coached. They don’t make very many mistakes. Those that are supposed to shoot the ball, shoot the ball.
“They make sure that they get back. Hopefully we’ll win the game, but if things don’t go right I’ll get the question why didn’t you guys run more? They send everybody back. When they shoot you just see guys on their bench running back to the other end. Everybody runs back. Their crowd runs to the other end. And they just stack up in the paint.
“It’s not easy to run against that team. And they’re the type of team, you start trapping them and really speeding them up well then they may not take a shot and they’re good enough to where they’ll score. You got to be careful in how you play it. You just can’t go helter skelter on them. They’ll get a lead on you and then now what are you going to do if you’ve already tried to go helter skelter.”
USC doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses, but the Huskies should be able to exploit the Trojans’ inexperienced backcourt. Junior guard Jio Fontan looks like the real deal, however, USC starts 5-foot-7 freshman Maurice Jones and reserve freshman Bryce Jones averages 25.8 minutes per game. Forward Nikola Vucevic is also foul prone.
If this game boils down to a free-throw shooting contest, then the Trojans are the slight favorite because their top four scorers shoot 72.1 percent or better from the line while Washington’s top two scorers (Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning) are under 68 percent.
If the game is decided by three-point shooting, then it will be interesting to see if someone from Washington can step up and consistently knock down shots outside. Last season, UW was 3 for 13 from downtown against USC at Galen Center.