We’re winding down. Just one more game in the regular season and who knows how many games Washington will play next week and beyond.
It’s been a good season for the Guess the UW Score contest.
We had another three-way tie among first-time winners Thursday. HuskieFanRon predicted a 72-64 UW victory, hometownfan 71-65 and cloud9 70-66. The Huskies beat UCLA 70-63.
Good job guys. If you’re going to tonight’s game, you can pick up your grand prize, which is a hot dog and soft drink. Or I can send you a promotional code for the UW men’s basketball app. Let me know via e-mail or twitter.
OK let’s move on.
Full slate of games today (all times Pacific).
Oregon at No. 18 Arizona, 11 a.m. (CBS)
Oregon State at Arizona State, 2 p.m. (FS Arizona)
UCLA at Washington State, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
Stanford at California, 4 p.m.
USC at Washington, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)
Picks: Arizona, ASU, UCLA and Cal.
Record: 55-26 Pac-10, 120-49 overall
AND THE UW-USC WINNER IS …
The Huskies 80-70.
Washington State beat USC 85-77 on Thursday with essentially just three players. Klay Thompson, DeAngelo Casto and Faisal Aden each scored at least 20 points and the vaunted Trojans defense couldn’t slow down the trio.
USC has the best defense in the Pac-10 that allows a conference low 63 points, but if Wazzu scored 85 points you got to believe the Huskies can put up at least 80 points tonight.
In recent years, the Trojans have been a difficult matchup for Washington. They swept last season’s series, including a 67-64 win at Hec Ed late last season. In the first meeting this season, the Huskies needed overtime to pullout at 73-67 victory.
Washington also needed 18 points from freshman Terrence Ross and was forced to use a 2-3 zone for long minutes to slow down USC’s big front line. The zone was mildly effective. Washington got the win, but its difficult to say the zone worked when junior forward Nikola Vucevic scored a season-high 28 points. He went the free throw line 14 times and converted every shot. He also had 14 rebounds.
The Huskies will need a better plan to contain Vucevic. They also need to attack guards Jio Fontan, Donte Smith and Maurice Jones on both ends of the court. USC’s backcourt is susceptible to turnovers and it can be exploited offensively.
It will be interesting to see what USC coach Kevin O’Neill does with defensive specialist Marcus Simmons when C.J. Wilcox is in the game. In the past two games O’Neill has assigned Simmons, a Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year candidate, to Isaiah Thomas. He’s averaged 7.5 points in those contests.
Wilcox, who scored a career-high 24 points Thursday, gives O’Neill something else to think about. At 6 feet 4, he’s able to shoot over the small USC backcourt. Fontan is 6 feet, Smith 5-11 and Jones 5-7.
Despite its success the past two weeks, USC hasn’t fared well on Saturdays because it uses a short rotation of 6-7 players. Expect the Huskies to force the tempo with hopes of tiring the Trojans and running away with game in the second half.
Washington also needs to address its slow starts. In the past two games, they’ve averaged just 20.5 points in the first half.
There’s going to be plenty of nervous energy in the building because of Senior Night. The UW fans are saying goodbye to Justin Holiday, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Venoy Overton. The seniors will need to manage their emotions, which can be difficult.
Last year Quincy Pondexter wept profusely during a pre-game introduction when he walked out with his parents. Two years ago, Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon were able to fight back the tears.
Washington has posted wins in the home finale in the past two years. Both games were thrilling. Last season, UW routed UCLA on ESPN and two years ago the Huskies beat WSU to win its first outright Pac-10 title.
There’s not any major incentive for the Huskies tonight. Conceivably they’ve done enough to warrant an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
A victory sustains momentum heading into the postseason and gives them a chance to win the No. 2 seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament. UCLA would have to lose at Washington State and that’s not likely to happen because the Cougars suspended Thompson and Reggie Moore is doubtful due to a foot injury.
Holiday put tonight’s game into perspective when he said: “We want to leave the right way. Go out play hard, do what we’re supposed to do and hopefully that’s good enough to get a win. That’s the best way to go out.”