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December 27, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Guess the UW Score contest: Mississippi Valley State

Washington is sputtering along this season at 6-5, but I’m really enjoying the race in the Guess the UW score contest.

After 11 games, we haven’t had a repeat winner.

The Huskies’ 82-70 loss against Connecticut on Sunday produced another first-time winner who’ll likely contend for the grand prize at the end of the season.

Congrats to wayupwaydown, the co-winner in 2012-13 and 2010-11, for nearly nailing a perfect score. He guessed UW would fall 82-71 and pretty much summed up the sentiment of most posters: “Nothing I have seen leads me to think UW can beat them.”

We’ve been doing this contest for five years and this is wayupwaydown’s sixth career win. Maybe we’ll give you a lifetime award or something.

Or maybe you’d like a hot dog and soft drink on me. If so, contact me via email (pallen@seattletimes.com) or Twitter to claim your prize.

Alright, let’s move on.

TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:

Mississippi Valley State (3-7) at Washington (6-5), 7:30 p.m. ………… Pac-12 Networks

AND THE UW-MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE WINNER IS …

The Huskies 95-75.

Washington is favored by 22.5 points and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Huskies score 100 points for the first time since tallying 109 against California on Feb. 10, 2011.

After last Sunday’s 12-point loss to then-No. 10 UConn, coach Lorenzo Romar questioned whether the Huskies are mature enough and mentally tough enough to turn their season around. The challenge today for UW is to maintain their focus for 40 minutes and to not let up against an overmatched opponent. Mississippi Valley State is riding a 55-game road losing streak against non-conference foes. The Delta Devils haven’t beaten a team from a power conference on the road in 10 years. Still, it’s not enough for the Huskies to win today. The starters need to show they can take control early and avoid any lapses. And they’ll have to do it in front of what’s likely to be a small, uninspired crowd.

The Huskies admit they play well in short stretches, but rarely have they been dominant for the duration of the game. They did it during an 85-66 win against Idaho State. In every other game, the Huskies have struggled in some form or fashion.

Lately the bugaboo has been turnovers. In each of the past four games, UW has committed at least 13 turnovers.

Expect Romar to have little tolerance for miscues today and a turnover or blown defensive assignment is likely to warrant time on the bench.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Romar tinkers with the lineup as well. With just two non-conference games remaining, this is an opportune time to make changes before Thursday’s Pac-12 opener at Arizona State.

Forward Desmond Simmons made his season debut Sunday after missing the first 10 games following arthroscopic knee surgery.

If he can play more than 12 minutes, then perhaps it’s time for Washington to ditch the four-guard lineup and move Simmons, a 6-7 junior, into the lineup alongside forward Perris Blackwell and guard C.J. Wilcox. Romar would have to make a decision on whether to start junior wing Mike Anderson, sophomore point guard Andrew Andrews or freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss.

Blackwell and Wilcox are locks to start. Anderson appears to be indispensable because he can rebound, defend several positions and knock down an open jump shot. When healthy, Simmons is an above-average rebounder and defender. Andrews and Williams-Goss are seemingly interchangeable. They’re nearly identical in terms of production. Williams-Goss is a better playmaker while Andrews has less turnovers.

The Huskies average 80.0 points and they score enough to win most games. However, they’re desperate to improve a leaky defense that ranks 341st in the country in opponent’s shooting percentage (49.8) and 326th in opponent’s scoring average (80.3).

Trading defense (Simmons) for offense (Andrews or Williams-Goss) seems like the prudent move at this time.

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