Stanford next for red-hot Huskies

C.J. Wilcox is the UW's leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points per game. He became the 37th Husky to top 1,000 career points on Wednesday against Cal.

Photo by Sang Cho

Identities are supposed to be forged over time, the product of experimentation and experience. Yet Pac-12 play is only two games old, and the Washington men’s basketball team seems to have already found a recipe for success on the road after a scattershot first two months of the season.

It’s nothing groundbreaking, even if it is a modest departure from the M.O. of Husky teams past. And the UW (10-5, 2-0 Pac-12) will try to replicate it one more time, on Saturday night at 8 p.m. against Stanford (10-6, 1-2) in Maples Pavilion, before returning to Seattle for their first home games of the conference season. 

In wins over Washington State and California, the Huskies owned the glass, coming down with an average of 10 more rebounds per game than their opponents. They’ve also played excellent defense, particularly on their opponents’ top scoring options. The UW limited the Cougars’ Brock Motum and the Golden Bears’ Allen Crabbe — the Pac-12’s two leading scorers — to 15 and nine points, respectively.

Rebounding and defense have been necessities because the Huskies are scoring fewer points per game (70.1) than they ever have under head coach Lorenzo Romar, now in his 11th season.

Stanford doesn’t boast a standout scorer for the UW to key on. What the Cardinal does bring is depth, including five players eminently capable of scoring in double digits.

What’s at stake

A Husky win would mean a 3-0 start to Pac-12 play, with all three victories having come on the road. That’s pretty remarkable for a team that was picked to finish fifth in the preseason conference media poll and that has such a pronounced home-court advantage.

After Saturday night, only six road games will remain on the UW schedule. That’s a lot of games at Hec Edmundson Pavilion for a team that has historically seen significant improvement as the calendar flips to February.

In short, a win might solidify the UW as a contender for a second-straight conference crown.

Players to watch

For the Huskies, it’s center Aziz N’Diaye, who has improbably emerged as one of the Pac-12’s most consistent big men and has posted double-doubles in each of the UW’s first two conference games. The defense is still there, but what’s made N’Diaye a revelation this year is his increased efficiency on the offensive end.

He’ll spend much of the night matched up with Stanford’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, Dwight Powell, a 6-foot-10 forward whose versatility might allow him to draw N’Diaye away from the basket. If he can do that, it should open holes for Cardinal guards Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle to get to the basket.

The pick

The Huskies’ biggest advantage in their past two wins, their rebounding, may be neutralized by the presence of Powell and forward Josh Huestis, who’s averaging 9.1 rebounds per game for the Cardinal.

But Stanford doesn’t have a scorer who can keep up with the UW’s C.J. Wilcox, nor does the Cardinal possess a perimeter defender talented enough to slow Wilcox down. He tops 20 points, and N’Diaye continues to score enough to keep the defense honest as the Huskies win, 67-61.

Reach Sports Editor Kevin Dowd at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @KevinDowd

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