In one of the major surprises of the Lorenzo Romar era, the Washington Huskies forged a 17-point halftime lead, extended it to 24 midway through the second half and coasted to a shockingly easy 76-65 victory over Arizona State Thursday night in the Pac-12 opener for both schools in Tempe, AZ. The final score is deceiving: UW maintained a margin of 20 or more points until the final four minutes before Romar sent in reserves.
Washington (9-5) won its eighth straight against the 10-3 Sun Devils. Romar is 8-4 in Pac-12 openers. He’s also 21-5 all-time against Arizona State, predicted to finish among the top four teams in the conference race.
The Huskies played by far their best game of the season, especially defensively. Allowing nearly 80 points per game entering the contest, Washington hounded Arizona State into 38.6 percent shotmaking and continually got the better of the Sun Devils in the transition game.
“I give credit to the coaches who prepared us for this game,” said sophomore guard Andrew Andrews. “We’ve been practicing hard lately. As long as we get defensive stops we know we’ll be okay. This is definitely a confidence booster for us. A lot of media have been talking about us being down this year, but we just had good preparation.”
The Huskies had a season-high five players in double figures, including C.J. Wilcox with 17, including four 3-pointers, Andrews 14, Nigel Williams-Goss 12 and Perris Blackwell and Darin Johnson with 10 each. More important, the Huskies held Jahii Carson to 15 and survived six blocked shots by 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski. Carson scored 32 the last time the teams met.
“I don’t think there is any any question that this was our best performance this season, especially against a quality opponent,” said Romar. “We were locked in for 35 minutes, and it was a good effort by our guys. This is what we’ve been waiting for. We made really good decisions in transition.
“I think everyone would have a right to be surprised with the result. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity this year, and through it all we persevered. We’ve stayed together. We could have pointed fingers, but we didn’t. We stayed together.”
The Huskies led 40-23 after the first 20 minutes. Arizona State made seven of its first nine shots, but Washington went on a 30-7 run to halftime, highlighted by a lob from Andrews to Wilcox for a reverse layup and two Wilcox 3-pointers.
Normally a perimeter team, Washington tallied 24 of its first 30 points in the paint, scoring repeatedly in transition. At one point, the Huskies made 10 of 11 shots. The Sun Devils were helpless to stop it, allowing Washington to shoot 60 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes.
Washington scored the first bucket of the second half, but Arizona State whittled the margin down to 44-34 with 16:13 left as Bachynski blocked three shots in the first four minutes, leading to several transition baskets.
Washington answered a 9-0 run with an 8-0 run of its own, leading 52-34 with 14:40 to play.
NEXT: Washington plays at No. 1 Arizona Saturday at 11 a.m., PT, in the McKale Center. The Huskies are 2-26 in games against top-ranked teams.