Washington won a total of two games in Pac-12 Conference play in 2016-17. But the Huskies, who opened league play with an impressive 88-81 victory at USC, can match that total the first weekend of this season when they play at UCLA on Sunday night.
Washington, which finished 9-22 overall and 2-16 in the Pac-12 in Lorenzo Romar’s final season, have turned things around quickly under first-year head coach Mike Hopkins, a longtime assistant to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. The Huskies come into the game with the Bruins at famed Pauley Pavilion on a roll, having won nine of their last 10, including a 74-65 upset of then-No. 2 Kansas in Kansas City, Mo. If there was any doubt that wasn’t a fluke, Washington cruised to a convincing win over a USC squad picked to finish second in the conference preseason poll, shooting 67.3 percent from the floor in the process. “Play great defense,” freshman guard Jaylen Nowell replied when asked what the Huskies will need to do to garner a rare sweep of the L.A. schools. “Got to get our hands up on all of their shooters, and their big men are very good, so we’ve got to contain them and we’ll be able to come out with a win.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT WASHINGTON (11-3, 1-0 Pac-12): Although the Huskies’ eye-popping shooting stats garnered most of the attention after the win at USC — the Huskies shot 73.1 percent in the second half — their defense wasn’t too shabby either, holding one of the Pac-12’s top 3-point shooting teams to just 3-of-20 from (15 percent) behind the arc. Five Huskies scored in double figures, led by junior forward Noah Dickerson (17) and followed by Nowell (16), junior forward Dominic Green (16), junior guard Matisse Thybulle (14) and 6-11 sophomore forward Sam Timmins (10). Nowell leads the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) with Dickerson (15.5), junior guard David Crisp (12.2) and Thybulle (11.1) also averaging double digits.
ABOUT UCLA (10-3, 1-0): Junior guard Aaron Holiday, younger brother of NBA guards Jrue Holiday (New Orleans) and Justin Holiday (Chicago), could have an NBA future of his own as evidenced by his 33-point, 11-rebound performance in Friday’s 96-82 win over Washington State. He is one of four Bruins averaging in double figures and leads the team with a 18.8 average to go with 71 assists. Thomas Welsh, a 7-foot senior center and one of the top mid-range shooters in college basketball, is second in scoring (13.1) and leads the team in rebounding (10.9) while freshman guards Jaylen Hands (12.8 points) and Kris Wilkes (12.5) are also averaging in double figures.
1. Holiday became the first UCLA player to record at least 33 points and 11 rebounds in a game since Ed O’Bannon had 37 points and 13 rebounds in a 100-77 victory over Duke on Feb. 26, 1995.
2. Washington had 16 steals and 15 blocks in its 106-55 win over Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 19, the only NCAA team since the 2011-12 season to accomplish that feat.
3. Thybulle is tied for second in the NCAA in steals (44).
PREDICTION: UCLA 83, Washington 78