While the Husky basketball season is in full swing after wrapping up their first two weeks of conference play, they still have a lot to prove on the court. The team came into the year with high expectations but has yet to show the consistency needed to legitimately contend for a second straight conference title and a national championship. Facing a very difficult stretch in their upcoming schedule, the Huskies will provide insight as to what fans can expect from the team moving forward this season.
The Huskies opened the season with a promising win against Baylor, who at the time was ranked as the 16th best team in the nation and have since climbed their way up to 10th. After bringing in the 11th best-recruiting class in the county, this win elevated their standings and guaranteed high expectations.
Their next challenge stemmed from SEC powerhouse Tennessee. Coming off a season where they advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the team was held in high regard and presented a considerable challenge. It appeared that one of the team’s main issues was handling the ball; they finished the game with 17 turnovers while only shooting 40 percent in field goal attempts. Moreover, this game proved that the Huskies still have a large number of flaws to work on in order to compete with the best after losing 75–62.
The next five games came from lower-level opponents and finalized the Huskies’ record to seven wins and only one loss going into one of, if not, the biggest games of the year with cross-state rival Gonzaga. Gonzaga has dominated the series as of late and continues the trend this year beating the Huskies 83–76 in Seattle. UW kept within striking distance for the entirety of the game but were ultimately unable to slow down Gonzaga’s offensive attack. While UW head coach Mike Hopkins appeared positive after the loss, it was apparent he knew his team had areas to work on.
“No question, there are a lot of positives. I thought, for the most part, we obviously fought and our biggest thing was to leave it all out there,” said Hopkins in his postgame press conference. “I felt like in the first half when you play in a big game we got a little bit anxious. We had 12 turnovers in the first half that lead to some baskets and we talked about the two biggest keys were defensive rebounding and turning it over.”
Finishing the nonconference schedule with a record of 10-3, the Huskies looked to solidify themselves in the top tier of the Pac 12 opening with home games against USC and UCLA. However, UCLA had other plans as the Bruins stunned UW 66-64 in one of the ugliest games this season.
With the team struggling to score all season, it didn’t help that the Huskies’ second-leading scorer and member of the top five recruiting class, Jaden Mcdaniels, fouled out with seventeen minutes left in the second half. In turn, this placed all eyes on Isaiah Stewart, who has proven to be one of the top players in the entire country, to lead the Husky offense. Stewart finished the game with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome an 11 point halftime deficit.
“We have so much talent, we just have to put this together,” Stewart said as he was the only Husky to answer questions from the media following the game. “Let’s see how we respond. We’ve had great home crowds, great intensity. We all have to do the right thing. It’s all I can keep harping on.”
They now turn their attention to Oregon and Oregon State this upcoming week where a win over top-ranked Oregon will be beneficial in strengthening their NCAA tournament chances.