The Washington Huskies begin Pac-12 play against the Washington State Cougars at Hec Ed in Seattle.
The Washington Huskies open Pac-12 play against their rivals to the east, the Washington State Cougars, at home. Both teams come into conference play with a 7-5 record. For the Cougars, a winning record is a small, uh, victory under head coach Ernie Kent. The Washington State Cougars won one game in Pac-12 play last year. They figure to be improved this season (they can’t be as bad as they were last year, can they?).
The Cougars feature freshman point guard Malachi Flynn, who has played well in nonconference play to this point. Perhaps his presence will help the Cougars win a few more games this year. He’s scored in double figures in eight of Washington State’s first twelve games, including a 27-point performance November 30th against Utah Valley.
The Washington Huskies enter Pac-12 play with an air of disappointment. Fans have already expressed their displeasure for head coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team has looked unable/unwilling to play defense at times and appears wholly unprepared to take on serious competition despite the play of likely NBA lottery pick Markelle Fultz.
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If the Washington Huskies are to succeed against Pac-12 competition this season, they’ll need the continued big-time play by big man Noah Dickerson. Since Romar put him in the starting lineup eight games ago, Dickerson has averaged a double-double with 11.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Dickerson could be the crucial supporter on the inside for Fultz, and even his free throw shooting has been on the mark this year. He is an astonishing 32-for-36 from the line over his last five games. I guess Romar is at least coaching better free throw shooting, even if he’s not coaching defense in practice.
The key to this game for the Huskies will be to spread the ball around and let Fultz distribute and score. David Crisp has to make his three-pointers and keep the Cougars out of the game.
For the Cougs, funneling the ball to forward Josh Hawkinson figures to be their only chance. With the Huskies struggling on defense at times this season, Hawkinson drawing attention in the middle could leave Flynn open for outside jumpers.
The game is at 5:30 p.m. at Hec Ed and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.