Four huskies–BJ Fuller, Cole Pajima, Daejeon Davis, and Emmett Matthews Jr.–walked slowly down the court together, their arms around each other’s shoulders and the look of relief on their faces.
Finally, with 5.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Washington’s men beat Utah safely. All that remains is Matthews’ attempts to free throw on the other end and the last ticking of the clock.
The fact that Washington’s eventual 77-73 victory on Saturday over Utah, the worst team in the Pac-12 this year, was never virtually guaranteed until the last bell – and sounded too risky on many turns – served as a reminder that this Huskies are not Still a lot of work in progress.
But the fact that they persevered and triumphed in their fifth PAC 12 win in their last six matches proves that this Husky team is also growing right before our eyes.
“They find how to win,” coach Mike Hopkins succinctly put it after joking about the effect that match had on his heart.
And speaking of Hopkins, that hot seat he’s been poised on for at least one season? It cools quickly. The Husky is 11-8 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12 game, right in the middle of the group in the conference and seemingly gaining confidence in the game.
Not that their performance at the Alaska Airlines Arena was a feat of art, but the huskies should be rated as the surprise team in the Pac-12. Selected in a pre-season coach poll to finish 11y, they beat Stanford right after the No. 5 Cardinal handed USC their first loss of the season; win over the Colorado team that just upset Oregon; road sweep in Utah and Colorado; And win over Oregon in Corvallis.
And Hopkins certainly found determination, if not art, in this victory over Utah. Utes, whose best player was Branden Carlsen, who came back from injury, began feeling an opportunity to break his nine-game losing streak and score his second win in Pac 12. But the Huskies avoided danger and eventually took the game out with three straight throws from Daejeon Davis and Cole Pajima in the second overtime.
“She wasn’t pretty in any way,” Hopkins said. “But the plays they gave were tough. I felt like everything was against us. And they kept fighting.”
That toughness appears to be a trend, and a growing brand of a team that other than Terrell Brown Jr. – who scored 30 goals on Saturday – is struggling to forge an offensive identity. But the Huskies have a win over the Colorado as Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle was angry on his post-game radio show, “We’ve been bullied tonight. We’ve been screwed up. We’ve gotten tougher.”
When Nate Roberts was asked to identify why they turned after suffering humiliating pre-season defeats to the likes of Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Winthrop and Utah Valley:
“Defence. That’s what we attach our hat to every day and every game. Stopping, turning teams around, getting a transfer, getting easy buckets.
“And then play as a team, play together, believe in each other. That was our biggest motto. And so our leaders just remind other guys to just believe, keep fighting, keep believing. You have results like these.”
Granted, the Husky were easily defeated by Oregon and Arizona and their game against the UCLA Force was postponed due to COVID. But Roberts said the team’s faith is growing rapidly as they master the principles of the Hopkins area.
Hopkins said that while the huskies’ boom may have been surprising to others – they came out of seasons 5-16 and 4-13 in Pac-12 – it wasn’t for him.
“We knew what kind of team we had,” he said. “It just comes back to training – can you get these guys to die faster? That’s part of the ups and downs of the season.”
Hopkins’ passion for the Huskies’ team personality and cited, of all things, the team’s rally as evidence of their unity.
“We like to look at our gatherings,” he said. “And towards the end of the match, we had one of the best rallies we’ve seen.”
I couldn’t resist asking Hopkins why the big gathering.
“You can see when everyone is together,” he said. “They’re all connected and they’re all looking at each other. And you can see the authenticity of that. There’s imaginary gatherings too. It’s like you’re hugging your wife or your son or your daughter—you know, a love hug compared to, like, a side hug. You can just see and feel the connection. “.
The recent success of the Husky drew a raucous crowd of 7,729 people. And during a first-half hiatus, they cried when Husky’s new football coach, Kalin Debore, took the microphone and promised to restore the tradition and excitement of Washington football.
The men’s basketball team, which has been battered and persecuted for the past two seasons, is finally taking some steps in that direction as well.