Streaking Pilots should have firepower against Huskies

Dec 6, 2010, 4:33 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

The Huskies had a great romp on Saturday afternoon against reeling Texas Tech, where head coach Pat Knight is dangerously close to losing control of his Red Raiders’ team. Now, UW must face a Portland team that has been beaten badly by both Kentucky and Washington State in their biggest profile games at Portland’s Rose Garden and Seattle’s Key Arena.

Last year against a Portland team ranked in the Top-25 after surprising wins over UCLA and Minnesota, the Dawgs shot down the Pilots, 89-54. What most Northwest fans don’t know is that Portland, outside of the two humiliating losses to UK and WSU, has played very well this season as well.

Portland’s last game was a 58-54 road win over Montana on Friday. Yes, it was that Montana team that just beat UCLA 66-57 Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion. Before that the Pilots took down the Saint Louis Billikens, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar’s old team, in Portland on Tuesday, 69-60.

On the previous Saturday in the PDX it was the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (the defending Big West champs) that fell to the Pilots, 75-63. Portland is 7-2, including another road win over Idaho, 66-53. Portland is a veteran team on a three-game winning streak that can really shoot it and seems to have improved since the two high-profile losses to Kentucky and the Cougs.

Jared Stohl (15 PPG) of Marysville comes home for his last appearance at Hec-Ed shooting 53 percent from three point land on 59 attempts. The Pilots are shooting 45 percent from behind the arc as a team on 152 attempts. Husky fans are going gaga over a team that, in two fewer games, is shooting 46 percent on 160 attempts. Portland is a very dangerous team shooting the ball from range.

Stohl should be inspired playing in front of friends and family, along with Luke Sikma who is averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds per game. Wing starter Nemanja Mitrovic is averaging 11 PPG and is shooting 48 percent from three point land on 42 attempts.

Yes, Washington is a deep team of high fliers that should win this game easily, but I think that Portland could make it interesting. Coach Eric Reveno spoke to The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen and sounded as if his team was ready for the challenge.

“We got down 20 something to Washington State early and then came back and had it within one. We played really well in road wins at Idaho and Montana. After losing two all-conference players last year, I think we’re doing well. We’re not as consistent as I’d like on a lot of things, but we’re doing okay for this part of the season.”

Reveno also talked with Allen about Stohl.

“He’s got a chance and is on pace to be the first player in college basketball history to lead the country in three-point percentage field goals two years in a row. Teams are really trying to take it away. He’s a really outstanding shooter.”

With what Washington has done in shooting the three, Husky fans should hope they have also learned something about defending it. Even if they do a good job of staying out on shooters and Sikma stomps all over them inside then they could also lose the game that way.

All of the talk around the country about the Pac-10 is how lousy it is, aside from UW and maybe ‘Zona and WSU. The Dawgs and the conference need nothing worse than to lose to Portland on Monday; taking these guys lightly would be a very big mistake.

Darnell Gant will likely have to stop Sikma from getting into the paint, which will be a huge challenge for him. If the Dawgs put ace wing defender Justin Holiday on Stohl, that would leave either Abdul Gaddy or 5-foot-8 Isaiah Thomas on the 6-foot-5 Mitrovic.

After watching a lot of WCC teams play this year, I think the league is down, and Portland could sneak up and be a solid contender behind Gonzaga. UW fans need to hope their team is ready for a major challenge from the Stohl, Sikma, Mitrovic, Reveno and the Pilots at 7 p.m. (PST) in Seattle.

Montlake Madness’ Griffin Bennett was also concerned about this game in his preview on Monday.

“The Pilots are a scrappy team that can rebound and shoot the three exceptionally well. This is the kind of team that can come in and upset the Huskies if they aren’t careful.”

Washington is 12-2 against Portland all-time, but UW fans shouldn’t get cocky over that stat. This team is primed for an upset loss after two excellent efforts against Long Beach State and Texas Tech. The UW coaching staff better have this Husky team prepared or Washington will join UCLA – after their humiliating loss to Montana – in wearing the proverbial Pac-10 “dunce cap”.

Yes, UW is flying high in leading the nation in scoring (96 PPG), 3-point percentage (46 percent) and field goals per game (36), but it wasn’t that long since the disappointment of Maui no matter how Romar tries to spin it. This UW team needs to maintain it’s edge or an upset is clearly a possibility.

There are even more feel good numbers out there for UW as pointed out on Monday.

“UW is also among the nation’s leaders in assists per game (2nd, 20.1), field goal percentage (7th at 51 percent) and three-pointers made per game (3rd at 10.6) and steals (21st at 9.7).”

All that said, without consistency that carries over to Pac-10 play, these type of numbers mean very little at this point in the year.

Husky Huddle

What is meaningful and very positive for Husky fans is that their football team, by virtue of a 6-6 record that includes a hard fought win over WSU on Saturday, is now headed to the Holiday Bowl. Fans of both sports should really consider making the trip down to LA that week, in the midst of the week between Christmas and New Years.

On Wednesday Dec. 29 at 7:30 (PST) the Hoopdawgs will be playing at USC, which looked great in beating Texas on Sunday. Tickets to the Galen Center games are not well attended and having a solid UW presence could really help the Dawgs get a valuable road win to start conference play.

The next night in San Diego (about two hours or so away) the football team faces an angry Nebraska team that generally feels as if it has been snubbed to get this lowly bowl bid. That game kicks off at 7 p.m. (PST) and it would be great for Husky fans to help make that stadium a lot more purple looking than the expected Corn Husker red.

The next day (New Years Eve), the Dawgs will be faced with a stern challenge that could set the tone for the rest of conference play as Washington visits UCLA in Pauley Pavilion at 1:30 (PST). Last season’s last second embarrassment was the low-light of an otherwise bright season for the Dawgs.

A rare win in the hallowed halls that the legendary John Wooden built would be a special moment, and the UW team needs it’s fans to play their best.

The Dawgs moved up in the polls to No. 21 in the AP poll while staying at No. 22 in the Coaches poll.

I feel that the Dawgs are probably ranked about right, but polls this time of year are not necessary and I for one can’t see what good they do for the game. I think that the polls should wait until February, when teams are positioning for NCAA invites. Other than at that point and especially in the offseason, it just becomes way too much filler for me.

The polls don’t really settle anything this time of year, other than to provide unwarranted and often ill-conceived hype. What’s even worse is the off-shoots of those polls that attempt to frame their own alternative reality. A great example of how bad it can get was a poll from CBS Sports on Monday.

Washington was ranked No. 22, which of course doesn’t break ranks with the other polls in an attempt to legitimize this feature for the network. What was remarkable was that CBS has an RPI that ranks UW at No. 81 and Arizona at No. 82. Teams like Jacksonville, Jackson State, Missouri State and Sam Houston State are right ahead of them. What is this other than ridiculous bunk?

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