The players werent buying in at the start, and neither was the public. There was low attendance Tuesday against Texas-Arlington for a first-round win. The Huskies themselves went through the game will all the joy of test objects for an eye-poke device.
Friday was different. The crowd, despite the universitys misguided ticket pricing, doubled. The fun Romar promised arrived. It was amplified during the 76-55 second-round paddling of Northwestern when little-used Martin Breunig tomahawk jammed on two helpless smartypants from Northwestern.
This was a flash of maxed-out Washington. Engaged defense, crisp passing, paying attention. All three have been challenges in this muddled season.
Fifth-year senior Darnell Gant chatted with reporters Thursday morning. His extended career provides license to tell the truth.
Gant explained he was not yet having fun in the NIT. It was weird playing on the home floor after Senior Night. And, most disconcerting, that the team did not fully understand the defensive system yet.
There is a slender line between not understanding and not doing. Washington has displayed both in the same game. So, dont let anyone tell you this 23-10 team is not multi-talented.
Friday night they were better. Much better. The Huskies harassed against Northwesterns spread-out, gotcha offensive style, causing the Wildcats to shoot 21.9 percent in the second half.
You have to understand how much discipline and focus it takes to play Northwestern, and our guys had it, Romar said.
Terrence Ross scored a career-high 32 points. Hard analysis shows that was also beneficial. If youre betting, put your money on the sophomore having only one home game remaining as a Husky.
Fridays pleasure points led to Romar grabbing the courtside microphone post-game to thank the 5,761 in attendance. He also implored them to comeback Tuesday at 6 p.m. when Washington hosts the winner of Sundays game between Oregon and Iowa in a quarterfinal game with a trip to Madison Square Garden granted to the winner.
The Huskies were throttled in Eugene Feb. 29. The politically incorrect post-game sentiment Friday was that Washington desperately wants another shot at the Ducks.
C.J. Wilcox, who scored 20 points off the bench Friday, said he remembered being spanked at Oregon. Abdul Gaddy immediately answered “yes” when asked in the formal press conference if he wanted to play Oregon, then Romar interjected that either team would be fine, and playfully nudged Gaddy with his elbow.
Ever-bashful Tony Wroten emphasized the preference.
They pretty much embarrassed us last time in Eugene, Wroten said. We want revenge.
A victory wont admit them to the NCAA tournament, but would be a salve. Plus, Romar says this is going to be fun. That match-up would prove him correct.