Washington fell flat on its face in its only road game of the season.
The 14th-ranked Huskies finally hit the road again when they visit Southern California on Thursday in the first Pac-10 game at the new Galen Center.
Washington (10-1) suffered its lone loss in its only game away from home, getting routed 97-77 at then-No. 18 Gonzaga on Dec. 9. The Huskies never led and trailed by double digits throughout the second half.
They now open conference play with a two-game trip to the Los Angeles area. The team will visit top-ranked UCLA on Sunday.
“I think we’re in a real good position,” Washington freshman center Spencer Hawes said. “We have one loss, and we learned a lot from that. We’re heading in the right direction heading down to California.”
Hawes and the Huskies are feeling confident after winning twice last week, including an 88-72 victory over then-No. 12 LSU on Wednesday. Hawes averaged 23.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two games—his best stretch of the season.
Washington, however, wasn’t as impressive in the second game. It missed 14 of its first 18 shots and fell into an early 11-point hole before recovering for an 80-51 win over Weber State on Friday.
The Huskies made two of 17 3-pointers for a season-low 11.8 percent and it’s a problem that has coach Lorenzo Romar baffled.
“It’s an interesting mystery to me,” he said. “I don’t remember ever shooting like this.”
Washington will be trying to solve those woes against a USC team that leads the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 33.4. The Trojans (10-3) are second in the Pac-10 in 3-point field-goal defense at 26.1 percent.
USC’s defense was a big reason it defeated a ranked team for the first time this season on Saturday. The Trojans limited then-No. 8 Wichita State to 38.0 percent shooting in a 60-56 victory in the Las Vegas Classic.
“Our poise defensively finally helped us,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “This was a quality win for us.”
The Trojans have held 12 of their 13 opponents under 40 percent shooting.
Washington has won five straight over USC by an average of nearly 18 points per game. The Huskies also have won four consecutive road meetings since a 94-74 loss on Jan. 6, 2002.
All of those matchups took place at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Trojans’ previous downtown home. USC has won eight straight at the $140 million, on-campus Galen Center after losing the first game in the new building to South Carolina on Nov. 16.
Hawes could be matched up against USC center Taj Gibson, a fellow freshman. Gibson has emerged to average 12.3 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds while shooting nearly 63 percent.
USC guard Lodrick Stewart is trying to bounce back after being held scoreless for the first time since Nov. 30, 2004. Stewart missed all six shots Saturday and saw his scoring average dip from 15.5 to 14.3 points per game— second on the team behind junior swingman Nick Young (16.1).
Stewart, a Seattle native, has lost all five career starts against the Huskies while averaging 11.2 points against his hometown team.