One week into Pac-10 play, Washington has already learned defending its league title won’t be easy.
The 24th-ranked Huskies should have plenty of motivation as they try for a seventh straight road win over Arizona State in a conference matchup Friday night.
Coming off its first Pac-10 regular-season championship since 1953, Washington (10-3, 1-1) began its title defense with a lethargic 76-70 home win over Oregon State on New Year’s Eve. The overall effort wasn’t much better in a shocking 90-79 home loss to Oregon on Saturday.
“There’s not much you can say,” said senior Quincy Pondexter, who had 16 points in the loss. “I thought we would have come out more prepared. I really don’t know how to explain it. It’s one of those things that happens.”
It was certainly not the way Washington expected to open conference play, especially not when the Huskies are the only ranked team in a league that is considered to be average at best when compared to the other major power conferences in the country.
“We’ve got to come back together, not let this game drop our confidence and just be ready,” said Washington sixth man Venoy Overton, who’s averaging 13.5 points in the two conference games.
Despite shooting 43.6 percent and committing 26 turnovers in their last two games, the Huskies should have little trouble get ready for this contest.
Washington swept the two-game series last season and has won six in a row at Arizona State, but it likely hasn’t forgotten its last meeting with the Sun Devils.
The top seed in the Pac-10 tournament, the then-13th-ranked Huskies’ rally from a 21-point deficit fell short in a 75-65 loss to then-No. 23 Arizona State in the semifinals of the event in Los Angeles. That should be enough motivation for a Washington squad that is playing just its second true road contest after losing 99-92 at Texas Tech on Dec. 3.
The Huskies haven’t lost in Tempe since Jan. 9, 2003.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas had a team-leading 25 points Saturday for the Huskies and the same in an 84-71 win at Arizona State on Jan. 31.
Pondexter is the team leader with 21.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, but is averaging 8.0 and 4.6 boards in eight career games against the Sun Devils.
While Washington is averaging a league-leading 82.5 points on the season and 81.3 during its six-game road winning streak against Arizona State, the Sun Devils are allowing just 55.2 per game.
With last season’s top scorers James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph in the NBA, Arizona State (10-5, 0-2) looks to avoid a third straight defeat after opening league play with losses at UCLA and Southern California.
Demetrius Walker scored 11 points in a 47-37 loss to USC on Saturday. The Sun Devils shot a season-low 24.4 percent while being held under 40 points for the first time since a 69-37 loss to Minnesota in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 27, 1991.
Though senior Derek Glasser (11.1 points, 5.2 assists per game), was held to two points and one assist against the Trojans, he’s averaging 12.0 and 4.5 assists in his last four games versus Washington.
Arizona State is facing its second ranked opponent of the season after losing 64-53 to then-No. 7 Duke on Nov. 25.