December 30, 2010
It wasn't televised anywhere, it didn't end until 1 a.m. EST and neither of the teams involved appear in either top 25 poll, but Washington's 73-67 overtime win at USC was one of Wednesday night's most noteworthy results.
The Huskies took a significant step toward proving they're the Pac-10's best team by notching their first significant true road win in 23 months.
The last time Washington won on the road at a credible opponent was an 84-71 victory at James Harden-led 14th-ranked Arizona State on Jan. 31, 2009. The Huskies lost at the five other Pac-10 teams in the league's top six last season and entered Wednesday night's game having dropped seven of eight on the road against the Los Angeles schools.
What made the victory even more noteworthy for the Huskies was how they managed to win at USC. They rallied from a 16-4 first-half deficit even though the Trojans completely bottled up Washington's vaunted transition game, put the Huskies in early foul trouble and shackled all-conference guard Isaiah Thomas with 6-foot-6 defensive stopper Marcus Simmons.
The key for the Huskies was an unexpected 44-28 edge on the glass and a second-half zone defense that negated some of USC's edge in the paint and turned the Trojans into a jump-shooting team. Washington also received a breakout scoring performance from freshman Terrence Ross, who scored a career-high 18 points and made four three-pointers before fouling out with 2:37 left in overtime.
Winning at USC puts Washington in an enviable position entering Friday's matchup with UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Win, and the Huskies sweep their toughest two-game road swing of the Pac-10 season and deal a significant blow to two fellow conference contenders. Lose, and a 1-1 trip to Los Angeles is still fairly successful considering how dominant Washington has been in Seattle the past few years.
On the other hand, USC and Washington State face a critical early game on Friday at Galen Center. The loser falls to 0-2 in the Pac-10 and sacrifices whatever momentum both teams generated with strong finishes to the non-conference season.