The Washington men’s basketball team is off to a 5-0 start in Pac-12 play for the first time since the 1983-1984 season. Are they the class of the conference or beneficiaries of a soft schedule? Some answers could come this week when they travel to Eugene and Corvallis; a trip where they have not won both games in nine years.
Last year coming into the Oregon trip, the Huskies had just beaten #9 Arizona on a Dominic Green buzzer-beater. The Huskies were 17-6, 7-3 in Pac-12 play and had two wins over top-10 teams and were even generating NCAA tournament buzz. Losses to the Ducks and Beavers started a 3-6 tailspin and the Huskies ended up in the NIT, will this year be any different?
Thursday @ Oregon (11-7, 2-3), 6PM @ Matthew Knight Arena on ESPN
Opponent Notes: Oregon has had a disappointing season going just 11-7 (2-3, Pac-12). Top 5 recruit Bol Bol (son of former NBA player Manute Bol) suffered a season-ending foot injury and only played nine games. Bol was averaging 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks for the Ducks. The 7’2” big man was shooting 52% (13 of 25) from beyond the arc. Junior guard Payton Pritchard has been the Ducks best player averaging 11.9 points, 4.5 assist and 3.7 rebounds. Pritchard’s numbers are down though. He averaged 14.5 points per game last year as a sophomore and shot 44.7% from the field and 41.3% from 3. He’s down to 38.7% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc in 2018-2019.
Injury Update: Oregon forward Paul White, who is averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play, sprained his ankle against Arizona State Saturday and missed practice on Wednesday. Dana Altman told the Oregonian he expects the forward to play on Thursday night.
Schedule: Oregon earned an impressive win over then-#15 Syracuse in New York 80-65 but that was with a healthy Bol, who scored 26 points in that game.
The teams have played two games against common opponents. Both teams played Eastern Washington at home, the Huskies winning 83-59, Oregon winning 81-47. Both teams also played San Diego at home, UW winning 66-63, Oregon winning 65-55.
Oregon lost its first two Pac-12 games against Oregon State and UCLA but potentially salvaged its season by beating Arizona in Tucson last week, 59-54; that stands as the Wildcats’ only Pac-12 loss thus far.
Last Time: Oregon beat Washington 65-40 on February 8, 2018. The 40 points scored is the fewest Washington has scored in a game during the Mike Hopkins era. They shot 3 of 17 from beyond the arc and just 28% from the field. The game was competitive until the Huskies couldn’t convert a field goal the final 6:22 of the game. Jaylen Nowell particularly struggled going 4 of 15 from the field with 5 turnovers.
Matchup to Watch: Washington vs. Matthew Knight Arena
Oregon has beaten the Huskies 6 consecutive times and the Huskies have never won at Matthew Knight Arena, which opened in 2011. The Huskies have lost by 5, 25, 5, 7, 4, 13 and 25 during their 7 game losing streak (the teams only played once in 2016-17 and that game was in Seattle). But we know that all losing streaks come to an end at some point; the Huskies ended a six-game losing streak at Utah’s John M. Huntsman Arena two weeks ago and it was in Eugene back in 2016 the Husky Football team ended a 12-year losing streak to the Ducks.
Saturday @ Oregon State (11-6, 3-2), 1 PM @ Gill Coliseum on Pac-12 Networks
Opponent Notes: Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle is probably the early front-runner for Pac-12 Player of the Year. Tinkle is 2nd in the Pac-12 in scoring (20.4 ppg), 5th in rebounding (8.4 rpg), 8th in assist and 5th in steals. Tinkle and Noah Dickerson of Washington are the only two returning players from last year’s All Pac-12 first team. Senior guard Stephen Thompson Jr., who hit the buzzer-beater to beat Washington last year in Corvallis, is back and averaging 14.8 points per game, the fewest since his freshman year. His FG percentage has dropped from 46% to 41%, his 3pt percentage has dropped from 35% to 31%. His younger brother Ethan Thompson is the team’s third leading scorer at 13.4 points per game. No other player on the Beavers averages more than 7.7 points per game.
Injury Update: Tinkle hurt his ankle January 5th against Oregon and missed the USC game that following Thursday. He appears to be nearing 100% playing 35 and 36 minutes, respectively, last week. His last game he scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss to Arizona.
Schedule: Oregon State didn’t pick up any major non-conference wins. They did earn their first win in Eugene over Oregon in 7 years earlier this month. UW and OSU have just one common opponent. Washington beat Texas A&M, 71-67, during the Vancouver showcase on a neutral court. Oregon State lost to the Aggies, 67-64, in Portland during the Dam City Classic.
Oregon State had won their first 3 Pac-12 games including a sweep of the LA schools. But they were swept in Arizona losing to the Sun Devils by 3 and the Wildcats by 11. In those two games they gave up a combined 23 3-pointers and were outrebounded by 19. Of the Beavers 6 losses this year, all but one was by 6 points or fewer.
Last Time They Played: It was the Beavers who ended the Huskies dimming NCAA tournament hopes last year with a 69-66 overtime win in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament. The teams had split their previous two meetings with the home team winning each game. The Oregon trip last year happens to be the only time the Huskies have suffered a Pac-12 road sweep under Mike Hopkins.
Matchup to Watch: OSU Forward Tres Tinkle vs. Husky Zone
Tinkle, who is the son of Oregon State head coach Wayne Tickle, has given the Huskies fits. He averaged 21 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assist 2 steals in 3 games against the Huskies last year. If it seems like Tinkle has been at Oregon State forever that is because he got a medical redshirt his sophomore season and is now a 4th year Junior.
The Huskies play so much zone it will be imperative they know where the 6’8” Tinkle is at all times. He can shoot threes, post up and play the high post in the middle of the 2-3. He has even gotten to the line 147 times, which is 5th in the conference. As a team, the Huskies wouldn’t mind if Oregon State settles for 3-pointers; the Beavers are last in the Pac-12 and 275th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (32.2%).