This victory was so dominant and so certain that as the final minutes expired, the lone remaining storyline qualified as merely peripheral:
Could Andrew Andrews finish his quest for a triple-double?
It was close, but he fell just shy, settling for 14 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. But at least the senior guard’s concerted effort to tally one more assist provided some measure of intrigue late in the second half. Little else about this game did.
That was just fine with the Washington Huskies, who blitzed the overmatched Stanford Cardinal in a 91-68 blowout Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The Huskies (18-13) advanced to a 12:10 p.m. Thursday game against eighth-ranked Oregon, the league’s regular-season champion and the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
They did it by shooting 50 percent from the field, forcing 15 turnovers and scoring 25 second-chance points. And by making seven 3-pointers in the first half. And by using an 11-0 run in the final two minutes and eight seconds of the first half to push their halftime lead to 50-22, a margin Stanford never chipped below 20.
It was the kind of performance that prompted a reporter to ask afterward if it was UW’s best this season. Coach Lorenzo Romar couldn’t say for sure.
“In terms of lately, I thought we were as dialed in and as efficient as we have been, so I thought it was a very good performance,” Romar said. “I thought today we could have beaten a lot of teams, playing that way.”
But can they beat Oregon? As gratifying as this victory might have been for the Huskies — and it was, considering their largest winning margin against a Pac-12 team in the regular season was 12 points — they still have to beat the Ducks, and likely win another game Friday, at least, to have any hope of advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Which is why Andrews said after Wednesday’s victory: “We can’t enjoy this at all, really, because the turnaround is so quick. We play at 12 again tomorrow against the No. 1 team in our conference, so it should be a fun battle for us.”
Stanford did not provide such competition. Led by 25 points from guard Dejounte Murray, the Huskies attacked the Cardinal’s zone with frequent success. They led 10-0 before Stanford scored and 24-5 before the Cardinal made its first field goal with 11:17 remaining in the first half.
“I just stayed aggressive,” said Murray, who did the same while scoring 25 in UW’s 64-53 victory over Stanford on Feb. 20.
Murray slashed and made floaters on the baseline. Marquese Chriss scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Malik Dime scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and recorded three blocks to tie the single-season UW record of 85.
After scoring a career-best 47 points last week against Washington State, Andrews mostly distributed Wednesday. During the press-and-trap suffocation that defined the final minutes of the first half, Andrews threw a pair of alley-oop lobs to Murray, and the freshman finished each — one a layup, the other a resounding dunk to give UW a 28-point lead.
Stanford (15-15) made only 7 of 24 from the field in the first half and committed 11 turnovers, including five in the final 2:08.
“When we’re playing defense the way we’re capable of, you’ll see, when that ball is passed, five guys moving at once,” Romar said. “The ball goes inside, you’ll see five guys moving at once. And we saw that a lot. Our guys were extremely alert on the defensive end. When we’re able to do that, it makes for a pretty good defensive performance.”
The second half was mostly a formality. The closest the score became was 75-55 after Rosco Allen’s basket with 7:03 to play, though the Huskies pushed their lead to 83-59 after a driving Murray layup and played the final minutes with their deep reserves.
Well, Andrews was out there, too, trying hard to pick up his 10th assist. It looked as if he had it when he dished to freshman forward Noah Dickerson under the hoop with 1:52 to play, but Dickerson was fouled. Andrews found Dickerson on UW’s next possession, again open under the hoop, but he fumbled the ball away.
Andrews said afterward that UW assistant coach Will Conroy told him at halftime that he was within range of a triple-double, and acknowledged that later in the second half he tried harder to make it happen.
“Noah’s probably kicking himself in the shin right now, so I’m not going to be too hard on him,” Andrews joked. “At the end of the day, we got the win, so the triple-double doesn’t really matter to me too much.”
Especially not with Oregon on tap. The Ducks beat the Huskies, 86-73, in Eugene on Feb. 28. That was the only meeting between the teams this season.
“They go out and play really solid basketball,” Romar said. “They are experienced. They have a real belief that they can go out and be successful, so we’re going to have to really come out and repeat what we did today in terms of a high level of focus.”
Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament
UW 91, Stanford 68
Colorado 80, WSU 56
USC 95, UCLA 71
Arizona State vs. Oregon State, late
UW vs. Oregon, noon, Pac-12 Network
Colorado vs. Arizona, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
USC vs. Utah, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Arizona State-Oregon State winner vs. California, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Game in review
Player of the game: Hard to decide between Dejounte Murray, who scored a game-high 25 points and had four assists, or Andrew Andrews, who scored 14 points with nine assists and nine rebounds. Both deserve the nod.
It was over when: Washington raced to a 50-22 halftime lead, thanks in part to an 11-0 run to close the half. The Huskies led by at least 20 points for the entire second half, and Stanford simply never had a chance.
Stat of the game: The Huskies outrebounded Stanford 45-39 — and scored 25 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds — snapping a six-game streak of being outrebounded. They were outrebounded in 14 of their 18 Pac-12 games this season.
Quotable: “We’re all young. We’re all capable of playing multiple minutes in a game. I don’t think the back-to-back will affect us that much. For them, it’s about getting their feet wet, kind of, getting them used to the environment, used to playing hard, and I think that’s one thing we did today.” — Andrews on UW’s freshmen getting used to the tournament.
What it means: The Huskies get to keep playing in Las Vegas. This was their first victory in the Pac-12 tournament since 2013, and it allows UW to hang on to the hope that it can win four games in four days to secure an NCAA tournament bid. That’s still a longshot, but the Huskies are at least one game closer now — and they conquered that first step pretty easily.
Up next: Washington vs. Oregon, 12:10 p.m. Thursday, Las Vegas.