Perhaps one of the most significant surprises of the first few Pac-12 games is the fact that Washington has started out 2-0 in conference play despite both games taking place on the road. While neither Washington State nor Cal are supposed to do much of anything in the conference this season, it still would have seemed unlikely even a few weeks ago to think that a Washington team that was struggling to even lose respectably to weak non-conference opponents like Albany in Hec Ed.
Not only does it appear that we may have to adjust to the possibility of a solid team this year, it also seems that rebounding, one of the largest issues in losses to teams like Colorado State, has become a strength. Led by 12 boards from Aziz N’Diaye, who also scored 12 points for his sixth double-double of the year, the Huskies grabbed 43 rebounds compared to 28 for the Golden Bears. Winning that battle really made the difference in what was a poor shooting game for both teams, with Cal shooting 37%, just better than 36% for Washington. Part of that, for Cal, was the struggles of high volume shooters like Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe, who only managed 9 points each. Also worth mentioning that the Cal players shot themselves in the foot by hitting only 6-16 free throws.
On the surface, nothing huge has changed for Romar’s squad. The bulk of the scoring is still coming from C.J. Wilcox’s outside shooting, and the defense is still frustratingly inconsistent at times, but things are beginning to come together a little. While it’s totally possible that it isn’t something that will be sustained, the offense looks a little less lost and opponents keep getting outrebounded and held to sub-40 field goal percentages. If that success continues with a win over Stanford to finish off the road trip, maybe it will really be time to start believing in the possibility of something more than a failed season.