This was the kind of opponent the Washington Huskies had in mind when they signed Harvey Perry two years ago.
Southern Utah comes to Edmundson Pavilion for a 7 p.m. date with the Huskies today carrying a game bigger than its name.
The Thunderbirds are a surprising 6-2, a record that includes a 76-73 victory at Utah against the team that beat Washington State 69-55 Saturday. Southern Utah also has two blowouts over Idaho, including 72-50 Saturday. UW beat the Vandals 87-66 Wednesday.
And the Thunderbirds do it largely by firing away from past the three-point line where they have made 51 of 124 three-pointers (41.1 percent). They are picking up from where they left off a year ago when they led the nation in three-point shooting, making 42.9 percent for the season.
"We've got to be aware that they have multiple shooters on the floor at all times," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. "We can't fall asleep on them, that's for sure."
Defending on the perimeter was what Perry figured to bring to UW when he arrived last season. But after an injury-forced redshirt season and then seeing little time this year, Perry decided over the weekend to leave Washington and continue his career elsewhere.
Perry's loss, however, might be felt more in the future (he was a redshirt freshman) than right now. He had played only 35 minutes all year and rarely when it mattered.
Still, it's the latest sign these Huskies are still trying to find their identity despite a 6-0 record and a No. 13 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll. Romar acknowledged the ranking might be due more to the fact that "we have a little better credibility around the country" and people looking at the team's personnel more than how the Huskies have played.
UW has fallen behind in the first half of its past three games against outmanned Sacramento State, Eastern Washington and Idaho before rallying to win.
But the feeling-out process is about to end. After the game tonight, the Huskies can finally begin focusing on what will be their biggest test to date — a game Saturday at Gonzaga.
Washington forward Jon Brockman said the Huskies "will try and not think about that game coming up. But it's a big game and in a way, we need to start preparing for it."
As the Huskies finally begin to get into the meat of their schedule, Romar is likely to whittle the rotation down a bit.
The departure of Perry brings some clarity to the guard spot as true freshman Adrian Oliver has emerged as the starter at shooting guard with junior Ryan Appleby as the main backup (junior Joel Smith is out until January with a foot injury).
Appleby started the first five games before being replaced by Oliver, who has been impressive with his defense and all-around play.
Appleby, who had scored only nine points in his previous two games, responded by scoring 11 in 22 minutes off the bench Wednesday against Idaho.
"It's not a big deal," Appleby said of being moved out of the starting lineup. "I'm still playing so you just have to go out there and play no matter what. A demotion would be more along the lines of your minutes getting cut back a lot."
Former Curtis High guard Isaiah Thomas is making a quick adjustment to his new school, according to South Kent (Conn.) coach Raphael Chillious.
Thomas transferred to South Kent last month, saying it was a move he needed to make to improve his academics to get into college. He said he still plans on signing with UW eventually.
But Chillious said Thomas likely will have to spend two years at South Kent.
"He needs to,'' Chillious said. "We're not one of those pop-up-by-night prep schools that can get it done in one year.''
Thomas moved into the starting lineup at point guard shortly after arriving and has had games of 16 points and eight assists, and 19 points and seven assists.
"You think he's just going to score, but he's out there playing with other good players and he's a great passer,'' Chillious said. "Not a good passer, but a great passer.''
Thomas is playing alongside forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who has signed to join Washington next year.
Chillious said Bryan-Amaning's knees have been bothering him from overuse lately, but he's been averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and four to five blocks.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.