UW's promising present catches up to wonderful past
Lorenzo Romar wouldn't say it himself. He let the thought waft through the air, grinning all the while. On the night Brandon Roy became...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Lorenzo Romar wouldn't say it himself. He let the thought waft through the air, grinning all the while.
On the night Brandon Roy became a Huskies immortal, the Washington men's basketball team fashioned its newfound moxie on an enthralling night, and after claiming a 78-73 victory over USC, you could've put the bulletin up in neon lights.
The present is catching up to the past.
The Huskies are getting closer and closer to being completely, undoubtedly, refreshingly back.
"You writers, you're good with your words," Romar said when asked about possible symbolism. "That's good. I like that."
Edmundson Pavilion donned its tux and tails Thursday night. It was a place for upscale basketball, with a young star gaining his legend stripes and athletic royalty filling the arena.
In an environment with electricity reminiscent of Rupp Arena at Kentucky, of Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke, of Assembly Hall at Indiana, Washington and USC greeted the big-time atmosphere and matched its intensity.
The result was an evening so thoroughly thrilling that we dare wonder if this is the start of something wonderful.
Or, apologies to Roy, a restart.
"It was a good night to know that we were gaining momentum," Romar said. "To have Brandon right here to witness it, it was great."
Huskies dignitaries such as Warren Moon, Spencer Hawes and new football coach Steve Sarkisian showed up to see Roy get his No. 3 jersey retired. Even better, the rejuvenated Washington team showed up, too, and solidified themselves as must-see Huskies.
They won on determination and hustle. They won on togetherness. They won on a night in which the beauty was about the result and not the game itself.
It wasn't pretty. The Huskies shot 37 percent and committed 18 turnovers, and Jon Brockman missed all eight of his field-goal attempts, but that only proved how much better this team is now. They can win with effort and defense. And they even made 32 of 40 free throws.
"It came down to who wanted it more and who was tougher," freshman guard Isaiah Thomas said.
Besides his amazing talent, toughness is one of Roy's finest traits. And so it felt like you could see these Huskies finally walking across the bridge that Roy and his exciting former teammates finished building three years ago.
The bridge to higher expectations.
The bridge to playing with purpose and swagger.
The bridge to the NCAA tournament.
These Huskies aren't the high-scoring, pressure-inducing team that Roy once led. They're bigger, rawer, with more of a grinder's mentality.
But as has been the case the past month, they're effective. And they're improving at an appropriate pace for a team that hopes to have March success.
No, this team wouldn't have beaten either of the squads that made the Sweet 16 with Roy. Still, you can now ask that question without laughing, which shows how far this team has come since losing three of its first five games.
Since then, the Huskies have won 12 of 13 with three eye-catching victories (USC, Oklahoma State and Stanford) and a demon-exorcising win at Washington State.
They've been solid with sprinkles of spectacular. They've sprinted out to a 5-1 Pac-10 start to counter their poor conference starts the previous two seasons. They're a good team with plenty of room to get better.
After a two-year absence from the Big Dance, you started to wonder if there was any momentum left from the era of Roy and Co. But it was obvious Thursday, in a packed area celebrating a great player, that the good vibes of the past aren't that far in the past.
Roy said it best during his brief address after they hung his jersey from the rafters on the north side of Edmundson Pavilion, just above the student section.
"Thank you for that ovation," he said before turning his attention to the new Huskies. "I just hope you give the guys that same support that you gave me. And they'll take you to good places."
From the energy within this arena Thursday night, the fans are ready to carry this team to more good places. Now it's on the Huskies to keep using this momentum wisely.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com
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