It's hard to differentiate University of Washington basketball opponents these days, with Texas Southern, Northern Arizona and Northern Illinois coming from all directions to fill out the non-conference schedule.
For Husky fans, it seems if you've seen one of these geographically christened teams, you've seen them all.
On Monday night, the local disinterest was evident as a crowd barely numbering 1,500 sat through another rugged early-season encounter, watching the UW beat Texas Southern 72-65 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
While much has been made about the Huskies redoing their roster with a bunch of Seattle guys who grew up together — and they do seem to enjoy each other's basketball company — this is still a program that needs to go a long way in winning back their fans.
It took PJ, one of the locals who was called home and a onetime Texas guy at that after playing for TCU, to put the Huskies ahead for good at 58-56 with his 3-pointer right of the key. The UW let the Tigers hang around far too long, but that shot seemed to take the air out of them some.
"PJ hung that shot," said teammate Terrell Brown, the Arizona transfer. "We believe in him. We want to be confident in his shot."
Mike Hopkins' team improved to 2-1, which may not sound like much, until considering the UW finished 5-21 last season. They're nearly halfway to their previous win total.
The Huskies, in coming out of a pandemic-restricted season, no matter who they played for last year, said basketball is starting to look familiar to them again.
"It's great to get back out there and play with competition and fans back," said guard Daejon Davis, a Stanford transfer. "There's a lot of moving parts. We haven't had a real season in about a year and a half."
The maroon-shirted Tigers fell to 0-3 on their four-game Western swing, with only a stop at Air Force in Colorado Springs, remaining. If it's any indication where the UW stands right now after its 7-point win, Texas Southern came up short to Oregon by 17 and to St. Mary's by 9.
"It wasn't pretty, but we found a way to beat a good basketball team," Hopkins said.
The Huskies methodically ran their weave to death, often settling for a short-range jumper from Brown, Davis and now Jamal Bey, with the latter player now looking for his shot more. It works.
Brown led the Huskies with 20 points, while Davis chipped in 15, Fuller had 11 and Bey added 10. Yes, they share the ball. Brown interestingly had all of the UW's 9 assists, too, which was one more than Texas Southern.
Hopkins didn't as substitute much as these teams were never more than four points apart in the opening half and never separated by more than seven all evening.
The coach just left it up to his top six or seven players to shoulder the load and grit out the victory, once more putting them in a late press to unsettle the opponent. Hopkins also got 7 points and 7 rebounds from junior-college transfer Langston Wilson, a high-flying player who's been a little sore lately from landing on the floor in games and in practice.
The UW got beat bad on the boards, 53-29, giving up 29 offensive rebounds alone, but they made up for it by creating 21 turnovers and committing just 11.
"The coach was challenging us," Davis said. "We won with toughness."
The Huskies play Wyoming — with no Northern or Southern designation on the opposing jersey this time — on Thursday night at home, with hopefully a few more fans in the seats for the 8 p.m. tipoff and what should be their toughest opponent yet.
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