Washington men's basketball wraps up epic week in China with win over Texas
SHANGHAI, China — Well, that 12-hour flight from Shanghai to Seattle will be a lot more enjoyable for the Washington men's basketball team on Sunday.
Following a week’s worth of cultural exposure through Hangzhou, the Alibaba Group's campus, iconic Buddhist temples and Shanghai, one of the world's busiest and brightest metropolises, the Huskies finished their week on a high note with a 77-71 win over Texas at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the inaugural Pac-12 China Game.
[Related highlights: Huskies, Longhorns make history in China]
Sure, the win as an undersized underdog in a foreign country on national TV back home was sweet, but give Washington coach Lorenzo Romar credit for letting his players get a taste of a culture they'd likely never see otherwise. The young squad, which featured seven freshmen on the floor Saturday, embraced the educational component of their trip.
“We talked about this almost every day,” freshman guard Matisse Thybulle said. “We feel like this is something that everyone should experience. They need to make the trip, just make it out to Shanghai and see what it’s all about because it’s amazing. This is definitely going to be a trip that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
[Related: Complete Pac-12 China Game coverage]
As the team bus bumbled around Hangzhou earlier in the week, each player took turns sharing his research project on a specific part of local culture or religion. And it's not every day you get to meet Jack Ma, the influential billionaire founder of Alibaba Group, or take a boat tour on the famed Huangpu River while the shiny Shanghai skyline looms over you, or have Yao Ming surprise you during a film session.
The Huskies did it right and rolled with the cultural punches.
"First of all, looking at the scoreboard and not being able to read because it was in Mandarin was different,” Thybulle said after the win. “Then the announcers are speaking two different languages. Also just having people from Shanghai be so excited to watch two teams that they essentially don’t know anything about. That was a pretty great atmosphere. I loved it.”
The Huskies attracted a large contingent of fans sitting on their side of the arena. It seemed like virtually every person behind their bench was wearing a purple shirt with a gold ‘W’ on it.
“It’s so exciting here because the game is growing,” Romar said. “We got to meet Yao Ming and he spoke to us and he talked about the growth in China. So, basketball takes you all over the place. You never know what could happen in the future.”