David Carter is hoping history repeats itself.
"It was a big win," said Carter of his Nevada Wolf Pack's 76-73 victory over the Washington Huskies on Saturday in Seattle. "It's a big confidence booster for us."
The Wolf Pack beat Washington last year by the same 76-63 score at Lawlor Events Center and went on to win 14 more games in a row to equal a school-record 16-game winning streak. Carter isn't expecting another 16-game winning streak this year but he hopes the win over the Pac-12 Huskies gets his 5-4 Wolf Pack at least pointed in the right direction.
"It could be huge for us," said Carter, whose Wolf Pack will host the Cal Poly Mustangs (3-3) at Lawlor at 7 p.m. today to open a four-game home stand. "It would be nice to get on a little run here and win four or five in a row."
The Wolf Pack beat the Huskies for the second consecutive year with a familiar formula. A year ago point guard Deonte Burton put the team on his back to lift the Pack to the dramatic overtime victory. Burton did the same thing this past Saturday, scoring a game-high 29 points, including a pair of timely 3-pointers 51 seconds apart in the final three minutes. Burton, who is averaging an even 20 points a game this year, scored 60 points in the two victories over Washington.
Carter, though, isn't worried that his team is becoming too Burton-dependent. The junior point guard, after all, also won three games earlier in the season with last-minute shots.
"I want him to be aggressive every night," said Carter of Burton. ""If he's the best player on the floor every game we play, I'll take that. If he's on, we're on. He's a big part of us winning. So I don't want to discourage that. The other guys, though, have to start to play up to his level instead of the other way around."
That part of the equation is taking a little longer to develop mainly because Carter changed most everybody else's roles. The Pack head coach altered his starting lineup the past two games after not making a change in his starting five -- other than on senior night two years ago -- for more than two seasons. Carter started Cole Huff and Jordan Burris in favor of Kevin Panzer and Jerry Evans in a 78-72 loss at Pacific last Tuesday and then started Panzer in place of Elliott against Washington.
"I think the guys are getting more comfortable with their roles," said Carter, who is now using a four-guard lineup for the first time in his four years as head coach. "Hopefully we'll find one starting lineup and stick with it because the more consistent you are with your lineup, the more consistent your team will be. But it's about finding the right guys to put on the floor to help us win games."
Evans, who has started the past two seasons, has responded well to his new role. He had eight points and six rebounds in 32 minutes against Washington after contributing 13 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes against Pacific.
Evans has actually been more productive coming off the bench than he was as a starter. One reason is because he is playing far more minutes as a bench player. He averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in seven games as a starter in 22.3 minutes a game and has averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 32.5 minutes a game in two games coming off the bench.
"He's been more aggressive," Carter said. "I think this is a good role for him. I'm not sure he's happy with it. But it's not about who's happy. It's about the team."
Carter said Evans might find a permanent home coming off the bench because, well, he's so good at it.
"If it's not broke, don't fix it," Carter said. "Starting is not for everybody. It's about winning games."
Burris has had mixed results in his new role as a starter. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 33 minutes at Pacific and then battled foul trouble against Washington and finished with just four points and three rebounds in just 13 minutes.
Panzer had eight rebounds and two points in 30 minutes against Pacific and seven points and six rebounds in 22 minutes against Washington. Elliott played just five minutes as a starter against Pacific with no points and no rebounds and then had 11 points and five boards in 20 minutes off the bench against Washington.
The roles of Panzer and Elliott, Carter said, might change night to night.
"Both are different players," said Carter, describing the 6-9, 225-pound Panzer and the 6-10, 220-pound Elliott. "But against Washington they combined for 18 points and 11 rebounds in 42 minutes. So that's good production out of that spot. With them it's about match-ups more than anything else.
"With those two every game is going to be different and they have to find a way to be productive in that game. Some nights they'll get 12-15 points and some other nights they'll get 10-12 rebounds. They have to understand that every game is going to be different."
Cal Poly upset No. 11 UCLA, 70-68 on Nov. 25 in Los Angeles. The Mustangs' tallest starter is 6-9 freshman Brian Bennett (10.5 points a game). Brian Royer, a 6-1 senior, is averaging 10 points a game and is shooting 48 per cent from 3-point range and 6-7 forward Chris Eversley is averaging 16.3 points a game.
"We are going to have to play defense for 35 seconds every possession against them," Carter said. "We will have to be very patient defensively."