Feb. 16, 2007
By Justin Chartrey
It is not a regular occurrence for teams to schedule non-conference games so late in the season, but with No. 7 Pittsburgh on the docket tomorrow, the Husky basketball team has a chance to make up ground.
Usually, traveling cross-country late in the season could be detrimental to a team trying to rebound from a gut-wrenching loss, but coach Lorenzo Romar is taking his upcoming game against the Panthers (22-4 overall, 10-2 Big East) as a chance to earn a quality road win.
With Washington (16-9 overall, 6-8 Pac-10) finally coming around and playing good defense, Romar said that he wishes the season would last another month.
Instead, he will take a shot at one of the nation's most elite teams in a hostile environment.
Pittsburgh is the frontrunner in the Big East conference, just a half game ahead of Georgetown, but is coming off one of its worst losses of the season. Monday, the Panthers were beaten soundly by Louisville, 66-53.
The Huskies, coming fresh off a tough loss against No. 10 Washington State, will be looking at how best to attack an unknown opponent and attempting to move on from the loss.
"We just have to put the loss behind us," said captain Jon Brockman. "Right now we have to get our thoughts focused on Pittsburgh. They're a good team and we have to be ready to play them."
Aside from the current road troubles facing Washington this season, the team will be going up against a 32-year drought vs. top-10 opponents away from Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The last time the UW beat a top-ranked team on the road was Dec. 14, 1974 against No. 9 Kansas, 74-64.
Pittsburgh, like many other Big East teams, offers a bountiful supply of big men, led by Aaron Gray. The 7-foot senior has been a mainstay in coach Jamie Dixon's system and leads the team with an average of 14.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Much like when Washington faced Southeastern Conference tenant Louisiana State and Glen "Big Baby" Davis in December, Romar will be counting on a dual effort from his big men Brockman and freshman Spencer Hawes to contain the Panthers' biggest scoring threat.
Hawes and Brockman have been integral in the Huskies winning five of the past seven after a 28-point loss to WSU in January. Hawes has averaged 20 points in his two starts since being reinserted into the starting lineup and Brockman is just a week removed from winning the Pac-10 player of the week.
Something that Washington does not have much experience against is the Panthers' four-guard set, led by Mike Cook and Antonio Graves, who both average more than 10 points per game.
With Oregon coming up next weekend, the Panthers present a dwindling opportunity to snag a quality road win, something that the NCAA Tournament selection committee will be closely examining.