March 3, 2010
By Matt Winter
GoHuskies.com Contributing Writer
SEATTLE - To Huskies, any game against Oregon is a big one.
However, in Thursday's game (7:00 pm tip/No TV) there is much more to play for than just the pride of a rivalry. On the heels of postseason play, the Huskies need every win they can get to bolster their tournament resume. Coach Romar's 19-9 squad is looking to overcome an abundance of mid-season losses and make the tournament, while the 14-14 Ducks are looking to continue the hot streak they started last week with a sweep down in Los Angeles.
Any time a team travels to Oregon to play basketball, it seems they have to battle two opponents--the Ducks and their arena, MacArthur Court. In what will be the Huskies last game in the nationally renowned arena (the Ducks move into their new arena, Matthew Knight Arena, next season), the Oregon crowd is sure to bring the noise.
"It's fun," says sophomore Isaiah Thomas of playing in Mac Court. I.T. has been feeding off opposing crowds as of late, averaging 22 points in his last three road games. "Hopefully they're crowd is better than everybody else's."
MacArthur Court, now the second oldest on-campus arena still in use (it saw its first game in 1927), has always been known for its excitement, noise, and hostile environment. With a structure that leaves fans right on top of the court, opposing players hear it loud and clear from their hostile students.
"Tough environment," Darnell Gant says of the Oregon Arena, "[the fans] get pretty wild, and they're pretty blatant with their remarks and stuff like that...it just gets real crazy in there and it's a big game for us, and we need to get these two road wins to end the season."
The Huskies control the all-time series against Oregon, leading 182-103, including 9-7 in the Romar era. Last season, the Dawgs won the Mac Court contest 84-69.
Coach Romar has memories of the gym, not only as a coach but also as a player. As a former Husky, he remembers the days of Dick Harter (Oregon's head basketball coach from 1971-79) and the "Kamikaze Kids."
"It's not as much intimidating as it is exciting because of the mystique of the place," Romar says of the gym.
To combat the excitement of the historic gym's final week of regular season Pac-10 games (Oregon will play home non-conference games at Mac Court next season), the Huskies will bring vengeance as motivation from the gut-wrenching 90-79 loss to Oregon back on January 2. It gave UW their first upset-loss of the season after starting the season 10-2.
The Ducks dominated that Jan. 2nd meeting, shooting 53% and knocking down seven three-pointers. The Huskies looked flat all night as the Ducks scored easily by spreading out the attack. Malcolm Armstead led the way with 21 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Michael Dunigan bested the Dawgs inside, putting up 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Tajuan Porter was deadly from the perimeter, scoring 16 and making 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.
"We just felt them out [last time], we'd never played against them before, so now we know," says junior guard Venoy Overton. "We've got to keep them under control, don't all collapse on Tajuan Porter when he drives. We've got to keep them off that three point line."
Part of the surprise in that first matchup was due to the fact that the Ducks are vastly improved from last season. Oregon was just 8-23 last season, including a dismal 2-16 Pac-10 record. Perhaps the Huskies were just overconfident in that meeting.
"We didn't come with the right attitude last game," says Gant, "but we definitely have a chip on our shoulder this time, so I'm sure everyone will be ready for this game."
As the Huskies have all season, they will look to their senior for leadership. Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Quincy Pondexter does not take home losses lightly, and the memory of that early-season upset is still fresh in his mind.
"I just really remember the echoes of them celebrating after the game," says Q, who scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the first meeting. "I think that's something that we all remember as a team, and it really hurt. They played a terrific game against us, they capitalized off a lot of our mistakes, and they played good basketball down the stretch. They beat us. They beat us fair and square on our home court.
"That's something that we've had with us for a little bit, and we remember that, and we have to come out and play our best basketball on Thursday because they're a good team. They're an underrated team and they've playing really well as of late. They're going to have a lot of firepower for this game, with it being the last week at Mac Court, and all the adversity that's going on. They're trying to do the same thing that we are--get themselves in good positioning so they can contend for the tournament championship and end the regular season on a really good note."
Will the Huskies add a much needed road-win to that tournament resume? Or will the Ducks keep their hot streak alive and beat UW in their last meeting at Mac Court? With the Pac-10 Tournament just around the corner, both teams will bring their A-game. Tensions will be high, fans will be loud, and both teams have something to play for--a perfect combination for an epic rivalry.