March 17, 2010
» Complete Weekly Release
» NCAA Tournament Central
» Pac-10 Tournament Coverage
» Coach, Player and Fan Reaction
» NCAA Bracket (PDF)
» Watch all Husky games from the NCAA® Championship LIVE ONLINE for FREE!
Quincy Pondexter Ready For NCAA Tournament
By GREGG BELL
AP SPORTS WRITER
SEATTLE -- Yes, Marquette is small. Its coach claims "we will be the smallest team you have seen" from a major conference.
Buzz Williams also says Lazar Hayward, Marquette's center and leading scorer, "is 6-6 1/2 - with his shoes on."
Quincy Pondexter knows Hayward to be even smaller than that.
Pondexter and Hayward were teammates last summer for the United States during the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. Both were greeted there by a training table with unrecognizable native dishes they refused to eat.
"He was losing weight by the day," Pondexter said Tuesday of the 225-pound Hayward, who leads Marquette's four-guard offense in scoring at 18.1 points per game entering Thursday's first-round meeting in the NCAA tournament between the 11th-seeded Huskies (24-9) and sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (22-11).
"I starved a couple days, ate bread, water. It was like fasting. Then I went ahead and got some McDonald's."
A re-nourished Pondexter has Washington recharged for its second consecutive tournament appearance.
"He can pretty much do it all," Hayward said of his former dorm mate in Serbia.
Pondexter has led the Huskies to seven consecutive wins, including three last weekend to secure the Pac-10 tournament championship.
To make it eight in a row and get into Saturday's second round, Washington needs to go back inside and find out just how small Marquette is.
"You want to test them, to see what they can do inside," point guard Isaiah Thomas said.
Which is to say, the Huskies need to keep playing the way they have all season while in San Jose. A second-round game would be against either third-seeded New Mexico or Montana. The Lobos' tallest starter is 6-8.
Even the 5-8 Thomas will have a height advantage Thursday at point guard over Maurice Acker, whom Williams says is more like 5-7 1/2 instead of his listed 5-8.
"He's smaller than me?" Thomas said, amazed
So again it's inside or bust for the Huskies. Washington is at its frenetic best when Thomas, whose average of 17.1 points per game is second on Washington to Pondexter's 19.8, is driving daringly into the lane. He floats circus shots or attracts multiple defenders, leaving Pondexter or revitalized, 6-9 forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning open for easy baskets underneath.
"We always try to be in there going to the paint, getting points underneath and off offensive rebounds, or to get us to the foul line," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
One of the reasons the Huskies are in this tournament is because they got inside then made 17 of 18 free throws in the Pac-10 tournament title game to clinch the win against California. The automatic bid that came with it eliminated the stress of whether the NCAA tournament selection committee would choose them.
There are potential pitfalls to Washington's inside job.
Doctors have told Thomas he probably has a broken bone in his shooting hand. Last year's Pac-10 freshman of the year said Tuesday that trainers are trying to make a less-bulky glove for him to wear over the hamate bone on the palm of his left hand. He's planning to wear that Thursday.
"When I fall, that's when all the pain comes back," he said.
Thomas says the glove he had been wearing since getting hurt on Feb. 11 at Cal caused him to shoot with too much of his hand on the ball.
Romar calls it a non-issue, citing how well Thomas has played with the injury.
It's not like Marquette just got small since bids were announced on Sunday. Although they lost three of the top eight scorers in school history off last year's team and were picked to finish 12th in the Big East, the Golden Eagles arrived Monday in San Jose for their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament.
They have been hardened by 15 games decided by five points or fewer this season. Marquette has won seven of those. It won three straight in overtime on the road, lost by one at West Virginia and by five at top-seeded Syracuse.
"We're going to be facing one of the most mentally tough teams - if not the most mentally tough team - we've faced all season," Romar said. "People keep saying, 'Who do they remind you of that you've played?'
"No one. They get after it. The things they do on the floor compensate for their lack of size."