Dec. 10, 2010
|TV: ESPN2||Radio: Washington ISP Sports Network (950 AM-Seattle)|
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Washington Husky men's basketball team (6-2) will face its first true test in a hostile environment tomorrow when they take on Texas A&M (8-1) at 1:30 p.m. PT (ESPN2) and they're hoping to not repeat the mistakes of last season.
The nationally-ranked Huskies (No 21 AP/No. 22 ESPN-Coaches) lost their first seven games away from Hec Edmundson Pavilion in 2009-10. They did not earn a road victory until February -- a 78-61 decision over Stanford at Maples Pavilion -- and generally were not even close to sniffing a win away from home before then.
The team lost in overtime at Texas Tech and by a last-second shot in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. Beyond that, they were manhandled in their other five initial road defeats.
Granted, this year is a little bit different in that Washington has already played three neutral site games at the EA Sports Maui Invitational and came away 1-2 with an opening victory over Virginia. In losses to No. 8 Kentucky and No. 2 Michigan State, they led at halftime and performed decent enough to win, but just couldn't finish well enough.
"We did not win in Maui (except for vs. Virginia), but I thought we played well. I thought we played better on a neutral site than we did last year, so I hope that trend can continue. I'm anxious to see how we're going to do."
In Maui, Kentucky fans outnumbered Husky fans by a couple hundred, but Saturday's contest at Reed Arena (capacity 12,989) marks the first time those in purple and gold will be outnumbered by the thousands. Texas A&M -- famous for the 12th man in football (no offense Seattle Seahawks) -- may not have the same tradition as the football program, but they still fill the rafters to near capacity.
While there is a football 24-7 mentality in Texas, the Aggies' hoops team is starting to build their own high-level of excellence and have made five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. At home, they have made it especially tough on the opposition winning 56-straight over non-conference foes dating back to 2005 and 69 straight if you count only regular season games.
If the Huskies expect to beat Texas A&M on its turf, they're going to have to be ready for a knock `em down, drag `em out battle.
"They're a team that is more physical than last year," said Romar in reference to the Texas A&M squad Washington beat 74-63 last December in Seattle. "This year, that seems to be more of their identity that they're going to come out and punch you in the mouth right away. That is very evident in the film we've watched...They play hard and they come after you."
The Aggies are outscoring their opponents by 18.6 points per game and holding their foes to 56.1 points per game. The Huskies lead the nation in scoring per game (95.5 ppg), 3-point field goal percentage (47.5%) and are second nationally in assists with 20.1 per game. You can bet Texas A&M will try to slow down the Husky offensive juggernaut with zone defenses and a general in-your-face attitude.
Saturday is setting up to be a battle of the wills. If Washington can have the ball bounce its way, it will go a long way in determining whether or not they can avoid the same early-season road fate of last season.