Feb. 2, 2011
|Washington at Oregon State Game Coverage|
|TV: FSN||Radio: Washington IMG College Network (950 AM-Seattle)|
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Most teams dread a late Sunday night away game and Wednesday turnaround onto another road trip.
Not the Huskies. They couldn't begin their journey to Oregon State for Thursday night's game soon enough, after 20th-ranked Washington (15-5, 7-2 Pac-10) played one of its poorer games of the season in losing at Washington State.
"Oh, yeah, I'm glad it's happened that way," leading scorer Isaiah Thomas said with a big grin of UW's shortest break between road trips this conference season. "We're right back at it."
Fox Sports Northwest will televise Thursday's 6 p.m. tipoff from Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. The Washington IMG College network will have the radio call. And we will again provide a live game chat, live statistics and streaming audio here on GoHuskies.com.
The Huskies fell into a first-place tie with Arizona in the league because they had their second-worst shooting night of the season and committed a season-high 24 turnovers in Pullman. They lost for the second time in 11 games because Thomas missed his first nine shots and didn't score from the field until 6 minutes remained, and because second-leading scorer Matthew Bryan-Amaning was just 1 for 8 against WSU's zone defense and his teammates admitted not finding him enough inside.
Yet UW's big-picture view from atop the Pac-10 at the midway point of conference play sure beats trying to see out of the basement right now.
"If you can get by with one or two losses in the first half of conference (play) you'd like to think that things are going OK for you," coach Lorenzo Romar said prior to leaving for Corvallis Wednesday afternoon. "You say that before it starts, but then when you are actually in that position you get a little more greedy.
"We'll take 7-2 at this point, tied for first - knowing that we have to get better."
The Huskies feel their errors gave away the game at WSU, just like they know failures to defend, rebound or convert easy scoring chances late at Stanford caused their other conference defeat.
They know they have to defend on the ball far better than they did at Washington State. They know they have to make open shots, of which they had many against the Cougars. And they know they have to get the ball inside more to Bryan-Amaning, even though zone defenses are packing in on him like ice on the fresh catch at Pike Place Market. Oregon State is likely to continue that lockdown pattern inside with its 2-3 and 1-3-1 looks Thursday.
But the Huskies also know the time to win the conference is only now arriving with this start to the second half of league play against the Beavers (8-12, 3-6).
As Thomas said Tuesday, "No championships are given on Feb. 1st."
Romar sees room for growth over these next four weeks before the Pac-10 tournament, especially from a bench that is still searching for a consistent producer.
Darnell Gant is the latest to show signs he could be that guy. The 6-8 junior played his best game of the season at Washington State, with nine points and a season-high seven rebounds. He has at least six rebounds in three of his last four games, after not having that many in any of his first 16. Gant says he has "tunnel vision" right now.
The bench may also get a boost from the expected return of sharpshooting guard C.J. Wilcox at Oregon State. But the Huskies aren't sure how rusty -- or foggy -- the redshirt freshman will be while coming back from a concussion he sustained in practice early last week.
There is one more positive to these back-to-back road trips coming off a defeat.
"The one other loss we had in conference, we came out and played really well the next game," Romar said.
UW followed its malfunction at Stanford with its best performance in Pac-10 play, if not the entire season. Thomas scored 27 points and had a career-best 13 assists in a 92-71 dismantling of California in Berkeley on Jan. 16.
Following their 5-9 point guard's lead, the Huskies also couldn't wait to play that game. They showed steely determination before they even got off the bus at Haas Pavilion.
They say they have that same attitude heading to Oregon State and Oregon.
"I always tell my dudes, 'Man, just forget about it. Win or lose, you have to be ready to play the next day,'" Thomas said. "We're ready to work (and) be ready for Thursday."
Washington is seeking its ninth consecutive victory over Oregon State. On Jan. 8 in Seattle, the Beavers took a nine-point lead in the first half. Then the Huskies exploded for 75 points over the final 23 minutes to romp 103-72.
The Beavers have changed personnel since then. Guard Lathen Wallace, who didn't attempt a shot in 6 minutes at UW last month, is now starting and averaging 12 points over his last four games. Six-foot-nine junior walk-on Kevin McShane is also starting now.
What the Huskies can expect is more trapping and active hands from Oregon State's zones. Thomas said the key to beating that is dribble penetration to create chances for Bryan-Amaning, something the point guard admits he and his teammates didn't do nearly enough against Washington State's zone.
"It feels like they've got 10 guys out there. We've got to be strong with the ball and be aggressive," Thomas said of the Beavers, adding Romar's advice before facing Oregon State is to not be afraid of committing turnovers because those are bound to happen against the Beavers.
Thomas said something else is bound to happen, beginning with this next-to-last trip of the Pac-10 regular season.
"It's February. We've still got the second half of the Pac-10," Thomas said, grinning again. "We'll try to show you guys how good we are."