Dec. 28, 2010
|UW-USC Game Coverage|
|TV: No TV|| Radio: Washington ISP Sports Network (950 AM-Seattle)|
LOS ANGELES - When Husky coach Lorenzo Romar recruited 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye to play at Washington, visions of the upcoming week versus USC and UCLA were in his head. He even said so when asked by the media on Monday whether a team like USC helped hasten his need to find another big man for the UW frontcourt.
"Absolutely," Romar told the media. "It doesn't matter who you play. You always want someone like Aziz on your team, but it is something we have been missing (against) a team like USC and it has hurt us."
After going 1-3 against the Los Angeles schools last season - including a sweep at the hands of the Trojans - and eventually losing in the Sweet 16 to the bigger, longer and tougher West Virginia Mountaineers, it was clear Washington needed to get another big man to add to the frontcourt.
Enter N'Diaye. At 7-foot tall and 260 pounds he compliments the muscle of 6-foot-9, 240-pound Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The duo combines for a wingspan that nears 15 total feet.
While N'Diaye's presence shores up the defense, it also opens up opportunities for Bryan-Amaning on offense. The Senegalese sensation allows MBA to roam more freely and know that if he misses a shot or is double-teamed, his frontcourt-mate will be there to clean up the glass or pop free for a good look under the bucket.
"Aziz and I are getting more comfortable playing together," said the senior Bryan-Amaning.
Playing alongside a fellow big man is not a foreign concept to MBA. "Coming out of high school, I played with guys bigger than me, so it was something that I was used to."
Ironically, it was at college, not high school where he had to get used to being the tallest player on the court. And now that N'Diaye is next to him, he is thriving.
"It was weird when I first was here and I was the tallest guy out there game in and game out. But now I've got somebody out there to back me ... whether it's rebounding or crashing. It's just fun to have somebody out there that allows me to play the power forward position, which just feels more natural," said Bryan-Amaning.
The duo were inserted into the starting lineup together two games ago and it has paid instant dividends for the team that was in search of rebounding production. MBA is averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds over the stretch, while N'Diaye is scoring 10 points per game and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. They each recorded a double-double vs. Nevada.
But that was against admittedly lesser competition. The true test starts this week against USC and UCLA.
The Trojans have Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson, each standing 6-foot-10 and ranking first and second among Pac-10 players in rebounding. UCLA can trot out a frontcourt that includes Joshua Smith (6-10, 305-pound), Brendan Lane (6-9, 223) and Reeves Nelson (6-8, 235).
Despite the tall task ahead for the Huskies, Romar is looking forward to get the conference slate going.
"You're always excited about (the start of conference) because this is where the ultimate tests begin. Is your team prepared to go into conference play? Well, here it is ... everything that you've work for. You're starting to prepare yourself and really make a run at that NCAA Tournament with your conference play. So, we're excited to get ready to get into this. We have a very tough opponent though, at their place in the Trojans."
The Huskies found out first-hand how tough it can to be to play in Los Angeles last season. The Trojans handed UW its worse loss of the season - 87-61 - on the heels of a buzzer-beating loss to UCLA two days earlier.
That was then. This is now.
This Husky team leads the conference in per game production of points (90.5), rebounds (40.8), assists (19.2), 3-point field goal shooting (42.3%) and has forced opponents into more turnovers than assists in 13-straight games.
And they have N'Diaye in their corner - an X-factor that Romar was missing in Pac-10 play last season.
We'll see soon enough how much a difference N'Diaye will make. USC and UW tip off on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Galen Center. The game will not be shown on TV, but can be seen following the completion of the contest on www.usctrojans.com.