March 8, 2007
LOS ANGELES - After winning for just the second time this season away from Bank of America Arena tonight, the University of Washington men's basketball team barely had time to enjoy the victory before the talk turned to its next opponent - in-state rival Washington State.
The Huskies turned in one of the season's gutsiest performances as they out-scrapped Arizona State by a score of 59-51 in the first round of the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament at the Staples Center. Despite shooting just 38.5 percent from the field against the Sun Devils, Washington advanced to the second round of the conference's post-season tournament and will play the Cougars Thursday night in an 8:30 p.m. tipoff.
"Tomorrow night's game against Washington State is really going to be a challenge for us," said sophomore forward Jon Brockman, who led UW with his 15th double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. "They work so well together. They set screens. They work the ball and the generally get good shots everytime they shoot it. We have to attack their defense, which they take a lot of pride in."
Washington, which moved to 19-12 on the season, enters Thursday's quarterfinal showdown having lost four-straight against the Cougars over the last two seasons. In the last meeting between the two schools, WSU pulled away for a tight 65-61 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Bank of America Arena - one of only two home losses for UW this season.
"I definitely feel that we could have won some of the games against Washington State since I've been (at UW)," said Brockman. "I haven't beaten them so I'm confident that it will be a good game. We will certainly be ready for it. We will have to come out and have a great game."
In the nine previous Pac-10 tournaments, Washington has never had the opportunity to face the Cougars (24-6) until tomorrow night's meeting. In fact, even though the rivalry dates back to 1910, the two teams have played on a neutral floor on just three occasions.
History aside, tomorrow's game remains critical to the Huskies and could mean the difference in whether or not they are selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.
"Whether it's a rival or someone that we've never seen play, we consider it another game that we have to win," said UW head coach Lorenzo Romar. "At this point the opposition, to us, is irrelevant. We have to be concerned with what we are about."
But, there is no escaping the fact that tomorrow's game will mean a great deal to both teams. When the Cougars knocked-off UW last month in Seattle, they shot 51 percent from the field and an impressive 56 percent from behind the three-point arc. Romar sees UW's ability to defend the Cougars as a key to tomorrow's game.
"We have to do what we've talked about all year, we have got to defend," said Romar. "We have to take care of the basketball and we have to be very sound. They are a team that takes advantage of every mistake that you make physically or mentally."
The winner of the UW/WSU quarterfinal matchup will face the winner of the USC vs. Stanford contest in an 8:30 p.m. tipoff Friday night.