After Last March, No Chance UW Will Look Past Beavers
Jan. 22, 2013
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oh, yes, Lorenzo Romar warned his Huskies. Warned them - and warned them yet again going into last weekend.
Forget about the winless record early in league play. Don't over look Utah.
"I don't know if we understood Utah's record wasn't indicative of how good they are, and still isn't," Romar said Tuesday, three days after Washington's defense went the way of its focus in a 74-65 home loss to the Utes that denied UW its first 5-0 conference start since 1984.
Andrew Andrews confirms his coach is correct.
"I just think we lost focus. We took it for granted," the redshirt freshman point guard said of a night his career-high 17 points, mostly late, couldn't offset the defensive lapses that let Utah surpass 60 percent from the field.
"We didn't come out with a sense of urgency," Andrews said. "We have to get back to that."
If they don't get back to that Wednesday night at Oregon State, something will be haywire with the Huskies (12-6, 4-1 Pac-12).
At first glance, yes, the Beavers (10-8) are what Utah was before Saturday: 0-5 in the Pac-12, following OSU's loss in the final minute last weekend at USC.
But nobody who will be in purple and gold at Gill Coliseum here Wednesday night has forgotten the last time they saw Oregon State, in March to begin the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles. The ninth-seeded Beavers took advantage of foul trouble on UW's 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye then held on as the top-seeded Huskies blew free throws and made turnovers late.
Washington's 86-84 loss helped keep the Pac-12's regular-season champion out of what it felt was its deserved destination last spring.
"They knocked us out of the NCAA tournament," C.J. Wilcox, UW's leading scorer this season at 19.1 points per game, said of that lost afternoon in Staples Center.
"We'd like to get some sort of revenge this time around. If anything, it should give us a little chip on our shoulder. I mean, we know how they play. We know their players.
"It's an attitude thing. We should come out with more energy, a little more of an edge."
Chips on the shoulders of these Dawgs are proving to be a good thing. Essential, even.
The Huskies' best performances this season have come when they perceive the challenges to be their biggest.
Their season opener was a satisfying rout of Loyola, Md. They roared to a huge lead early in beating Seton Hall in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament in November in Connecticut. They mostly "played right," as Romar calls it, while staying with fourth-ranked Ohio State in the eventual loss in that tournament's title game.
Saint Louis pounded surprised UW last season in Missouri. The Huskies bit back in beating the Billikens at their own, rugged game in November's rematch. Washington roared to big early leads in winning at rival Washington State and California to begin Pac-12 play two weeks ago, then beat Stanford for three road wins in its first three conference games. It was the first time that had happened since 1912.
Were it not for a frigid, sub-30-percent night at Connecticut, Washington would be entering Corvallis with a four-game road winning streak.
"The pattern is, when we face an opponent we fear we bring it," Romar said.
Time to bring it, then.
While it might not be feat, the test at OSU is dealing defensively with 16-points-per-game guard Roberto Nelson, 14-point, seven-rebound forward Devon Collier, plus rugged Eric Moreland. Moreland, a 6-10 sophomore, has returned from being suspended for three games by coach Craig Robinson to average 10.3 points and 10.9 rebounds.
"He adds another dimension to their team," said Romar, who has won 16 of 20 games against Oregon State since 2004.
Offensively, the Huskies will be facing more switching defenses - from man to zones to traps to presses - than usual from Oregon State. In previous seasons point guard Abdul Gaddy ran the Huskies' offense against the Beavers' consistent, 1-3-1 zone in the half court. Now UW's senior co-captain has the challenge of recognizing what defense Oregon State is in each time he brings the ball up. Gaddy must then make sure his teammates are in tune with his calls as he crosses center court.
The Pac-12's active leader with 377 career assists says he and his Huskies are getting better recognizing opponents switching defenses, as Utah did some while face guarding Wilcox.
"We've just got to make sure we get into our offense faster," Gaddy said of combating Oregon State's varied looks.
But this visit will come down to what all games do for Romar's Huskies: Defense.
Washington had held four consecutive foes under 40 percent field-goal shooting for only the second time in Romar's 11 seasons - until Utes roamed free throughout Alaska Airlines Arena en route to 60.4 percent last weekend. That was more than 20 percent higher than Utah was shooting. The Utes were 11th in the Pac-12 in shooting before the Huskies' focus and intensity vanished against them.
"We cannot lose sight of what butters our bread," Romar said, pounding a table for emphasis before the team left campus Tuesday.
He's not only talking about Wednesday.
After Oregon State the Huskies play at Saturday down the road in Eugene against No. 16 Oregon (16-2, 5-0), which is the league's only undefeated team and recently gave Arizona its only loss. The Dawgs then come home to face sixth-ranked Arizona (16-1, 4-1) and Arizona State (14-4, 3-2) before playing at UCLA (15-4, 5-1) on Feb. 7.
It will take much tougher defense than they played against Utah to stay atop the Pac-12 during that stretch.
"We are supposed to be better than that," Romar acknowledged of the Utah loss. "But it is not defining our season.
"On Jan. 2nd if we had said, `All right, Huskies, after five games we'll be 4-1 (in the league) - and you have to play three on the road,' we would have been like, `Really? Let's go!'" Romar exclaimed.
He then clapped his hands.
Indeed, it's time for "Let's go!"
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Corvallis has a nice ring to it for Andrews. He scored 41 points for Portland's Benson Tech against Corvallis High School two seasons ago in the Oregon Class 5A state championship game. Yet after averaging 24 points, five rebounds and five assists per game he says Oregon State had scant interest in him. Oregon offered him a scholarship, but too late. Andrews had already decided to be a Husky. "I had already committed to Coach Romar," he said. ... N'Diaye still leads the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage (62.7) and also leads the conference with 3.8 offensive rebounds per game. ... Andrews is tied with N'Diaye for second on the team in scoring average in conference games at 10.4. Wilcox is averaging 20.6 in league play. ... Wednesday will be the 292nd meeting of Huskies and Beavers dating to 1904. It's the second-longest series in Pac-12 men's basketball. Oregon State and Oregon have played 338 times. ... Coach Robinson, the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama, was in Washington, D.C., through Monday for his brother-in-law's second presidential inauguration. "Oh, I guarantee you he had film watching (set up) while there," Romar joked.