Changed Dawgs More Road-Ready Heading To Desert
Jan. 24, 2012
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - They aren't road warriors just yet.
But these Huskies are far more road-ready now.
"Our understanding of what we need to do on the road to be successful is better than it was the last time we hit the road," coach Lorenzo Romar said Tuesday, the day before Washington (12-7, 5-2 Pac-12) was scheduled to leave for tests Thursday at Arizona State (6-13, 2-5) and Saturday at Arizona (13-7, 4-3).
Yes, second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox is still out with a stress fracture in his upper leg and could miss Thursday's 5:30 p.m. game in Tempe (ROOT Sports television, the Washington IMG radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with the exclusive live internet play by play and analysis).
Yet there are two reasons the Huskies' bags are better packed for this trip than their last one, Jan. 5-7 at Colorado at Utah.
The Dawgs, 1-5 away from Seattle this season, learned a new patience and found grit at Utah. That slowdown afternoon in Salt Lake City they began eliminating their early season habits of forcing up quick shots and fueling runs by the home team - and won in a way they hadn't before, a 57-53 slog.
"People saw that game as, `You only beat Utah by (four).' I saw it as something totally different," Romar said. "I saw it as we transitioned from playing one way on the road to another. And I liked the way the transition went.
"I don't mean the score; the score was irrelevant. We moved the ball. The ball went from side to side more. We were more patient. That's one of the things we have to do on the road, along with defend. We have to defend."
The other reason the Huskies are better equipped now than the last time they left Seattle: Three weeks ago, Austin Seferian-Jenkins was still only a football player.
The 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end who last played basketball about 12 months ago at Gig Harbor, Wash., High School made a splash in his Huskies hoops debut last weekend. He entered in an early game trial by Romar - and promptly scrapped for five rebounds and numerous loose balls while setting teeth-rattling screens in nine jolting minutes.
"He knew he was probably the strongest one out there," said Huskies guard Terrence Ross, who enjoyed some of the new room Seferian-Jenkins created. "No one was going to move him on the court."
That's the kind of play the Huskies didn't get while getting out-worked in November at Saint Louis and on that last trip at Colorado.
And grinders tend to be the kind of games road ones often become for Washington, as home opponents take away the Dawgs' preference to run.
Arizona State has turned recent games into bang-a-thons against Washington, especially with coach Herb Sendek's matchup zone defenses that Ross notes "is unlike any other defense we've played against."
"They are going to fight and they are going to scrap until that (final) horn goes off," Romar said. "They are going to play a tough zone."
The Sun Devils didn't have Trent Lockett, their leading scorer, leading 3-point shooter, leading rebounder and leader in minutes played last weekend in their losses at Colorado and at Utah. Lockett sprained his ankle in ASU's win over Oregon State Jan. 14.
"We are going to assume that Trent Lockett is playing," Romar said.
The Sun Devils have used 11 starting lineups and 11 players have started over 19 games because of injuries and illnesses.
Ross is the only Pac-12 player ranked in its top 10 in scoring and rebounding, at 15.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He said no matter who plays Thursday the key to Washington winning for the eighth time in nine games at Arizona State will be grit over glam.
"We've got to be prepared to go out on the road and scrap," Ross said. "We have to be ready to grind it out."
Now they have the man to do it.
Seferian-Jenkins finished with seven rebounds in 16 minutes before fouling out against Stanford. His added worth showed up when he replaced Darnell Gant 6 minutes into the game, after Gant picked up his second foul, and after he entered late in the first half to keep 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye from getting a third foul before halftime.
That is frontcourt depth and physicality the Huskies didn't have in any of those previous six games away from home.
"He kind of played with the attitude of, `What's everyone getting excited about? This is what I do,'" Romar said.
"We put him in the game early, just to see what would happen. ... He immediately made his presence felt with his energy and his rebounding, getting to loose balls, his overall physicality. So with that, we played him a little longer.
"I didn't know he was going to play 16 minutes. I thought he might play a few minutes, get his feet wet and move on. But he made a case to keep him in the game. ... He forced our hand to play him more minutes."
The coach says Seferian-Jenkins knows "maybe 10 or 20 percent of the offense," that he was "playing all off instincts" against Stanford. Yet he helped spark what Romar called the best and most complete effort by his team of its up-and-down season in the 76-63 win.
"He showed he could have an impact on outcomes of games," Romar said before adding wryly, "he'll get another shot."
Just in time for seven of UW's next 11 games being away from home.
"The fact that he has played on the road in football, has played in a bowl game, has played in front of 70, 80 thousand people is going to help him," Romar said. "Even though it's in a different sport it's still going to help him."
QUICK SHOTS: Romar said there was nothing new to report on Wilcox. Thursday in Tempe, the sophomore sharpshooter, who hasn't played the last three games with resting the leg, will get another series of tests -- putting weight and force on the leg that has been weak in similar, previous tests. "I think we will have him back before the year's over. I just don't know when," Romar said, "Ultimately, with enough rest, it will be manageable." ... For those who have asked during this depletion of UW's backcourt depth with Wilcox out: No, Romar has never been tempted to lift the redshirt off senior Scott Suggs. The conference's third-most accurate 3-point shooter last season at 45 percent still feels discomfort in the foot he broke in October. ... Romar is 16-5 against Arizona State since taking over at Washington in 2002. That .762 winning percentage is his best against a conference foe.