No defense for UW in 68-56 loss (Updated)

CORVALLIS - Lorenzo Romar can spot a trend as well as anyone, and Thursday night you didn't have to point out to him that his Washington Huskies are in trouble. After UW's 68-56 loss to Oregon State at Gill Coliseum, Romar squarely put himself to blame for the Huskies dismal performance, the third game in a row where defense was the primary focus of his wrath.

"One of the issues was defensively; again we were not disciplined on defense tonight," Romar said after the game. "We took far too many gambles, far too many chances. We can sit around and talk about what player didn't get enough shots or what player didn't step up; if we're not disciplined on defense, that's on me. That's my fault. I have to get our guys to play better defense - it's just that simple.

"We've done it before, but we've gotten away from it for the third-straight game. We haven't guarded the way we're capable of. And if that's going on, I have to look myself in the mirror and make sure we change things around. If we would have defended the last three games, we would have three victories."

Washington (15-6, 7-3) slipped to a tie for second with UCLA in the Pac-10 race for the first time this year after Arizona defeated Stanford 78-69 in Palo Alto. They were led by the shooting of Scott Suggs, whose 14 first-half points were the reason the Huskies were able to stay level with Oregon State (9-12, 4-6) at the break. He finished with a game-high 18. Matthew Bryan-Amaning totaled his seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

"I thought he did a fine job," Romar said of Suggs. "Ever since he's been in the starting lineup, he's produced for us." Suggs' effort was only the second time since league play opened up that someone other than Bryan-Amaning, Isaiah Thomas, or Justin Holiday led the team in scoring. The first time was Terrence Ross' 25 points in an 84-74 win over their next opponent - Oregon.

The Beavers were paced by the 19 points of Jared Cunningham, who was able to out-duel UW guard Venoy Overton in a battle of the back court. Guard Calvin Haynes added 11 points, as Oregon State benefitted from a balanced offensive attack. They also crushed the Huskies on the boards by 15 - 47-32.

"Give Oregon State credit," Romar said. "They did a good job. They played with energy; they were more physical than we were. They killed us on the boards. They were more active. We got out-rebounded, and we didn't guard. We've out-rebounded every team since we went big with Aziz (N'Diaye) in the lineup, if I remember correctly, and this was the first time we got out-rebounded. And it coincides with a defensive effort that's not where it needs to be. Look right here to coach Romar for that. That's my fault."

Washington out-boarded OSU 45-32 the first time the two teams met back in early January. UW has out-rebounded everyone they've played since inserting N'Diaye in the lineup except once - at Texas A&M. In that game the Aggies edged UW 39-33 on the glass.

"I don't think we crashed the boards like we should have," Romar said, noting effort to be a culprit in the disparity.

You could certainly point to a number of poor individual performances Thursday night. Thomas had arguably his worst game as a Husky, tying a regular-season low of nine points. He also turned the ball over seven times, tying a season-high he had the previous game at Washington State. The junior co-Captain just looked out of sorts from the beginning and never seemed to find his rhythm.

The other UW co-Captain Holiday also struggled mightily, missing a couple of absolute sitters in the first half, finishing the night with a season-tying low of four points. He did collect seven rebounds, but clearly was off most of the night, shooting 2-8 from the field.

The big three of Thomas, Bryan-Amaning and Holiday went a combined 9-31 from the field, including 1-9 from three, for 25 points, nine assists, nine turnovers, one block and no steals.

When the Huskies would get to the free throw line, they wouldn't capitalize, shooting a combined 9-19 from the charity stripe. They finished with an A/TO ratio of less than 1 for the fourth time in Pac-10 play. They tied their season-low in blocks (one), and set a season-low for steals (two).

UW was also cold from the field, hoisting up 19 three-pointers the first 20 minutes of the game, converting on less than a third. Their effort from inside the arc was just as poor, shooting a season-low 32 percent on 20-62 shooting.

Romar was adamant, however, that none of the individual efforts, or the poor overall shooting, had as much to do with the outcome of the game than their lack of defensive discipline.

"We've had other games where our shots didn't go in, but our defense has been there," he said. "That's something we've been able to count on, the defense; since we made the lineup change we've been able to count on the rebounding, whether we shot it well or didn't shoot it well."

It's hard to argue against him - the team simply collapsed when the Beavers had the ball, giving up backdoor cuts when OSU would run their Princeton offense - complete with Angus Brandt doing his best Roeland Schaftenaar impersonation at point-center. Cunningham was able to draw fouls at will, scoring 13 of his 19 points from the line.

"Again we were not disciplined on defense tonight," Romar said. "We took far too many gambles, far too many chances. Chronic is probably too strong a word, but we have an issue right now in that we're not defending. And going into the Washington State game we had that issue. We have to give ourselves a better chance by defending. If it's one guy or two guys, you change. If it's the team, there's something I'm not doing right."

Last year Washington had an early-season conference slump, but were able to reverse course and finish on the right note. "Unfortunately, we've been in this position," Romar said. "In (20)06, we dropped three on the road, we were 5-5. People were saying we should go Division 2, you know? But we came back and finished second and got to the Sweet Sixteen.

"The key is to fix it and turn it around. We're very capable of defending. We've proven that this year. That's one thing that's been a constant for us - our defense. We don't need to change the scheme; the scheme has been an effective one for nine years. We'll stick with the same scheme. And I don't think it's personnel either, because it's not just one or two guys. It's the team. If it's the team, that's on me."
Statistics:
Points: Suggs 18, Bryan-Amaning 12, Thomas 9, Holiday 4, Overton 4, Gant 4, Wilcox 3, Ross 2
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 10, Holiday 7, Ross 4, N'Diaye 2, Thomas 2, Suggs 2, Wilcox 2, Overton 1, Gant 1, TEAM 1
Assists: Thomas 6, Holiday 3, Overton 1, Wilcox 1, Gant 1
Steals: Overton 1, Gant 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 1


Isaiah Thomas:
On the way the team has been playing lately:
"Usually when you think of Husky basketball you think of full court pressing, getting after it, getting steals, but no, we're not doing that. We're taking steps back on the defensive end and we just have to fix it asap."

On Coach Romar calling it a pattern and saying that it's his fault:
"He can say that but I just feel like it's on me. I'm the point guard of the team and I gotta take the blame for it. I have to get my guys ready and back to playing where we're at a high level on the defensive end because I think dude's are just worried about offense right now and we have to have a different mindset."

On whether the focus shifted away from defense in the ASU game:
"I couldn't tell you. Arizona State shot it real well. You could say it started there because they shot it so well from the three and from the field so we just have to make corrections and do the right thing and have energy on defense."

On this feeling like a crossroads:
"Definitely. I mean it's February. Like coach Romar always says, ‘you're always a weekend or two from being in first place or sixth or seventh.' So we just have to overcome this and come together as a team and get back to winning."

On being in second place:
"I mean they won, we lost. It's that simple."

On not responding after the WSU game last weekend:
"I think we're too focused on shooting threes. We have to be aggressive and get to the free-throw line and get easy buckets. The shots are there but we just have to get in the gym and start making shots. That's what it comes down to. We're a good three-point shooting team but lately teams have been just playing in a zone and just daring us to shoot threes and we've been doing that a little too much."

On how this team can beat future zones:
"Be aggressive. Every guard, every guy has to attack it."
Scott Suggs:
On the lack of defensive rebounding:
"We just gotta rotate. I mean, when guys are getting beat, we haven't have help-side defense either. We need to get back to playing Husky basketball and that starts with defense."

On coach Romar's message after the game:
"We just have to turn it around. We have to get ready for Oregon. We have to learn from our mistakes, we can't keep doing the same things over and over because we're not going to get different results."

On this feeling like a critical point in the season:
"Yeah, definitely. Teams are getting better and it's later in the year, second half of the PAC 10, and we have to get better and it starts with defense. Once we're playing defense, it'll be fine."

On not being able to do anything offensively in the second half:
"Yeah, we weren't hitting shots but if we're getting stops we'll get easier shots. We'll get in the passing lanes, getting steals, easy layups, so it starts with defense."

On feeling like a spurt was coming, but it never did:
"I mean i think we always feel like we can do that, but we can't be worried about the offensive end, we have to be focused on the defensive end, that's the message that we know we need to do."

On his attitude after the game:
"Disappointed with our effort. We know we're much better defensively than this and we need to do that."

On not coming out and lighting the house on fire after the WSU game:
"We're going to get everybody's best game and we know that and we need to play like we're going to get everybody's best game. We can't come into the game thinking we have it won or anything. Not saying we did, but we need to prepare for everyone's best game."
Justin Holiday:
On what's going on with the defense:
"We're just not doing what we need to do. We're not taking care of business the way we're supposed to. We practice every day, we know exactly what to do. We just need to make sure we go and we take care of that. Not worry about what's happening on offense, not worrying about you make a mistake, this that, making excuses. We just need to do what we need to do. Get stops. That's the only way we can win."

On pinpointing when the defense went awry:
"We didn't play defense well at all. There wasn't a point in the game when we were playing well and all of the sudden it changed. We just didn't play defense well at all."

On how long it's been going on:
"Washington State we also didn't play defense too well. Arizona State we also didn't play defense too well. So I guess you could say Arizona State. But I feel like we practiced well this week as far as doing defensive stuff, we practiced hard. We had better practices this week than we had last week. It's just up to us taking care of it. We'll see what happens next game."

On what the problem is:
"I don't think we need to be motivated. We have a lot of motivation. It could be just executing, also effort. I think we want to play defense or maybe we think it's just going to happen because that's who we are, I don't know. But I think we just need to execute better, pay attention to the scouting report, be mentally strong – we have to really focus on playing defense and do that well."

On the message in the locker room:
"We just have to turn it around. That's all it comes down to. We've been in this situation before, it's something we've done before so we know what to do. We have a lot of players on the team that have been through this, me, Isaiah [Thomas], Matt [Bryan-Amaning], Venoy [Overton]. It's just about us playing defense well. That's the thing we kept going back on, playing defense and rebounding, because we also got killed on the boards, but really just getting stops and playing defense. "

On whether the team's cold shooting is affecting the team's defensive performance:
"Shooting shouldn't matter if we're getting stops. We've had games in the past when we haven't shot well, we've had games when we've won and haven't shot well. It's because we played defense. That's how we've won in the past, is playing defense, that's all it takes is us to play defense and that's what we have to do. All I can say is defense needs to turn around."

On whether this is a critical point in the season:
"Of course. If we get this win we don't have to worry about much, but we lost. Of course you want to win every game but we really have no room for error, really. We're still trying to win the PAC 10 and that's our goal and that's what we're trying to do."


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