Bounce-back will tell the story

EUGENE - Note to all Pac-12 teams playing Washington from here on out; the Oregon Ducks just gave you the playbook on how to run UW out of the gym. All it took Thursday night was some hot shooting, a dash of energy, enthusiasm and a little junk defense for spice. That was it. The Huskies not just went deep in the woods, they became invisible.

Oregon senior Garrett Sim hit three-straight shots to open up the Ducks' 82-57 can of whoop-ass on Washington (16-8, 9-3), and the Huskies literally sunk right inside those silhouetted Douglas Firs that outline the court at Matthew Knight Arena.

"Oregon was phenomenal tonight," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "They played a fantastic game; they were hitting on all cylinders. We would have had to really been knocking shots down offensively to have kept it close tonight. But they made us pay for every defensive mistake we made, and we made plenty of them. Their execution was great and they just beat us in every way from the opening tip on. So we've got to give them a lot of credit."

The loss put a knife right into the back of UW's chances at post-season play, despite the fact that the Huskies are still tied with California at 9-3 for the conference lead. Oddsmakers are giving the Pac-12 two spots for the NCAA Tournament, and even that is looking a bit precarious due to the fact that no one team is willing to step up to the challenge of defending an advantage. And with teams like Oregon, Arizona and Colorado at 8-4 ready to pounce at the slightest slip, the Huskies have lost any sliver of a margin they may have had going into the Oregon road swing.

This week it was Washington's turn to play front-runner, and they did just fine at home against the Los Angeles schools at home - but on the road they reverted back to the young, timid, sloppy group that lost winnable games early in the season. The intimidation factor wasn't there; the highlighter-frocked Pit Crew was definitely no match for Arizona's 'White Out' and an ESPN-nationally televised game in the crock pot known as the McKale Center.

But Washington wilted anyway.

"I didn't see us falling flat on our face and doing such a poor job of executing tonight," Romar said when asked if he was surprised by the effort of his team, or rather lack of. "I knew this was going to be a hard game, and the week leading into this game I said we haven't arrived at all. We're not in a rhythm at all. And the missed shots, the missed layups, the wide-open missed jumpers that we had…that wasn't the issue tonight.

"The issue was, we were negligent on the defensive end, and they made us pay for it."

The Huskies were 45 minutes late to the arena due to a fatality that caused a massive - for Eugene - traffic jam. They were told to put on their shoes and get ready; they only had one pre-game warmup. It wasn't enough, not by a long shot. They might have been better off staying on the bus, because Oregon might have actually shot less than the 64 percent they did in the first half (75 percent from three) had they been playing against air.

The game didn't matter much past intermission; the damage had well and truly been done in the first three possessions. While Sim was running up and down the court uncontested, the Huskies were bamboozled by Dana Altman's defense that trapped to half-court and then settled into a zone UW couldn't shoot over.

"We dug ourselves into a pretty big deficit…we played five minutes and we look up and it's still a 23-point lead," Romar said.

By the first media timeout of the night, the Huskies were down 11-2; by the second timeout it was 21-13. Up 13 by the third media timeout, Oregon really put the thumbscrews to their rivals from the north, eventually moving their advantage to as much as 24 after an E.J. Singler layup with 2:40 remaining in the first half.

Game over.

"Every negative category you want to name, you can check the box on that one: Lack of execution; lack of executing the scout; lack of energy…just very poor," Romar reiterated. "Now they had something to do with that because they were very efficient.

"We just didn't do anything right. As good as they are and as good as they executed, they didn't change their offense a whole lot from the last time we played them. They didn't change their defenses from the last time we played them. We just didn't do a very good job tonight."

Afterward, Romar referred to what happened on the court as a 'bad exam'. Putting a pragmatic spin on the situation, the Husky Head Coach talked about moving forward and getting ready for an even bigger game. Sunday's clash with the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis will make or break Washington's season.

It's sounds quite melodramatic to say, but it's true; the OSU game will determine Washington's resolve or resignation. Can they bounce back, or will they get bounced from the Beaver State with egg on their face and visions of what could have been pounding their brains? Will they sack up or get sent home in a sack and put on the shelf for the rest of the season?

Romar expects nothing but a concerted effort from here on out.

In the grand scheme of things - two, three weeks when we look back at this game, it happened but if we can not let this linger and go on, we can bounce back and be fine," he said. "We're still in first place; that loss didn't put us in last place. We still have to work."

"Every team will come out tough, and the crowd is going to be crazy and loud considering we're No. 1 in the Pac-12," added freshman guard Tony Wroten. "We just have to figure out how to win these road games."

Washington's head coach has seen this before; as far back as 2004, Washington has been knocked down on the road, only to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and persevere. In 2005 they lost at Oregon State by 17, only to go to Pullman and beat Washington State. In 2006 the Huskies lost three-straight road games, only to win the final four when it counted most. Those wins propelled UW to a Sweet Sixteen showdown with Connecticut. And in 2010, Washington lost by 12 at California, only to bounce back and defeat Stanford by 17. They won the rest of their road games, won the Pac-10 Tournament title, and eventually lost in the Sweet Sixteen to West Virginia.

Romar is fond of saying he looks for patterns. He wants desperately to believe that this was a 'bad exam'. He wants to believe that his kids will rebound in the best way possible and show the character, heart and desire that has distinguished all great UW teams under his charge. Does this team have that in their tank? And furthermore, do they have it in them to win the final three games of the season, all on the road?

"We've got to rally up; we've got to band together," he said when asked where the team goes from here. "You can't point the finger. You can't do all that - you have to stay together, rally up and come back and play again.

"I just hope this doesn't cost us anything in terms of post-season."


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