Huskies looking for one last hurrah at home

SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar gets asked to make a lot of speeches, but he didn't need any prompting on Friday night. In a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude, the Washington Head Coach took the microphone while the Huskies' 76-55 win over Northwestern was still toasty warm and the 5761 fans in attendance weren't quite to the exits. He had something important to say.

"Tuesday we're going to play either Iowa or Oregon," he said to a mixed chorus of cheers and boos - the boos apparently added due to the fact that the word 'Oregon' was uttered. "We're still trying to win a championship. We're not trying to be greedy; we thank you for coming out…but we'd love for you to come back and pack this place on Tuesday night and help us get to New York."

He took the house down.

After that impassioned plea, expect a sellout crowd to grace Alaska Airlines Arena Tuesday at 6 pm PT, when only the Hawkeyes or Ducks stand in the way of a UW return trip to the Big Apple. It will be a quarterfinal game in the 75th National Invitation Tournament, but when you're three games away from a post-season tournament title, the stakes seemingly double on a daily basis.

"Our crowd has been pretty supportive, and you want to reward them with a good brand of basketball," Romar said when asked of his unplanned paean to the fans. "At times we've been inconsistent. We didn't probably do as much as they would have probably liked. We certainly wanted to do more…but just to let them know that we appreciate them and the season is not over. It would be great if they could come back out and support us one more time this year."

A lot of folks didn't expect there to be one more time, especially after the lackluster effort put forth Tuesday in dispatching No. 8 seed Texas Arlington of the Southland Conference. It was a struggle; it was clearly obvious the Huskies weren't thrilled about being at home. They were supposed to be somewhere far away, playing for a bigger prize.

On Friday, it was just as clear that the NCAA cobwebs had been cleared out of UW's attic and that they were focused on dispatching a Big Ten foe that felt they had an equal claim to the bigger post-season dance.

"We were disappointed that we didn't get into the tournament," Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody said after the game. "I didn't think we deserved it. If we win a couple more games and we had some tough losses, but the expectations are higher now. And that's good. They weren't mad when they lost, and now they are mad when they lose - so that's good."

Washington played like they were mad. They came out firing, finishing just two shy of the school's all-time record for three-point attempts. Twenty one of their 32 attempts came in the first half, when they were desperate to demolish the 'Cats' 1-3-1 trap employed to force UW into some sloppy ball-handling. Instead, the Huskies only lost the fall four times, and out-scored Northwestern 18-2 off miscues.

And then there was Terrence Ross. The sophomore from Portland showed what everyone already knew; he can take over at game at any time, no matter how the other team defends him. Ross went 10-21, including six three-pointers, to rock a career-high 32 points in the win. He went off, rapid-fire style in the second half, nailing a bomb just 16 seconds in and not stopping until he had two more before the under-16 media timeout and the Huskies had extended their 7-point halftime lead to 19.

The last game at Alaska Airlines Arena Tuesday could be quite the sendoff; it would give Washington another ticket to New York - their second trip out east this season - and it could possibly be the swan song for both Ross and freshman phenom Tony Wroten, who Romar believes have the talent to be taken in the first round of this year's upcoming NBA Draft. It would be a chance for Washington fans to get one more look at these two players in action, as well as seniors like Darnell Gant.

When asked who he would like to see on Tuesday, Gant made his intentions quite clear. He wants another shot at the Ducks.

"It would be great because they got us good at Oregon," he said. "So I feel like we owe them something."

If Oregon were to beat Iowa on Sunday, setting up a Pac-12 powerhouse matchup of two schools that don't like each other to begin with - it's doubtful the Huskies will have a tough time selling the game out. Romarville should be alive and jumping with the thought of Washington possibly moving on to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden.

"Coach Romar told us the more games we win the more fun it will get, said sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox, who lit up the scoreboard Friday to the tune of 20 points. "So I think the more we win, the more exciting it's going to get."

Are we having fun yet?


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