Shawn Kemp scored 16 points and Nigel Williams-Goss 14 as the Huskies equaled their best start in the Romar era. Robert Upshaw also scored 11 for Washington, while Dylan Osetkowski led the Green Wave (9-2) with 12 points, while Jay Hook had 11 and Jonathan Stark added 10.
Washington will have a chance to be the best-starting under Romar if they can beat Stony Brook (6-6) on December 28th. They matched the 2005-2006 team's start, yet had to overcome 18 turnovers and 16 offensive rebounds by Tulane to do it.
“It was sloppy,” said Williams-Goss. “We did not play with the mental focus that we needed to. I think some of our intensity kind of waned up and down during the game; we had stretches where we weren’t ourselves on defense. It was sloppy, but like coach said it’s a long season. There’s going to be games like this every now and then. You want to try to limit them. But the most important thing is that we came out on top. We found a way to get it done.”
Romar attributed the performance to mental fatigue due to a schedule that has seen them play a lot of games and practice in a short amount of time, a time that also saw the student-athletes through their fall quarter final exams.
“Give Tulane a lot of credit for being disciplined and trying to execute to the best of their ability,” Romar said. “They challenged us. I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Tulane, but I think we’ve played 11 games and I think this is the first one where we just weren’t ourselves. We turned the ball over far too many times. We just weren’t ourselves. A lot of balls we had in our hands we couldn’t hold on to them. We were still able to survive.
“It’s been a long - and I’m not making excuses - but it’s been a long couple of weeks when we talk about finals and different practice times and more recent travel. I think our guys have done a good job of being focused for every game. We know that tomorrow we’re off for a couple days. We would have liked to have taken a couple of days off if we could have these last two weeks with everything that was going on, but other than the one week where we had finals, the nature of the schedule you’re playing every three days or so. We couldn’t practice the way we would have liked to practice. It really showed. We were kind of playing on offensive fumes tonight, and a little bit like that against Oklahoma. A lot of slippage offensively, a lot of things we need to shore up - and you bet we’re going to work on boxing out when we start practicing.
“But we’ll get back on the 26th; our guys will be fresh with a couple of days off. We’ll prepare on the 26th, play Stony Brook, and start league. We’ll get back to the way we know we’re capable of - but in spite of it all I’m still proud of our team to accomplish what we’ve accomplished at this point. I’m not going to let our performance tonight take away from that.”
Buoyed by the Dawg Pack, the Huskies at least started the game off on the right foot, jumping to a 9-2 advantage. But three three-pointers by Jay Hook in less than two minutes helped the Green Wave surge to their largest lead of the half at 20-13.
New Orleans native Jernard Jarreau helped the Huskies fight back to take a two-point lead at intermission. The 6-foot-10 Jarreau had six points, six rebounds, four assists, and no turnovers during the first half of play.
“He was assisting, he was rebounding, he was playing very well,” Romar said of Jarreau. “Jernard Jarreau’s complete arsenal was on display in that first half. That’s why he’s so valuable. That’s why we missed him so much last year. He’s a facilitator at 6-foot-10; he just makes plays. He blocked three shots last game, he blocked two more tonight. It’s just unfortunate he picked up those fouls.”
A quick foul to end the half and two more to start the second half meant Jarreau would sit for six and a half minutes.
“He had a big first half; he had six rebounds at halftime so he was on his way to double-digit rebounding,” Williams-Goss added when asked about Jarreau’s play. “That was an area we struggled with tonight. We gave up too many offensive rebounds. That hurt not having him in the game but at the same time when players like that get into foul trouble we have to rally as a group and step up.”
Upshaw was the main player asked to step up, and he did - playing 27 minutes Monday, and responding with a double-double. While he came up with 10 rebounds, it was the 16 offensive rebounds surrendered by the Huskies that had Romar worried. The turnovers? That was a bit of a different story.
“If that had been a pattern, like giving up too many offensive rebounds? That’s a pattern,” he said. “But what happened tonight, it was so uncharacteristic. We’ve been averaging 11 turnovers a game. So uncharacteristic of our team. We need a break. The break is coming at a very timely time.”
The Huskies appeared to have a lot of unforced errors trying to exploit their size inside. Overall, the Huskies outscored Tulane 42-22 in the paint. “We had an advantage down low,” Williams-Goss said. “They were a lot smaller than we were. We tried to exploit the mis-matches. I don’t think we were doing it to the point where it was causing turnovers, because those are passes we make and complete all the time. It happens. We tried to limit them, but tonight was one of those nights.”
“Mentally we tried,” added Romar. “We weren’t loafing; we didn’t overlook anybody. I don’t think it was like that at all. I just think after so long…I’m telling you, when you get to that sixth day consecutively that you’ve practiced and played games, your antennas go up. You look for slippage. We’ve had a day off here, a day off there, but I think that’s what it was.
“In spite of the turnovers, in spite of giving up too many offensive rebounds, they shot 31.7 percent. The defense, again, was able to sustain us. We preach that, if we guard we can weather the storm when things aren’t going well offensively. And that’s what we did again tonight.”
It was that defensive effort that eventually pushed through the wall and allowed Washington to finish off the game despite being on ‘offensive fumes’, as Romar called it. And though the Huskies are currently riding an 11-game winning streak, Romar isn’t going to let a game he considers to be an outlier darken his outlook on what has been a stunning start to the 2014-15 campaign.
“I never expect to go out and say how many games we’re going to lose,” said Romar. “You expect to win every one. I’m just proud of our team, the way it has come together. After Stony Brook, we can put this non-conference stuff to the side and say, this is what we’re able to accomplish. So that’s why I’m not going to let how we played tonight interfere or disrupt what we’ve been able to do in this non-conference season so far, because by and large the big body of work our guys have done a nice job.”
Nigel Williams-Goss and Shawn Kemp