Obviously this year's Huskies are in much worse shape, bumbling and stumbling into Wednesday's conference tournament game versus USC on the heels of a current school record 12-game losing streak.
But in talking with UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar Monday, he feels there's a chance to recreate a little history against the Trojans, who just beat Washington Saturday by 16.
Either way, it's one-and-done time for the Huskies, who won't be invited to any post-season tournament if they lose again before the weekend is over. That much is certain, and their job appears to be even that much tougher with the news that Markelle Fultz is probably once again out. Romar couldn't confirm that news Monday, but last week said it would be unlikely.
On Markelle Fultz’s status for Wednesday’s game - “We don’t know yet.”
When do you expect to know? - “Don’t know, because he hasn’t been reexamined yet. He’s going to be reexamined today. Then we’ll know what more we might know. But until he’s reexamined, it’s hard to say.”
Was the plan to give him some rest and then try to see if he can play in the tournament? - “It was to back off, yeah, and just see what happens between then and conference tournament. That would be safe to say.”
How difficult is it to gameplan when you don’t know if he can play? - “We played the majority of the year with him, so I think we understand that part. We’ve practiced and gameplanned as if we’re not having him, so that’s how we’re looking at it. It’s easier to readjust if he is playing, because we’ve done that a lot more than we’ve done the other way.”
Is the injury more serious than you first anticipated? - “Serious wouldn’t be the word. No, I wouldn’t say that.”
Do the doctors know exactly what the issue is, or are they trying to figure it out? - “No, no, no, nothing like that. That’s why – the doctors, they’re very good. They know exactly what they feel is supposed to happen or what may not happen in a certain amount of time. Like we had said before, he came back and didn’t quite respond the way they wanted, so we just backed off a little longer.”
Is it a structural problem? Soreness can mean a lot of different things - “Just for Markelle and everybody else, that’s all I’m going to say on it. The less you say, the more it raises, ‘well, what’s going on? I know they’re hiding something.’ Nobody’s hiding anything. He’s just not ready to go yet, until we find out (in) this meeting (with doctors).”
On any advantage to facing same team twice in five days - “It depends on which team comes out and takes the business at hand more serious, because they get to adjust, too. If we would have won the game, we would have looked at, OK, we won the game, but where did we fall short? Where were our mistakes? And we’d be making adjustments, too. So both teams will be making adjustments.”
On what went right early in first half at USC - “We had good spacing on offense, we shared the ball, made the extra pass, we guarded. We did a good job guarding. We did a good job rebounding the basketball, and we took care of the basketball. It was all kind of in sync there.”
Remember a game where only one guy made a 3-pointer? - “No. But he (Matisse Thybulle) made five of them. But no, I’d have to go look. It doesn’t just jump out at me.”
On needing to find a guy to make outside shots and give a spark - “It definitely wouldn’t hurt. We just weren’t able to knock shots down. We had a lot of shots that looked like they were going in, didn’t quite go in though. But in the game of basketball, the name of the game, when it’s all said and done, you’ve got to make baskets. The team with the most points wins. Now how you go about doing that, whether schematically, defensively, whatever you’re doing, but at the end of the game you’ve got to make baskets at some point. It would have helped if we could have done that more. No one tries to miss. The errors we had defensively and the turnovers are things that you can control more than your shot going in all the time.”
On feeling better about man to man defense - “I’ve said we’ve been better at it (as) the season has gone on. We go back and forth, though. Depending on the matchup, depending on the team, our man defense has been better. But when we get tired, that’s been the case. Get tired, fight through fatigue, whatever it is, in the second half, that’s when it’s been letting us down, more so.”
On the Pac-12 tournament being a clean slate - “We’ve been focusing – something we don’t normally do – but as a big picture, we’ve been focusing on this for a while now. Once it kind of seemed that mathematically, you weren’t going to have a chance to be in the NCAA tournament just as an at-large bid, we focused on that. So it’s something we’ve been focusing on for quite some time.”
On cutting down on turnovers - “The nature of the turnovers from the first time to this time were a little different. They still had steal. … I know they had 14 in the first game. We had 17 turnovers and they stole the ball 14 times. That’s not good. This time, I thought we were more efficient passing the ball. We addressed it, we worked on some passing drills, some other things. It’s a matter of concentrating, little things, like making the passes away from your body, turning, making sure you’re seeing your target and just taking your time a little more and not rushing things. Protecting the ball on drives. They like to knock it away from you. So we emphasize those things. I thought we did a better job. We still turned it over too many times, but they were kind of different turnovers.”
Do you expect it to be harder to get the ball into Noah the second time around? - “The earlier question was us making adjustments and there we go. They won, but they are probably going to try some things to limit what Noah does. That wouldn’t surprise me and in fact I’d expect it.”
Any similarities to last year going into the tournament struggling and then had your best game of the season? - “That would be wonderful if that happened, if the similarities were there. We’ve been without Markelle the last five out of seven games. You take away the UCLA games I just think if we had played the same way as a group earlier in the year we’d have some more wins to show for it. In Markelle’s absence our team has improved, so going into the Pac-12 Tournament, whatever team we are I think the pattern has been come back, we dropped another one. Come back, and the pattern has been for us in watching practice these guys have come back and worked. So leading into the Pac-12 Tournament we know it’s one-and-done now. I would think we’d come to play.”
Who has stepped up in Fultz’s absence? - “No doubt Noah, Noah Dickerson. You look at his numbers the last few games, he’s put up all conference-type numbers in these last eight or nine games. I think last game Matisse Thybulle stepped up and had 19 points. Those two have probably been, and then Carlos Johnson. He had a couple of good games, one of those was when Markelle was playing but he didn’t score a lot last game but he’s been more aggressive. Noah would be the main one.”
What adjustments do you have to make to negate USC’s screen-and-roll? - “We need to do a better job of just concentrating on our floor position. In a general sense that’s what I would tell you. Our floor positioning off the ball was off on that. That’s what we need to concentrate on.”
Is it easier said than done because of the level Jordan McLaughlin is playing at? - “Everyone scouts USC and knows how well he does in the pick and roll. As a guy I used to work for, Jim Harrick, would say - easy to scout, hard to stop. He’s very clever. I’ve been so impressed with him. Last year I remember we played USC here and Julian Jacobs, their starting point guard, went out with an injury and Jordan came in and I know he had turned the ball over and we were able to come back from 22, something like that. You would never know that based on his play now. He makes such good decisions. He’s already a good shooter, he’s lightning quick. He’s probably one of the more under-appreciated players in this league this year, the way he runs his team.”
What have you seen from David Crisp running the show in Markelle’s absence? - “When we played at Utah he scored 31 points. He was knocking shots down, the ball was going in for him. That was his way of making an impact, which was great. In David’s case right now he’s trying to run the team, he’s trying to make shots how he normally makes them - there’s a lot on his plate and I think he’s trying to do the right thing. There’s an adjustment there when you go from sharing the ball with someone else or playing off someone to where now you have it in your hand the entire time. It’s something he’s been trying to work through.”
In one-and-done situations during your time here, has it been easier or tougher? Can they play with more freedom, or is there more pressure? - “I think the teams that we’ve had, it’s forced us to concentrate more, as opposed to being so tight and so nervous if we lose this it’s over. With our teams looking back over the years we’ve just come out and really had a high level of concentration. So maybe that’s forced that.”