Rollins likes chances

The dreaded goosegg. Null. Nothing. Nada. It wasn't what Hakeem Rollins expected in the least, especially after putting up double-digit efforts on the road the previous weekend, but the junior forward will take getting shut out if it produces a team 'w'.

"Early on, the game wasn't coming to anybody," Hakeem told Thursday night after Washington defeated California 76-58 at home. "We shot twenty-six percent and they shot twenty-five. It started off slow for everybody. In the second-half, it was rebounding and playing defense. We won, so I wasn't concerned with how much I scored."

It was a bit of a reversal for Rollins, who averaged 25 points and 9 rebounds a game for Mesa JC in 2003. Usually when you come back home, the comfort level goes up, but for Hakeem, being back in his home state provided its own 'home cooking'. He came up huge in the Huskies upset of Arizona and continued his solid scoring ways with 12 in a blowout of Arizona State.

"That definitely helped," he said. "Coming into those games, I wanted to represent myself the best I could because we were going up against teams and people that I was familiar with."

Rollins wasn't brought in to just be a scoring threat for Lorenzo Romar's team. His athleticism has been mostly evident on the defensive side of the ball. This was especially the case Thursday, as Hakeem, along with a host of others, was able to contain Leon Powe, the Pac-10's leading rebounder. "Our goal was to defend him as a team," Hakeem said of the Huskies' plan to take Powe out of his element. "There wasn't going to be any one guy that was going to do the job. You have to front him and have great weak-side help. That's been a focus of ours all year long, especially when we played teams like ASU and Arizona. We know that's one of the things that we are going to have to focus on."

The win over the Golden Bears assures Washington of a second-place finish in the Pac-10, the first time that's happened since 1986. But up next is the Huskies' stiffest challenge to date - the number-one ranked Stanford Cardinal.

It's doubtful the conference schedulers knew this regular-season finale would also feature the league's top two teams. And after watching the Cardinal pull another rabbit out of their hat - this time in Pullman - Rollins believes that this matchup was destined to take place. "Time and time again they've proven themselves," Hakeem said. "But it almost seems like this was how the season was supposed to end. You get one of the hottest teams in the Pac-10, the second-place team, up against a team that just won't lose. It's going to be a really fun atmosphere."

Has Stanford used up the last of their nine lives? "They have to be close," Rollins said with a laugh. "They've been dodging bullets left and right."

One thing this Washington team cannot be criticized for is looking ahead, but it has to be difficult keeping focus knowing that after Saturday's game a locked-berth in the tournament is only three games away for the Pac-10 team lucky enough to run the gauntlet.

"Coming into the Pac-10 tournament trying to win - it's going to be tough for any team," said Rollins. "Every team is going to be tough. This win would be huge, given how hard this team has fought and the run we've been on. I don't think we'll stop with Stanford.

"The focus is going to be being tough on the boards, interior defense and strong inside play. That's what we have to do in order to win. They've got some good big guys and have a deep team. Controlling the boards and playing defense is going to be the key."

A win, as improbable as that may have sounded a month ago, just might be enough to get the hoop dawgs over the hump and into NCAA post-season play. "Personally I'd have to say yes," Hakeem said when asked if a 'W' Saturday should merit a berth in the tournament. "Just how we have finished the season, sweeping Arizona and then if we beat the number-one team in the nation?

"What more do you have to do?"

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