Starting with that 67-47 meltdown to Gonzaga a month ago at sold-out Hec Ed, a loss Washington coach Bob Bender likened to "a punch that we haven't gotten up from yet", a season that looked to be quite promising has turned menacingly frail in the wake of a six-game losing streak. It has Bender openly calling for a more concentrated effort from his charges -- and more bench time for those he feels aren't making that effort.
Bender cited effort as a problem in the two losses to USC, both blowouts coming after competitive tries against UCLA. "We need to have the same effort every night in this league," Bender said sternly after the Huskies' latest crash. "We just can't show up for the games."
While some good home cooking could serve Washington well to end their latest skein (this is the third skid of at least six games in the past three seasons) coach Rob Evans' Sun Devils come to town riding a four-game winning streak after sweeping the Ducks and Beavers at home last week. Leading scorer Chad Prewitt was named the PAC-10's player-of-the-week after consecutive 27 and 25-point efforts against the Oregon schools. Prewitt has averaged 21.6 points and 8.2 rebounds over his last five games.
Sophomore Kenny Crandall, a starter the last five games, is 23-48 from three-point range (.479). Crandall, who spent two years in Eugene on a Mormon mission, went 9-of-11 from the floor in the Oregon sweep. Junior Curtis Millage is averaging 14 points over his last eight games, and UW fans might remember Tommy Smith's 11-for-11 night against the Huskies last year in Tempe. Freshman Jason Braxton and junior Kyle Dodd split the point time for Arizona State -- Dodd has only one turnover in his past five games while dishing out 14 assists. Awvee Storey, who led the conference in rebounding last year as a 6-6 swingman, has had a slow senior season so far, averaging seven points and four boards.
The Sun Devils aren't particularly strong on the glass, but love to force turnovers. That's something Washington has to be concerned about, considering the Huskies are last in the conference in turnover margin by a mile.
But the biggest concern for Washington will be simply to find a way to win. Any way. Only the top eight teams make the PAC-10 tournament, and the league is looking tougher each passing week. "Whatever it takes," says Husky center David Dixon. "We've got to start playing together."
Whatever it takes.
Pre-season down under: The Sun Devils benefited from a five-game swing through Australia last May, winning all five. "We had close games throughout, but put teams away at the end," said coach Evans of the experience. "You can't teach things like that in May in a normal year."
PAC-10 fattening up at home: Strangely enough, only USC has more road wins (6) this season than Washington (3) in the conference. The Huskies are also the only team to have played more road games than home, and are also the only team in the conference with a losing record at home (2-3). The conference as a whole are 54-10 overall at home, and the PAC-10 has a winning percentage of .734 (69-25) in non-conference games.
NEXT UP: Saturday, January 12 vs. Arizona at Bank of America Arena
(Rick Samek can be reached at email@example.com)
ARIZONA STATE CL HT PTS REB WASHINGTON CL HT PTS REB Tommy Smith JR 6-10 11.9 5.0 Doug Wrenn SO 6-8 16.6 6.0 Kenny Crandall SO 6-3 7.9 1.8 Grant Leep SR 6-7 8.3 4.4 Chad Prewitt SR 6-9 16.7 6.1 David Dixon SR 6-11 7.8 7.6 Jason Braxton FR 6-2 3.8 1.9* Curtis Allen SO 6-0 12.7 4.5* Curtis Millage JR 6-2 12.6 3.5 Erroll Knight FR 6-7 7.6 3.4 (* = Assists)