Romar: "It's forty minutes to a Championship"

After Thursday's 106-73 massacre over California in Berkeley, what better pre-tournament test could Washington hope for than a regular season-ending road game against an angry opponent who's beaten them 11 straight times on their home floor – for a chance to win at least a share of a conference title for the first time in 20 years?


#10 UW (14-3, 24-4) at STANFORD (10-7, 16-11)

Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, March 5 (1:00 PM - CBS)

First Meeting: 1/2 (Seattle) – UW 76, Stanford 73

"It's forty minutes to a championship", said a determined Lorenzo Romar in the aftermath of the shooting clinic his team put on in Berkeley. "It doesn't matter (that Stanford comes off a crushing double-digit loss to WSU on Thursday), we've been talking about what we can do on Saturday. That is the only thing on our minds."

"Our guys are very aware of what's at stake."

Meanwhile, the Cardinal sawed off about all of their NCAA branches on Thursday as the Cougars finished off a season sweep. In a situation where Stanford had to be thinking of at least a split of their final home stand to feel relatively secure about their tourney hopes, they instead made five field goals and scored 12 first-half points. Even more mind-blowing, they allowed Washington State to scorch them for a 43-point, 82-percent (14-for-17) second half.

Yes. Washington State.

A bewildered coach Trent Johnson could only say after, "To be honest, I don't have an explanation."

Still, more than one pundit thought that Stanford's season might come unglued three weeks ago when leading scorer Dan Grunfeld tore his knee early in the Cardinal's 71-56 win over Cal. They showed a lot of resiliency in the early wake, sweeping the L.A. schools at home and getting a tough split in Oregon before getting solar-plexus'd by the Cougs.

Both Chris Hernandez and Matt Haryasz had to significantly increase their productivity in Grunfeld's absence, and they have combined for over 35 points per game in response. Hernandez has really been struggling of late though, only hitting eight out of his last 34 shots from the field. Haryasz is the PAC-10's second-leading rebounder at almost nine per game, and paced Stanford with 17 points and 12 boards on Thursday night.

Sophomore Fred Washington has provided the bulk of new minutes available, hitting 48 percent from the floor during his opportunity. Washington exploded for 22 points against USC in his first start, but has just scored 30 in the four games since. Seniors Rob Little (9.3 ppg) and two-year team captain Nick Robinson (6.6 ppg) will be honored on Senior Day prior to tip-off.

The Cardinal doesn't want to get into a foul-fest with Washington, and for good reason – with Grunfeld no longer available, Stanford is down to eight scholarship players (and one walk-on), with 6-8 freshman Taj Finger up front and junior Jason Haas in the backcourt providing the entire Cardinal bench play the past two games.

In their first meeting, Mike Jensen's career-best 17 points led Washington to their closest home victory all season. It was a slower-paced affair in which the Huskies led 36-33 at the break and lengthened the margin to 11 midway through the second half before the Cardinal put together a 14-2 run to take a 63-62 lead with four minutes to go. Jensen's two free throws with 12 seconds remaining provided Washington's final 76-73 margin, as Nick Robinson missed a three-pointer that would have tied it.

And so we've come to this. A possible PAC-10 championship for Washington lies just 40 minutes away. But like Arizona faced at the BOA week ago, the Huskies will face an opponent – perhaps desperate and no doubt snarling after what happened Thursday – that will not want a visiting team celebrating on their own home floor during their own Senior Day.

Husky fans all remember that Arizona didn't pass their test. Let's see if Washington can pass theirs.
PROBABLE STANFORD STARTERS

F Matt Haryasz 6-11 JR 11.7 8.9
F Nick Robinson 6-6 SR 8.2 4.3
C Rob Little 6-10 SR 9.3 6.0
G Fred Washington 6-5 SO 3.9 1.9
G Chris Hernandez 6-2 JR 15.5 4.0 (APG)

GAME NOTES: Stanford's quarter ends on March 18. So if academically-ineligible RS-freshman guard Tim Morris can successfully complete the six credits he lacks, he would become eligible to play in the second round of the NCAA tournament - provided that the Cardinal get selected and can reach that far … Nate won't be the only Robinson on the court Saturday that's a recent new father. Nick's daughter Annie Lee Robinson celebrated her first birthday this week … Not only did Will Conroy set a Washington career mark in assists on Thursday night, he also climbed three spots to third on the season conference Assist/Turnover ratio list with his 14-dime, two-gift night ...
Rick Samek can be reached at rsamek1@comcast.net

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