Husky Men Come Up Big in SoCal

Coming into last weekend having lost two of their last three games, the Husky Men's basketball team was definitely in need a win or two on their first road trip of the season. What Coach Lorenzo Romar got out of the trip was not only a sweep of the Los Angeles schools - for the first time since 1987 - but also some outstanding play from some unlikely sources.

Following the strong statement the team made in southern California, Romar talked about the status of the team and how their ability to bounce back from two tough losses will help serve as a building block for the rest of the season. The coach stated that his team has started to, "play with more of a sense of urgency," which is something that he has tried to stress to them in practice and in games. He continued by saying that, "if that happens, we feel we can be competitive with anyone.

"If we don‘t play with a sense of urgency, if we don‘t go out and lay it all on the line, then we‘ll be very inconsistent."

He went on to say that this team may need to collectively motivate itself, and that tough losses have a way of doing that. "With Will Conroy and Nate Robinson out there out there at the point, those guys would grab you by the collar if you weren't playing hard," said Romar. "This group probably has to concentrate a little harder. That's what your season is for, to work together and practice to make sure that you do win. Sometimes when your attention is captured maybe by a loss or two, you decide to get going. It may have been the losses more than anything that was said."

He went on to say that, "sometimes as a group, collectively, sometimes something takes place that forces you to put it all out there. Maybe those losses were it, especially the Washington State loss." He said that he expects his players to play with that sense of urgency "every practice, every drill."

A real bright spot from the road trip was the play of senior Bobby Jones, who had two big games while playing near his hometown of Compton, Calif. Jones tied his career high with 22 points to go with nine rebounds in Washington's 86-77 victory over USC. He then followed up with 11 points and 12 big rebounds as the Huskies stormed back to beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion for the first time since 1987.

"I think Bobby just went down to LA and got lost in the game. It's not like we haven't seen that before from Bobby," Romar said of Jones. "I've seen Bobby go to NC State and have 22 points and play like a mad man...seen him do that in Pac-10 games, seen him do that in tournament games. We've seen that before, we just haven't seen it lately."

Romar voiced how Jones is starting to play more consistently now that that he is closer to full strength. "During the time his ankle was bothering him he couldn't really do things he felt in his mind he could do," he said. "Then your confidence starts to waver a little bit and you start pressing. You start pulling the handcuffs harder and they just get tighter. I think he just got lost in the game. It was, 'Forget it, forget my ankle, forget everything. I'm just going to go play hard.' And I think that's what he did."

Romar was quick to point out that Jones had actually started to show this fire earlier in the week and that he had "a very good week of practice," which can usually lead to a solid performance. In Jones' case, it resulted in him being named Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two Husky victories.

Romar also talked about the fact that there will be times when the team needs to persevere and rise to the occasion. "I've said it before, it's very difficult to handle success," he said. "All of a sudden you get 30-plus wins in a row at home, you feel like you can just walk out there and they'll hand you the trophy. That is definitely not the case. Time will tell. You get asked so much about the Oregon State game a couple of years ago, and (how) that turned it around. That was in a victory. Maybe the Washington State game will serve the same thing.

"And it's not like we needed our season turned around at the time, we'd only lost one game prior to that. But in terms of more preventative makings for the future, we have to make sure we always bring it. I never look at it like, 'Let's go lose a game because it could be good,' but sometimes in a loss, when it's over, you can go back and draw from it."

The coach also talked about how a weekend like this would affect his rotation. "If you looked at our games, we tell some of the guys that maybe they won't play as much this game, but when you keep working hard it comes back to you. It comes back to being your turn again. Throughout the course of the year guys have bad games, bad weeks. Guys have great games and great weeks and they increase their chances to get minutes and produce. That's just kind of a week to week, game to game situation. It's dictated by some match ups.

Romar added that, "we couldn't get a lot of offense in the first half (of the UCLA game). Ryan (Appleby) comes in in the second half, and hits a couple threes. Now he's in the game and Justin Dentmon has finished just about every game we've had this year, or close. Well this is a different game, different set of circumstances, so now Ryan's in the game. Next game, it could be the same circumstances, it could be totally different. Each game presents its own different challenges."

He continued by saying that he now knows more of what certain players have to offer. "You're starting to be able to consistently count on certain guys' contributions in the games. You're starting to know as a coaching staff and as a team what to expect from each guy that's in the game. That comes with playing games. That's why you play the pre-season."

Coach Romar finished Tuesday's press conference by giving a quick preview of this week's upcoming game against Oregon State. The Huskies host the Beavers on Thursday, a game not slated for television.

"I don't think, based on the past, that this is a team that we can take lightly," Romar said of the Beavers. "I don't think that would have been our guys' mindset. We're not in a position to take anyone lightly. We just lost two home games. So regardless of their outcomes (OSU beat Arizona 75-65 on 1/12) we've got to be ready to go. It's got to be 40 minutes of what the Huskies are going to do."

He did touch on the fact that although the Huskies rank near the bottom of the conference in points given up, that stat is actually not as much of a factor as it seems. "If you look at our margin of victory, it's 18.5 (points per game)," he said. "You look at field goal percentage defense, I think that's more important. If we're averaging 88 points a game, and they're averaging 70 against us, we win by 18 still. Their point production is not as important as field goal percentage defense." Hopefully that strategy holds firm, but the coach did acknowledge that they are constantly trying to improve and would always like to get better defensively.


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