Huskies hoping to avoid 'nosedive'

Now let's be clear about the picture to the left. That was taken before the Washington-Stanford game this past Sunday. That is Lorenzo Romar and Trent Johnson sharing a laugh and wishing each other good luck. Apparently Johnson was the one that snapped off the fat side of the wishbone during that conversation, as the Cardinal scored an improbable win at home, a win the Huskies served up to Stanford on a silver platter.

Freshman guard Justin Dentmon fouled senior guard Chris Hernandez while he was in the act of shooting a three with less than a second left on the game clock. Despite an avalanche of timeouts in the final 30 seconds that took 30 minutes to play in real time, the Cardinal stepped up, thanked the Huskies for opening the door, walked through when Hernandez cooly made all three shots to force overtime, and then slammed the door shut on the Dawgs by outscoring them 13-4 in the extra session.

Exit some stunned Huskies.

Bobby Jones looked at his cell phone when he got back to the locker room. He got a couple of text messages from friends saying 'Good game.' 30 minutes later he got some more text messages, saying, 'Man, I didn't even know you guys lost!'

"It's crazy to really think about it," he said this week, having had plenty of time to mull over every option on that final play that certainly reminded many of the miracle play Bryce Drew and Valparaiso pulled off to beat Mississippi in the first round of the NCAA tournament a few years back. "I'll think of a handful of games for the rest of my life, and that one was one of them. It's a game you'll tell your kids about."

But it's not a fond memory, and apparently there were people out there that didn't want the Huskies to forget about it too quickly. When the Huskies got home, Brandon Roy turned on the TV in his apartment, only to find a replay of the game being shown. "I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason," said Jones. "Maybe we just weren't supposed to win that game. Maybe somebody wanted us to learn a lesson about not putting yourself in that position. We'll find out down the line."

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar had a different idea. The team practiced on Monday, even though they typically wouldn't have after a Sunday game. "Coach probably figured it would be better to get back on the court as soon as we could, to forget about what happened," said Jones. "It was smart. We didn't go too hard."

They may not have gone hard, but they did go. Consider it phase one from Romar and staff in making sure they do everything they can to make sure a third-straight road loss doesn't take place. After hard-fought defeats against both California and Stanford, Washington (16-4, 5-4) appears very vunerable and confidence is low. The last thing you'd want if you're Romar is to have to play a very slow-tempoed, deliberate ball-control team, but that's the task they face as they head to Pullman to play Washington State (9-9, 2-7) Saturday at 2 p.m. The Huskies have won the last two matchups at Friel Court, and Romar believes his team is resilient.

"I think we have players with pretty good character, that aren't quitters," Romar said. "If things don't go your way, you can't drop your head. I think our team is that way, I don't think it is going to matter if we drop our heads, as long as we come back. In terms of trying to make sure that we rebound back, we won't change a whole lot. We will talk about team and sticking together and that is just what we have got to do."

Clearly the player people are going to be looking at to bounce back will be Dentmon, who was benched for the overtime session at Stanford after committing the foul on Hernandez.

"He was a little shook up, so it was best (he didn't play)," Jones said. "He was pretty upset that he made that play. But now it's time to get ready to play on Saturday. He's going to start, so it's time to get back after it."

"The biggest thing we told him is that he's our point guard and we need him the remainder of the season," added Roy. "And what coach said to him was important. We can't afford to pick him up, he needs to come back with a new attitude and try to get better. We need him to play and play well. We turn the page on that loss. Watching the film, we did a lot as a team to keep that game a lot closer than it had to be. We win games as a team and we lose them as a team."

Roy and Jones have the added benefit of experiencing the lowest of lows. Back in 2004, the Huskies started out Pac-10 play 0-5 before pulling out an overtime win at Oregon State. The Huskies would only lose one more conference game - at UCLA - until the finals of the Pac-10 tournament, finishing out their season 12-2. Along the way they took out the No. 1-ranked Cardinal at home.

To a man, right now is starting to feel like that 0-5 start. "The worse adversity that we have faced is when we were 0-5, I would have to say that this is second," Romar said. "I don't think there have been many times where we have lost two consecutive games, in this manner."

"It was tough just losing period, but we weren't just losing," added Roy of that 2004 dry spell. "We were getting blown out!"

Combine that with Washington State's surprise win over the Huskies back on January 7th, and the Dawgs' nose has been bloodied. "It doesn't matter who we play in this game, the important thing is that we come out and compete as hard as we can compete," said Romar.

But at least one player has payback on his mind. "It (Stanford) was a pretty devastating game, everybody knows it, probably one of the toughest since I've been here," he said. "But we have to learn have to turn the page. We could have easily been 2-0 on the trip, but you can't get those games back now. We've definitely coming around with some payback with WSU and some other schools. It's one game at a time. Maybe we can look back and say we won 4 or 5 in a row, but right now it's one game at a time."

One thing the Huskies have going for them - they are facing a Washington State team that has recently made a habit of playing teams close but failing to pull out games. They are currently on a six-game slide, their last win was in Seattle. But that's the Cougars modus operandi; they hang around. If Teddy KGB was coaching the Huskies, he'd say WSU has some 'alligator blood' in them. That's the hallmark of a Dick Bennett-coached team; a group of fundamentally sound, tough-minded defenders that play as a team. It doesn't hurt that Bennett has arguably the deadliest deep shooter in the conference in sophomore Josh Akognon. He ripped the Huskies for 27 in the 78-71 win over UW - the first win WSU has had in Seattle since 1994.

"Well, it is not a surprise," Romar said of Akognon's play. I watched Josh play in high school and he put up 40 and 50 points in a game, he can flat out score. Hopefully the defensive tenacity will not let him go off as much."

The Cougars will still be without their point guard Derrick Low, who is still nursing a foot injury he suffered in the beginning of January. No matter, said Romar. "Well obviously that is not going to make a difference for us, they beat us without Low last time," he said. "Whether he plays or not, as usual we cannot be concerned with Washington State as much as us. We expect it to be a very tough game, as they usually have been with Washington State."

The biggest thing for Romar is eliminating the mistakes. He's been liberal in the past about letting player work through their mistakes, learning from them in the process. But he put his foot down with Dentmon. "When it is a mistake that we have been talking about for about three weeks in games and practice, and you make the same mistake, then I don't have as much patience," he said.

What is working for UW right now is the play of senior Roy, who is leading the conference is points per game (22.8). "Ever since Brandon was a freshman, when he joined our team in January, he has been our best player," Romar said. "Regardless of what has gone on, he has been our best all-around. This year, he has been able to show that based on our personnel. It shows that he made a great decision to come back for his senior year. So far he has been rewarded with a winning season and an outstanding year personally.

"There were questions being asked in the preseason, when we were winning games by sizable margins, about when is he going to take over. He is just that type of player, there wasn't a need for him to dominate the basketball, because other guys were playing well, and scoring. As teams began to defend better, and make it more difficult he has taken over more."

But ironically enough, when Roy takes over games, rarely does Washington win. In the Huskies last two games - both losses - he's averaging 24 points per contest. In games where Roy scores less than 20 points? They've won 12 games. Over 20? Just four. So it's clear; the Huskies are playing their best when they are getting equal contributions from players like Jones, Dentmon, Jamaal Williams and Jon Brockman.

"Yesterday (Monday) in practice, the guys were good and focused," said Romar. "They are ready to bounce back. You can't do anything about the past except learn from it, regroup and bounce back."

Bobby Jones laid it all out there. "We don't want to make it a nosedive," he said.
How is Harvey Perry?: Romar was asked this week about his frosh guard, rehabbing a back injury. Will he be able to play this season? "I think it is the same time-frame we gave six weeks ago," said Romar on Perry's prognosis for playing. "After the next couple of weeks he should be practicing, and we will see from there. We cannot determine anything until he practices. I don't see how you can make a decision at all until you can see whether he can function or not."

Perry could certainly contribute in a number of ways, according to Romar. "Harvey is another ball-handler, and he is another defender," he said. "He is also a good passer. There have been times when we definitely could have used Harvey. We have had foul trouble at times, and been in situations where another body would have helped. But again, we have been very fortunate with the players we do have healthy. When you look around the league and see the type of guys that are hurt. I see that as an unfortunate reality of the game."

Super Bowl Plans: Roy has taken it upon himself in hosting a Super Bowl party for the players when they return from the Washington State game. "I've always been a Seattle fan, but our teams haven't been doing that great," he said. "But at the end of last season, I kind of jumped on their bandwagon because I thought they had a chance to win the Super Bowl."

He added that he's met Ken Hamlin, Seneca Wallace, Shaun Alexander ('I met him once') and Darrell Jackson ('I met him when I was working at a Hertz and he was just coming into town and renting a car'). Wallace is his favorite Seahawk. Top Stories