'40 minutes' is Romar's rallying cry

Lorenzo Romar, meet broken record. The Washington men's basketball coach has been reiterating the same mantra for weeks now, the same phrase every writer from Berkeley to Palo Alto to Pullman and back has heard over and over again. And it was no surprise to hear the same things mentioned very prominently during Romar's pre-game pep talks against Washington State and USC, pep talks the public became privy to Tuesday night during back-to-back episode's of ESPN's 'The Season'.

"It's the same challenge as before - playing the way we're capable for 40 minutes," he said Tuesday when asked about what Washington (18-5, 7-5) would need to do to gain a coveted sweep over Oregon (11-14, 5-8) and Oregon State (10-14, 3-10) in their upcoming series - a series the Huskies have a chance to sweep for the first time since 1998. A sweep would put UW at 20-5, and in very good shape for a post-season berth into the NCAA tournament.

"We just have to do what we can do, take it out of their hands," Romar said when asked about what it would take to give the Huskies some much-needed breathing room. Some believe that - barring a major collapse - that the Huskies are well on their way to earning a spot with the nation's top 65 teams, but Romar is taking nothing for granted. He's hoping the experience of losing three-straight road games during Pac-10 play is something his team can build on.

"The only way we'll know now is if we win," he said, matter-of-factly. "If we don't win, maybe we'll look at as we didn't learn what we needed to."

They certainly got back on track with wins against USC and UCLA at home this past week, games frosh point guard Justin Dentmon feels could be a springboard for bigger and better things. "I think they've helped to build confidence," he said of the recent home sweep over the LA schools. "We just need to keep playing as a team and keep winning."

"We'll see after this weekend," added senior forward Jamaal Williams. "It's hard to tell if we're peaking or not. If we come out with two wins, I'd say we're peaking at the right time."

Whether they continue to be on the upward side of a volatile roller-coaster of wins and losses this season is yet to be determined, but what has remained constant is the Huskies' desire to play the 'perfect' game, a game where everybody goes 100 percent for 40 minutes. During USC, they went hard for 30. In their win over the Bruins, they played hard for about 35 and nearly let UCLA back in the game until a Brandon Roy three-bomb inside three minutes left to play helped to secure the win.

It's the play of the senior guard - named Pac-10 player of the Week for his work against USC and UCLA - that has catalyzed this recent run of success for the Huskies. "It's well-deserved," Romar said of Roy's play. "There's not too many other players out there doing as much as he is in all areas of the game. I'm not telling you he's Magic Johnson, but at the end of games he's going to do something positive with the basketball."

He did just that against UCLA, feeding the ball to open teammates late for easy buckets that kept the Bruins at bay. He also was rock-solid from the free-throw line, going 13-16. Many pundits agree that, outside of Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, Roy is the top player on the west coast. Of the 13 statistical categories the Pac-10 keeps for conference play, Roy is listed in the top-10 in 10 of them. And the other players vying for Pac-10 Player of the Year? Like Cal's Leon Powe? He's listed in four categories. Cal's Ayinde Ubaka? Six. Arizona's can-do man Hassan Adams? Four. Stanford's Matt Haryasz? Six. Stanford's Chris Hernandez? Five. USC's Gabe Pruitt? Seven. USC's Nick Young? Five.

"He makes things look so easy that sometimes people just take him for granted," added Romar. "He takes what the game gives him. He's able to take advantage of that."

So the $64 question is this; what will Roy need to do as 'The Provider' to get the Huskies crucial road wins the way they did against USC and UCLA back in January? One common denominator in those two games was balanced scoring from the three main seniors (Roy, Bobby Jones and Jamaal Williams), big rebounding efforts and key second-half three-point shooting.

One big difference between the last time Washington saw the Oregon schools (they beat OSU 69-65 and UO 78-59 in Seattle) is that Williams will be coming off the bench, a role he flourished in last season and one that has already started to pay off dividends in 2006. In the two games he's played as a reserve, the senior from Corona, Calif. has averaged 12.5 points and four rebounds in 21.5 minutes of play per game. In the three previous losses, Williams averaged 7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 minutes of play per game. It's a sharp increase.

Williams wasn't happy about the switch initially, it was something he 'agreed to cooperate' with, according to Romar. "I play the game the same way," Williams said when asked about the differences between starting and coming off the bench. "I have to play hard, continue to play that way. The minutes are still there. It's the same situation, and actually probably helps the team a little bit because it gives the team some balance. It's actually easier for me (coming off the bench), because you can see the flow of the game and you can see where you can pick and choose your spots."

The Huskies know they are headed to a real 'pit' in UO's McArthur Court, one that is frought with more peril than usual because this is a Duck team that is very hard to read at the moment. While everyone keys in on guys like Malik Hairston and Aaron Brooks, Maarty Leunen can come up with a double-double, something he leads the team in. Or Chamberlain Oguchi could continue his red-hot ways from behind the arc. The sophomore guard posted back-to-back 20 point performances on the road this past week, shooting 12-23 (.522) from three-point range.

It's true they've lost six out of their last seven games, but their last three losses all came by a combined total of five points. They could be a very dangerous opponent on Thursday, one that certainly wants to atone for their worst lost of the year when they played UW in Seattle, a game that catapulted Ernie Kent's team head-first into a six-game slide. A recent split on the road at Arizona is helping, but the Ducks would like nothing more than to put together back-to-back 'w's. The last time they did that was when they swept UA and ASU at home.

"They've come close to winning games, like so many others," Romar said. "Oregon is a better team than their record may indicate."

"Everybody's better at home," added Dentmon. "We expect them to play well."

What the frosh from Carbondale, Ill. might not be expecting is the greeting he'll be getting from the 'Pit Crew', Oregon's student section.

"We're 1-0 in the game I've played there," Williams said. "I know we've had difficulties there in the past. Last year, it was a loud game. They don't like us. They are definitely more hostile. They are waiting for us right when we get off the bus. That doesn't happen anywhere else."

Romar isn't concerned about the road, because the road hasn't been as unkind to UW has it might appear at first glance. Prior to their tough-luck losses in the Bay Area, they swept SoCal. And that's what Romar wants to think about. "We have to be like that team," he said.

Let me guess, coach. Something about playing all-out for the full 40 minutes?
Injury report: Other than Dentmon nursing a sore toe, everyone else seems to be a good health - which is a little surprising considering just how bruising the UCLA game ended up being. Romar also talked a little about Harvey Perry, the frosh guard from Las Vegas, and the chances he'll play at all this year after coming back from a back injury. "His first day was yesterday (Monday)," Romar said. "He didn't participate in every drill. Our guys want to bring him back slowly. There comes a point when it just becomes senseless (to burn his redshirt). We're getting there."

'The Season: Washington's hoops team was featured on 'The Season' Tuesday. It focused on the Bay Area swing, the road trip to Pullman to play WSU and the home game against USC. Even though the Huskies were 1-2 in the games featured, Romar feels like the exposure is a powerful tool for the program. "When you call up a recruit, they already know who you are because they just watched you," he said.

Dentmon's Bay Area Blues: Despite having learned a painful lesson against Stanford - one that cost UW a win - Justin Dentmon has already bounced back with strong results. In the three games since the 'Hernandez Hand-Check', Dentmon has gone on to average 14 points per game. "He handled it like a man. No excuses," Romar said about lessons learned. He also said the input from the team's senior leadership was key in making sure Dentmon rebounded quickly. "I'm sure they ribbed him a little about it, but they supported him and stuck by him. That was important."

"I got some instant messages and emails from people saying 'Thanks', mostly Stanford fans," Dentmon said of the ordeal. "It's been hard, there have been good times and bad times. During the bad times I've been looking to my teammates and my coaches and they've both been giving me good advice. They just tell me to bounce back. Usually if I have a bad game, I'd carry it around."

Romar has a pretty good feel now for what will indicate a strong Dentmon game, or a game where he might struggle a little bit. "It's how hard he's playing in games," Romar said. "If he's playing hard, he gets lost in the game. And that's good for him. But sometimes we play him too long, keep him in if he's playing well and he may wear down."

Where's Joel?: Basically since the first weekend of conference play, sophomore guard Joel Smith has fallen off the map in terms of playing time and offensive production. Romar has his opinion as to why Smith is going through a sophomore slump. "The guards that we had last year took responsibility for setting him up nicely," Romar said. "This year, he's having to work at creating things for himself. And there have been other players stepping up too." Those others include Brandon Burmeister, who played 17 minutes each against WSU and USC and came up with a huge three-pointer in his only shot taken in the win against UCLA.

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