Huskies put the clamps down

It was a day to be cherished by Washington's Senior Class, all the way around. Not only was Sunday Senior Day for Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen, Jamaal Williams and Zane Potter, but it was also Senior Day for trainer Brandon Miller. It was also Senior Day for those in the Dawg Pack, a group that had definitely seen the Huskies at their best...and their worst. It's something that didn't slip by UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar.

Romar, in an impromptu display of purple and gold solidarity moments after Washington's 73-62 win over Cal, called down the senior members of the 'Pack' to celebrate with the seniors - two groups that had seen the highs and lows of a program now definitely on the rise.

"I thought it was great, because they were freshmen when we were freshmen," said senior guard Brandon Roy, who Monday earned his third consecutive Pac-10 Player of the Week honor and solidified his place right in the thick of the conference Player of the Year chase. "And they grew with us. I was hoping they might rush the floor to have a fun moment with them like that, but I'm glad coach called them down like that."

There's no question Husky hoops is beyond it's infancy with Romar at the helm, but Roy fully remembers his first year, when the team was 10-17. The Pack remembers too, and Roy is effusive in giving praise to the students. "They had just as much a part of this as we did," he said. "There were games where we were tired, we were down and out, but our fans lifted us to another level and give us just a little bit of energy to win games. I've said it before, I think we have the best fans in America."

And the fans have one of the best players in the country in Roy, whose 27 points Sunday marked the ninth time in a row Roy has scored 20 or more. In my best Dan Patrick, Brandon is 'en fuego', especially in crunch time. 19 of Roy's 27 came in the second half.

"Something about being late in the game, that's when I feel I'm at my best," Roy said. "I hear people early on sometimes saying, 'C'mon B-Roy, get it going!' and I'll get it going. I feel very confident down the stretch, and it's hard for opponents to stop me, because I'll drive I'll pass the ball. If you want to help, I'll dish it. If you don't help, I'll finish it. Late in the game, defenses are getting tired, so that's when I want to attack them.

"Coach knows that when the game gets tight, a light goes off in my head. I try to dig down and help the team as much as possible."

"He's got to be playing as well as anyone in the country, with what he is doing and what he is putting forth out there," added Romar.

Roy is currently in the top-ten in eight of the 13 statistical categories monitored by the Pac-10, something that is singularly unique to Roy compared to nearly every other top player in the country. And for all the facts, figures and numbers you can throw out in regards to Roy's campaign for All-Pac-10 and All-American mention, it's Brandon's attention to defense that has his coach beaming.

What gets lost in the shuffle with Brandon, again, is how well he is defending," Romar said. "He guarded a very good basketball player, in Ubaka, and he held him to 2 for 9 from the field. He's just playing a complete basketball game right now."

And Roy isn't the only one. Over the past six games - starting after Washington's three-game conference slide, coincidentally enough - the Huskies have been flat-out dogged and determined on the defensive end of the basketball court. In the first seven league games - games where the Huskies went 5-2 - Washington outscored opponents by an average of 5.5 points per game.

During this last six game undefeated stretch, the Huskies have been winning by an average of 13.6 points per game, holding opponents to less than 66 points per contest - nearly seven points a game less than during the initial 5-2 run in league play.

This determination was clearly evident against the Golden Bears, as it took the senior-freshman combination of Mike Jensen and Jon Brockman to put the hammer down on one of Roy's chief competitors for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors - Leon Powe. Powe was leading the league in scoring coming into this past weekend, but now Roy holds a three-point lead over the Cal big man - a lot of that has to do with the Huskies keeping Powe in check. In a game Thursday where the Golden Bears only scored 43 points the entire game, Powe scored 21. That's roughly 50 percent of his team's total output.

Against Washington, Cal scored 62 points, while Powe only tallied 14. That's 23 percent of his team's total. It was done with a relentless attack down in the paint, a total tag-team effort by Jensen and Brockman - with help from Roy.

"They did a great job," Romar said of his team's ability to limit Powe's effectiveness. "Mike started out on him and then Jon was on him, but they did a great job of not allowing him to get the ball, a lot of touches rather. He put up seven shots, and for Leon Powe that's not a whole lot."

"It's a total team effort," Roy said of UW's defense. "With Matt Haryasz coming in and then Leon Powe, Mike Jensen and Jon Brockman were like, 'B, we're going to get all over them for you, we're going to be all over them,' and I told them, 'You get all over them, and if they go back-door, I'll be right there to help'. It's a total team effort to stop guys like that."

Coming into this weekend, Haryasz and Powe were averaging 38 points a night. In Seattle, they combined for 24. They each took seven shots, nearly half their season average. Washington took special pains to make sure Powe, who has been averaging a double-double this season, wasn't a factor.

"We were just fronting him," Jensen said after the game. "Coach told us to just our body against him, even when the ball went away from him. Just make sure you're constantly bumping him and getting him angry, trying to be physical with him - make sure he doesn't touch the ball.

"He was super-frustrated. In the second-half, we kept him from even touching the ball. He started scratchin' and grabbin' and pushin'. He was yelling at his teammates, 'Pass me the ball!' Anytime you can get a player frustrated, get him out of his zone - especially someone that means as much to his team - it's a good thing."

"He (Powe) is a great player, and not to take anything away from him at all, but I think we did a great job on him tonight," added Brockman. "He was pushing a little bit, and you can tell when you are getting inside a guy's head."

And slowly but surely, the Huskies have gotten back into the Pac-10 race - and into the heads of their opponents. Whether it be the versatility of 'pick your poison' nature of Roy or the team's new-found defensive intensity and identity, hoop life is humming on Montlake heading into the conference's final week.

It couldn't have come at a better time.


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