Huskies trying to come to grips with loss

It was an enlightening past few days for the freshman hoop Huskies, who went from experiencing their first (and hopefully only) blowout loss to Gonzaga with juggling rigorous post-loss practices and semester finals. How will they respond when they next take the court Saturday against former UW coach Ken Bone and the Portland State Vikings?

A rather reserved Adrian Oliver shared his thoughts about his first contest away from BOA as well as the week that has followed. "Coach (Romar) doesn't take losses very well, and neither do we, so we all expected practice to be bumped up a notch," he told Dawgman.com on Thursday. "It's been tough during finals week, but we all know that it's a big part of who we are."

He enjoyed his first big game though, despite the outcome. "Man, it was crazy," Oliver shared. "We walked out onto the court at shootaround and the students were already there booing us and saying stuff about our families. It was fun for me because I really like playing against hostile crowds."

Like most of his freshman teammates, Oliver didn't really understand the magnitude of the game until just recently, but the loss still stung.

"I'm really disappointed," he said. "I didn't know anything about the rivalry coming from California, but after being there and experiencing it, I want another crack at them." For a player used to delivering blowouts rather than being on the receiving end, Oliver gained some new perspective. "I've never experienced a 20 point loss like that before," he explained. "And it's definitely something we are all going to take and learn from so that we never have to experience it again."

Justin Dentmon a shared similar sentiment. "If we had lost by 6 or 7 it wouldn't have been as big a deal, but it's hard to lose by 20," the sophomore guard said. "You're thinking, man, we really got beat."

Like his teammates, team captain Jon Brockman doesn't want to make excuses, but he thinks the team's youth was the major contributing factor. "It was the first road game, and Gonzaga is a heck of a place to play your first road game," Brockman said. "That was the first time that half of our guys have played on the road so I think it was a pretty big shock, and we didn't come out focused and ready to play."

Dentmon was quick to point out that the freshman weren't the only guys who struggled. "I don't think that's it's only on the freshman, because a lot of the older guys haven't played at Gonzaga either and it was kind of a shot to the mouth," he said. Only Hans Gasser, Brandon Burmeister and Joel Smith had ever been to Spokane before, and Smith was unavailable for action after re-injuring his repaired foot.

As for his own play (he had a miserable shooting night, going 2 of 14 from the field), Dentmon was brutally honest. "I think I tried to take over too early," he reflected. "Most of my shots were contested and it showed that I was being too aggressive and I should have looked more to my teammates. I was trying to lead because I knew the freshmen were going to be a little out of it because of the atmosphere, and I fell short."

Romar was quick to defend his star point guard. "Justin has put the team on his back before," he said. "The Gonzaga game last year, in fact. Why not think he can do it again."

Team defense was another story.

"It takes time learning how to trust each other on D," explained Dentmon on the team's early defensive struggles. "I think that's what happened against Gonzaga. We didn't trust each other and we really need to understand that the help is going to be there when we need it."

"I thought there were stretches where we played decent defense, but all it takes is one guy who doesn't box out," added Romar. The 'Zags ended up scoring several uncontested layins due to mental lapses in the half court defense. "Defense is such a team concept that you can play phenomenal defense and with 12 seconds left on the shot clock, one guy falls asleep and they get a wide open layup, and it looks like the defense was horrible."

"I don't like to make excuses, but we have a young team with four young guys out there, and some times it tough to get all of us focused on the same thing," Oliver said when asked about the breakdowns.

"We just have to stay focused on D," added a dejected Dentmon. "Sometimes we take possessions off, and that's something we never did on last year's team. We're still trying to find out who the leaders are out there."

Brockman broke down the difference defensively between this year and last. "Last year we had one of the best defenders in the nation in Brandon Roy, who would guard the other team's top guy," he said. "He and Bobby (Jones) were a big reason we had so much success last year." Lacking standout defenders like Roy and Jones, the team has had to search for a new identity on defense. "It needs to be much more of a team effort this year," Brockman added. "It's a tough system to learn and the freshmen have had only three months to learn it, and it just takes time. That doesn't excuse us, but we weren't ready and they were pumped up and ready to go.

"We got a taste of what it's like playing a top 10 team, or at least we think they should be. That's how it's going to be when we start playing these better teams and if we want to be where we want to be, we have a lot of work to do."

"I didn't expect us to lose by 20, and not have a chance to have control of the game at any point," Romar said on one of the worst team defeats in recent memory. "I think that's the first time that has happened since we've been in this series. They jumped on us right away."

The ever optimistic coach looked at the bright side. "We've been down before and I've though our guys handled it well, because if we would have totally fallen apart, we would have lost by 30 or 40," he added.


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