How will UW recover?

Lorenzo Romar has been down this road before. Last year's Washington basketball team started off Pac-10 play 1-2, with all three games played at home. Coming off a road trip that saw UW lose a 2OT heartbreaker to USC, and then get blown out of the gym at UCLA, Romar knows this is a time to regroup and redouble their efforts, not resign.

"We've got to gear up, we've got to get back to playing with confidence and get back to playing the kind of basketball that we can play," Romar said Tuesday as his team began preparations for their Thursday battle with No. 7 Arizona. The Huskies (10-3, 0-2) dropped to No. 24 in the latest AP poll, which should serve as a sign to Romar's team that they can't play the youth card anymore.

"There's no young guys anymore," junior guard Ryan Appleby said. "We've had big games at home and on the road. Everybody's had plenty of minutes and plenty of game experience to the point where we need to grow up."

"We can't totally forget about UCLA, because we have to learn from it, but at the same time having back-to-back tough opponents will help us grow up and mature as a team," added sophomore captain Jon Brockman.

The biggest obstacle the Huskies need to overcome is in the turnover game. Not only is Washington dead last in turnover margin, but they are also seventh in the league in assist/turnover ratio despite leading the lead in assists. That means too many intercepted passes, too many travels, too many palming calls and too many 'touchdown passes' for the other team, according to Romar. Of the 34 points off of turnovers UCLA scored on Sunday, 22 points were scored in situations where Washington either couldn't get back quick enough to defend or the Bruins had big numbers in their favor. "It's really hard to be successful if you're going to do that to yourself," Romar said, matter-of-factly.

"You can't play against quality opponents on a consistent basis and turn the ball over like we did. There just isn't that much of a margin for error against the quality of teams we're playing, especially on the road."

Much of the criticism has come upon sophomore guard Justin Dentmon, who took the brunt of it by stepping up and taking responsibility for the team's miscues. "There are things all of us could have done," Brockman said. "It's never just one person's fault. Leaders step up and take the blame, but in no way was that loss because of Justin. He did a lot of very positive things in that game. Everyone needs to step up their game and come in more focused and ready to play."

"We have to get better playing together," added frosh forward Quincy Pondexter, showing his own leadership skills. "It's not anyone's fault. It's a team. I take responsibility for every turnover that happens."

It definitely appears as if the team understands that they can't use the youth excuse anymore. "We just have to be more careful with the ball, not think so much," Dentmon said.

Romar tended to agree with Dentmon's reasoning. "I don't know if it was a road issue, or if it's just that we're really bad," he said. "In some ways, we've got to take the thinking out. When you're thinking too much, you get stagnant."

Brockman has his own pet theory. "I think it's more of a focus issue, with things that could have been easily prevented," he said. "We just need to take a different approach and get ourselves more mentally focused."

But the UW Head Coach has history on his side, one that he tends to look at when trying to make heads or tails out of the Huskies' poor start. "People tend to forget that we were 1-2 at home starting league last year," he said. "At 5-5, many thought our season was over. But we've been through this before."

And as glaring as the statistics have been, they are awfully similar to last year's. Washington had 34 turnovers in their losses to Washington State and Arizona at home. And in their last two wins at home - over LSU and Weber State - they turned it over only 20 times, and in their first league win last year - against Arizona State - they turned the ball over a season-low three times.

So is it as simple as that? If UW wins the turnover battle they win the game? It wasn't that way in the pre-season. In fact, of the ten out-of-conference wins, the Huskies had less turnovers than their opponent in only two - Idaho and Portland State. In their three losses? Washington has averaged over eight more turnovers than their opponent.

In Dentmon's mind, it's all about getting back to fundamentals. "We just have to focus on keeping people off the glass," he said. "If we can win the rebound battle and the turnover battle, I think we can beat most teams."

But will that be enough to beat an extremely talented Arizona (11-1, 2-0) team? In many ways, the 'Cats look like the 2004-2005 Huskies team that wasn't big in the middle, but was chock full of skilled, quick athletes. All five of UA's starters are averaging in double-figures.

"You are talking about five guys in their lineup that will probably play in the NBA," Romar said of UA. "That's pretty good. Every one of them can shoot it, handle it and find the open man. That's a dangerous opponent when you put that all together."

"Every year they are up there with the top 10, 15 teams in the nation, and the fans always seem to get up for it," Brockman said of playing Arizona. "It's always a big game on our schedule."

The biggest change from last year's 'Cat team is the addition of Chase Budinger, one of the top freshman prospects in the entire country. "If you find a player with great feel for the game, if he works hard he'll be an outstanding player," Romar said of Budinger, adding that his all-around game reminds him of former UW great Brandon Roy. "He has a great feel for the game. It just doesn't seem like the game is all that difficult to him. You just get the sense that he could go for 25 a night if he wanted to."

Also returning to Bank of America Arena on Thursday is former Roosevelt standout Marcus Williams. The sophomore from Seattle averaged 18 points per game against Washington last year. "People might not think he's having a great year, but I think he's having a fine year," Romar said when asked about Williams. "I think it's a testament to Marcus and their team that they are playing so unselfishly. You add Chase Budinger and Jawann McClellan to this team, as well as a much-improved Mustafa Shakur - they just have more people to go to to score points. And he's still getting 16 a game, which is pretty good."

With so much firepower at their disposal, an 0-3 start definitely isn't out of the question for Washington. But even if the Huskies don't end up on the winning end Thursday, don't expect the team to fold their tent. "We just have to keep pushing," Appleby said. "In college basketball, it's a long season. Winning or losing, you have to keep playing hard and competing. And if we do that, in the end we should come out on top."

"We can't let the slow start put us down and think it's a mountain we can't climb," added Brockman. "We can overcome this. It's going to take a lot of effort, but it isn't something we can't get over."
Inside-out?: It appears as if Washington is earning the reputation of being a front-line team, especially with the recent contributions of frosh C Spencer Hawes and Brockman. With Romar's penchant for playing fast-paced basketball on both ends of the court, how will those two styles mesh? Romar is looking to an older era as a blueprint. "The Lakers were 'Showtime' back in the day with Magic (Johnson), and they still had Kareem (Abdul-Jabar)," he said. "They were able to do both. You can do both. Just because you have an inside presence doesn't mean you need to walk the ball up every time. I think we'll be more balanced, and we are." Could UW use their strong front court to gain an advantage over a smaller, but more experienced Arizona squad? "I thought Stanford was successful with their size, they pounded the glass," Romar said. "Hopefully if we can establish an inside presence, that could be an advantage. But that's still a big 'if'."

Injury report: Romar talked Tuesday about injured guard Joel Smith and his return. "The crutches have been put away, he's walking with a boot and he's been taking his boot off in practice and doing light walking and sliding drills," Romar said of the junior from Lompoc, Calif. - by way of Brewster Academy. "And if there's no pain, the progress starts to move along much quicker." Romar added that he expects Smith back at some point this month. And how about injured C Joe Wolfinger? "If it's just like Harvey Perry's injury last year, there's a certain point where even if a guy is ready to go, how much are they going to be able to help?" Romar said. "You can't really say anything about it until they come back and start practicing."

Shock to the system?: Romar was asked how he felt the freshmen responded on their first road trip in the Pac-10. "As a group, not bad," he said. "Spencer (Hawes) did well both games. Phil Nelson I thought played really well. I thought Adrian Oliver really competed against USC, but had a tougher time against UCLA."

"It was a great shock," added Pondexter. "Every team in the Pac-10 is solid this year, and you have to bring your 'A' game every night, or you're going to lose. We have to keep playing hard. We have to build this machine." Top Stories