Romar searching for answers

It was a long weekend for the bruised and battered Washington Huskies, who looked happy to be home after getting pasted by Washington State last Saturday afternoon. A relaxed coach Lorenzo Romar acknowledged his teams struggles against the Cougars but was adamant that his team wasn't ready to throw in the towel on the season. Clearly not wanting to rehash the game again, he summed it up simply.

"A game like that is a game you want to learn from, but not dwell on," he explained. "In order to keep your sanity. I think we moved on to Thursday."

Facing an 18-1 Oregon team - currently ranked seventh in the country - Romar understands the challenge his squad faces, even with UO star Aaron Brooks ineligible to play as a result of last season's elbowing incident against Ryan Appleby in the Pac-10 tournament..

"Their team is so versatile," Romar shared. "And even though Aaron (Brooks) is probably the conference player of the year at this time, they can manage the game the same way they've been playing without him. I don't think much will change."

Last season, the Ducks lost several close games en route to a disappointing 15-18 season despite being picked by many as a frontrunner for the conference title. Coach Romar noted the obvious similarities:

"Oregon's season last year and our season this year are very similar," he offered up. "When our previous group of guys were young, they lost a lot of close games too. It took that group a year and a half to get it. We've had this new group for half a year. Hopefully it won't take a year and a half to figure it out."

The team had struggled at both ends of the court at times this season, but for a coach whose system places a major emphasis on defense, that is Romar's primary focus right now;

"Our identity needs to be on the defense end, so I'm probably more concerned with that at this point," he said. "If your identity is defense and your offense is not playing well, you're still in the ball game," he added. "But if your identity is offense and your offense is struggling, than your defense is going to look really bad. I still don't think our identity is on the defensive end, which is where it should be."

Little things continue to nag at the Dawgs defensively, and though Romar feels the effort is there, his inexperienced team has yet to understand just how important defense is.

He shared an example with the media on Tuesday. "Understanding the importance of getting through that screen is a really big deal, because that's a shot that a guy like Champ Oguchi makes (if his defender doesn't follow him through the pick.) Older players understand that about each possession and that's what some of out issues are. Just the urgency of each possession on the defensive end."

Coach Romar knows the team's tournament chances are slipping away, and that it's time for his players to step up. "This is a very important game for a number of reasons," he said. "We're looking at the game for confidence. We're looking for a breakthrough, somewhere. We've been looking for one for the last few games, and maybe at home we'll find one."

Romar also sees similar struggles in top programs across the country - especially ones overly reliant on young players, while drawing comparisons to a couple other programs unaccustomed to struggling who have stumbled out of the conference gate. "I've followed what UConn is going through very closely," he said. "Same with Texas. They are a talented group, and it's going to click for them very soon.

"I hope it clicks for us Thursday (against Oregon)."

A healthy Spencer Hawes is an important piece. The McDonald's All American and team scoring leader had been slowed by an ongoing battle with the flu before being sidelined against WSU with a left ankle sprain sustained the day before during practice.

"He (Hawes) is better," Romar said of his star center. "We're hopeful that Spencer will play Thursday."

Another intriguing side note to Thursday night's game is based on comments Oregon freshman Tajuan Porter made recently regarding getting cut by Coach Romar during tryouts for the U18 national team last summer, the gist being that Porter felt Romar cut him for being too short.

"I think Tajuan Porter really helps this team," he said, admiring Porter's game, as well as his early success. "He has a lot of toughness about him and he obviously shoots the ball really well."

As for Porter's comments, Romar took a pretty light hearted view of the situation after hearing them.

"I smiled to myself and thought, that's why I like that kid," he added. "He looks for any form of motivation he can, any edge he can, plays with a chip on his shoulder. He won two state titles as a high school player, he is a warrior."

Romar was unapologetic about cutting him and said there was more to the story than Porter was aware of at the time. "What he doesn't know is that there is a committee that votes to cut the roster down for who's going to go to training camp and they didn't pick Tajuan," he said.

Romar is certainly no stranger to integrating smaller players into his lineup, as former 5-foot-8 Husky legend Nate Robinson can attest to, and prize 2008 recruit (5-foot-7) Isaiah Thomas obviously doesn't share Porter's sentiment either.

"I lobbied to get him in because I thought he was a good fit for the style we were going to play, but obviously we ended up letting him go," Romar added. "I just chuckle at it. That's my man, that's Taquan, looking for any way he can to get himself pumped up." Top Stories