Huskies preaching team as they host OSU

If Lorenzo Romar had his way, his Washington Huskies wouldn't put themselves in a position where they don't have to demonstrate resiliency. But there it is nonetheless. After giving up 69 second-half points in a loss to Arizona, the recent four-game road trip opened with a poor result. Instead of shrinking from the challenge, the hoop dawgs embraced it.

"Our mindset going in was four games on the road," Washington forward Jon Brockman said Tuesday as the Huskies (17-6, 8-3) host Oregon State (10-12, 4-7) Thursday at Bank of America Arena. "We could have lost all four and been 6-5. We were able to get two wins on the road, so now we have five out of the next seven at home. Five out of seven is the next goal for this team."

It's a realistic goal, but Romar cautions that these Huskies are still very much in a learning process. "We can't depend on a loss to shake us up," he said. "And that's part of a team that's still a work in progress."

The operative word being team. For proof of that, we didn't have to wait long to see Venoy Overton in a No. 2 jersey, normally worn by freshman guard Isaiah Thomas. Not to worry, it's just laundry day for the Huskies, who have been away from home 10 days out of the last two weeks, but the symbolism remained.

Overton isn't Thomas, just like Thomas isn't senior Justin Dentmon. But put those three in any backcourt combination you want, and Washington has come up with a winning formula. The sophomore from Franklin may be the Huskies' sixth man, but he's hardly a throwaway. In fact Overton is averaging over 20 minutes per game in league play, good enough to put him in the top-five when it comes to time spent out on the court.

"You have to put in the effort to get the minutes you deserve," Overton said Tuesday. "I don't care about the headlines. I just want to play for a winning team. All my life I've played on a team that wins games. That's all that matters to me."

Losing matters too. A lot. After recent losses at Arizona and California, the whole team has taken it personally, not just the upperclassmen. It's allowed them to focus on the next game and pull out wins under less than ideal conditions. At Stanford Sunday, a venue UW hasn't won at since 1993, the Huskies gutted out a valuable seven-point victory - the game that should put them over the top and get the Dawgs back in the Dance for the first time in three years.

With a buck to Lee Corso - not so fast, my friends.

"It's within reach and we've put ourselves in a good spot right now, so we don't have to claw to get ourselves in to that position," Brockman said. "There's enough time left in the season where we could throw that all alway. We're getting to that point in the season where every single practice is a day where we have to get better and we have to improve."

"You have to emphasize to the young guys that in the Pac-10, anything can happen," added the senior Dentmon.

That lesson could certainly be put to the test Thursday when the Beavers come to Hec Ed, winners of arguably four more games than a lot of folks predicted they'd have at the end of league play, let alone mid-table. Under first-year head coach Craig Robinson, OSU was able to sweep their Bay Area series, something the Huskies just failed to accomplish.

"Oregon State, they are the Cinderella of the Pac-10," Dentmon said. "They are the most improved team. They can upset anybody."

"They are a better team, more dangerous - but they were dangerous then," Romar advised. "They beat USC early on. They were good enough to do that."

The biggest advantage the Huskies had in their 85-59 win over OSU at Gill Coliseum one month ago was UW's relentless attack of the glass. They out-rebounded the Beavers 46-19 as they extended a 10-point halftime advantage. It's just one of the many ways Washington has tried whatever method needed to secure wins.

"A lot of what we're doing is spread out," Brockman explained. "Our scoring is spread out; our rebounding is more spread out. Everything is more on an even playing field, so guys aren't expected to have back-to-back 30-point nights. It makes it a whole lot easier and a whole lot more enjoyable because that means there's not as much of a load on one individual. If I'm not scoring, I know there's four other guys out there that are capable of doing the same thing I can do. It gives us way to attack defenses, it gives us different options."

It's also allowed Washington to spread out minutes so that even the youngsters like Thomas and freshman guard Elston Turner and redshirt frosh forward Darnell Gant have not hit the proverbial wall as they attempt to lift their games to another level. And Romar will need all the fresh bodies he can muster in time for their stretch run at a conference title.

"That shows how good of a team we are," Overton said. "Nobody is getting big-headed. Everybody seems pretty humbled. Five people can get double-figures and anyone can score 20 on any night."

By redistributing the minutes, the touches and turns at points, you can keep a team healthy, happy and humming at the kind of high idle their head coach expects night-in and night-out. "We're very fortunate to be where we are without one guy being Pac-10 Player of the Week," noted Romar. "It is good to know that if someone is not playing well or is in foul trouble, there's others that have come along and picked up the slack."

One of those players is Quincy Pondexter. The junior from Fresno carried his share of the scoring load the last two games - and then some. Since the beginning of conference play, Pondexter has averaged nearly 13 points a game - four more points a game than during the first 11 league games last season. And Romar thinks Quincy is about to show the fine form that carried his game into the second half of his sophomore campaign.

"About this time last year is when Quincy started to take off," Romar said. "It was like an antibiotic; it took a while to kick in. He has redesigned himself as a basketball player, and you don't see very many players do that. If they don't do it their way they would just give up and quit and transfer or blame everyone else. But he continued to battle, and he's become so much more of an all-around basketball player."

Expect the Beavers to try and take out one facet of the Huskies' high-powered offense - currently leading the league at an 81.5 points per game clip. It's not the offense Romar is worried about; he just wants his team to play the way they are capable of playing for the full 40 minutes.

"I would like us to not put ourselves in a position where we don't have to be resilient," he said. "We don't need to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. We do have to do a better job of that, and I'm not talking about wins and losses."


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