Team Takes Montana Lessons On The Road

The undefeated Washington Huskies head out of town for the first time this season to face Texas Tech in Lubbock, Tex. this coming Thursday. Boasting their first top-10 ranking in four years, the Huskies should have all the confidence in the world, but a way-too-close-for-comfort win against Montana Sunday night forced them to learn some lessons rather quickly.

"We learned to fight through adversity," senior Quincy Pondexter said of the 63-59 win over the Griz. "I think a lot of us didn't play our best game and it was a very nasty game if you got to watch it. I think we just learned that if we stick to just playing Husky basketball and keep getting stops on the defensive end I think it's going to keep us in any game that we play in."

Both Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas scored season lows and struggled against a tough zone defense put up by a big Montana team. UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar relied heavily on his bench, and experimentation with different combinations proved successful in overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit.

Romar noted that while playing three guards wasn't too successful Sunday night, it's proven successful otherwise, so it's something he plans to stick with. "We were able to look at some things that worked well and maybe some things that didn't work as well," he said during his normal Tuesday press briefing. "So when we're in that situation again maybe we have more of an idea of what kind of combinations we'll go with."

"We have to play different ways and still be effective," Romar added when asked what he learned Sunday. "We shot 30 percent and were still able to come back from a 12-point deficit in the second half… We were down for a time in a situation where things weren't going right and we were able to pull out a victory. If our big guns aren't necessarily scoring a lot, we still can have a chance to win a game. Those are just all lessons for us that are going to prove to be crucial in this season, maybe later on this month, maybe Thursday."

Montana may have found a recipe for success against the Huskies with their defensive scheme focused on UW's major scoring threats. Romar isn't too concerned about other teams emulating the Grizzlies' game plan, and the Huskies know exactly what they need to do should they face a similar defense again.

"We're going to have to improve our perimeter shooting," Pondexter said. "We're going to have to find ways to penetrate that zone and get easy shots, especially in the short corners, the elbows, we just have to make the game a lot easier for ourselves. If we get stops, it will be a lot harder for them to set up their defense."

Despite the challenges faced Sunday, the Monday rankings put the Huskies at No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. With the highest ranking of any team in the Pac 10, the Huskies know there's no chance teams will overlook them on the schedule.

"I think we're targeted at every game we play, especially being a top-ten team," Pondexter said. Pondexter, like other returning Huskies, knows what it's like to face a hostile crowd with added motivation to win against a ranked opponent.

"We have some players that have played in some tough environments before and we've got players that have played in a couple NCAA Tournament games, so I would hope that we would do okay in that environment," Romar said. "But that is one of the reasons we are anxious to see how we are in that environment."

Thursday's game at Texas Tech tips off at 4 pm PST, and will be televised on ESPN2. The game will go a long ways toward showing if the Huskies can take the hype surrounding them, as well as lessons learned in tight games and translate it in to success away from home. Top Stories