Huskies Seek First Road Win, Star Sightings

Senior Quincy Pondexter acknowledged that playing at Pauley Pavilion can be a bit intimidating, especially with such A-list celebrities as Jaleel White, more commonly known as Steve Urkel, sitting courtside. Pondexter shared that Urkel sits in the same spot every time the Huskies play UCLA at Pauley, and each year he's plotted to ask the star for an autograph if his team wins.

Isaiah Thomas took it a step further this week, promising he'll ask for a picture with the legendary Family Matters actor following a Husky win this Thursday.

Since Pondexter and Thomas began their college careers, the Huskies have yet to beat UCLA on the road, and hope to get that elusive one-on-one with Urkel, along with the victory, this week.

The Huskies have lost every game they've played on the road this season, and have not won against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion since 2006. Last year, they lost on the Bruins' home court 85-76, with strong performances by seniors Josh Shipp and Darren Collison. With neither player remaining, Washington faces a completely different squad, perhaps the most vulnerable UCLA team they've seen in years. The Bruins are 6-4 at home this season and 7-10 overall, a far weaker record than the once-perennial powerhouse usually boasts.

And after two much-needed definitive wins against Pac-10 opponents, the Husky men's basketball team appears to have turned a corner. However, Coach Lorenzo Romar and his players are reserving judgment on that until they are road-tested yet again. This weekend they will be in Los Angeles.

"You can't walk into Pauley (Pavilion) and not notice the 11 (National Championship) banners up there," Coach Romar said during his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. "UCLA is one of the most prestigious programs in America, and you notice it."

This season has shown that any road contest is a significant challenge for the Huskies, regardless of the arena they play in. Washington is 0-4 away from home, compared to 12-1 at Hec Ed. Coach Romar is convinced it's a matter of teaching his team to play a consistent style of basketball that relies not on their home court advantage, including referee calls in their favor at times, but solely on fundamentals of defense and scoring that have been emphasized more and more in recent practices.

Romar claims the team's weak play against the Oregon schools at home was a result of a lack of mental preparedness after Christmas break, which followed them to Arizona the weekend after. He feels more confident now that the team has "bought in" to what the coaches are saying regarding tenacity and toughness on the court, whether they are at home or away.

According to Romar, no one brings toughness to the table quite like Justin Holiday, who made his first two starts of the season this past weekend against Stanford and California after being ineligible to play against Arizona and Arizona State. While he wasn't a huge scoring contributor, Romar said Holiday brings "energy, hustle, and defense" to the starting lineup. Holiday suffered a mild concussion during the California game, and sat out at practice on Monday. Tuesday he was limited at practice, but Romar plans to give him another chance to continue to succeed as a starter this weekend in Los Angeles.

The rest of the team is reportedly in good health, and Romar doesn't plan on changing his rotation much from last weekend. Several players will still come off the bench to play, just later in games than they had prior. Despite their inefficiencies thus far on the road, including an apparent lack of energy starting out games, Romar doesn't plan to change any of their travel or pre-game routines either, focusing more on the overall mental aspects of basketball than the details.

"We have to constantly be aware that mentally, there can't be slippage," he said.

The stakes might never be so high for the Huskies to stay physically and mentally tough. A once-in-a-lifetime chance at an autograph and photo session with Steve Urkel may very well depend on the Huskies' ability to play consistent and aggressive basketball to pull out a road win at Pauley Pavilion come this Thursday.


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