Crunch time for Romar and gang

After hanging tough but ending with disappointment against the top four teams in the Pac-10, the Huskies find themselves in their longest losing streak of the season as they prepare for their final home-stand. Thing will not get any easier this week as a spot in the Pac-10 tournament will be on the line. Washington, (8-14, 3-10) looks to solidify their spot in the tournament as they host Oregon State (11-10, 4-8) on Thursday, and Oregon (17-6, 7-5) on Saturday at Bank of America Arena.

"I feel like it's been going in the right direction," said Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar at his weekly press conference. "Whenever you start to look at what we are doing better, then you're still reminded that we're 3-10 in conference, and that's disappointing because I feel our play is not a reflection of our record."

The Huskies went toe-to-toe with Arizona and Arizona State as they took both teams to overtime before losing heartbreakers. They also played arguably their best road games of the season at Stanford and Cal before dropping two close games.

"I think three of the four have all been equally frustrating in Arizona, Arizona State, and Cal," said Romar.

"Stanford was frustrating because we did not play a 40-minute game. We played a 38-minute game and that two or three minutes cost us and allowed them to get away from us. But Arizona, Arizona State, and Cal were games that were frustrating because we did do a good job all the way through but couldn't close the deal."

State of the Huskies
"There is no question. This is a must-win for us. No doubt about it." - Lorenzo Romar

At a half-game above ninth place UCLA and 1.5 games behind seventh place Oregon State in the standings, the Huskies find themselves at a make-or-break situation. With the NCAA tournament and the NIT a distant memory, Washington will be looking at a shot to be spoilers and make a name for themselves in the Pac-10 tournament. Before thinking ahead however, they must lock down a seed in getting into the tournament.

"We're not playing to avoid not making the conference tournament," Romar said. "We're playing to try to catch those that are in front of us to get a higher seed in the tournament."

With five games to go in the season, Romar sees each game as a must-win situation for all the remaining games. Mathematically, Washington can climb as high as fifth in the final conference standings when all is said and done.

"Each game will have its own individual importance, and each game for whatever reason will be a must-win, because in each game, everything is going to be relative for it will be different stakes that you're playing for."

One thing Washington has going for them is improved shooting. During this current four-game losing streak, the Huskies are shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor, which includes a season-best 56 percent effort against Stanford. That is a huge improvement over the 36.7 percent Washington was shooting in their first eight conference games.

Doug Wrenn has also passed Will Conroy as the team leader in scoring. Wrenn leads the team at 12.9 points per game, with Conroy following in at 12.5, and Nate Robinson with 12.4. The Huskies are one of three Pac-10 teams with three players averaging 12 points or better. California and Oregon State are the other.

Anthony Washington is still on a boot and on crutches as he is nursing a severely sprained ankle. He will be out again this week with Romar "hopeful" that he will be available for the Pac-10 tournament. In his place, Mike Jensen, Jeffrey Day, and Marlon Shelton have been sharing the time down low.

Looking at Oregon State

One thing for sure about Thursday's game against the Beavers is that somebody's losing streak will come to an end. Oregon State is the midst of a three-game losing streak and looking to get back on track.

The Beavers are in a shooting slump where they are shooting a combined 31.7 percent during their losing streak. Their opponents on the other hand have been making shots like nobody's business. Opponents have been making 49.2 percent of their shots in the past three games, including an absolutely stunning 58.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Senior guard Jimmy Haywood, out of Seattle's Franklin High School, had a big day the last time he faced the Huskies down in Corvallis. Haywood led six double-digit scorers as the Beavers defeated the Huskies by a score of 82-62 in January. It was possibly Oregon State's best overall game this season. Philip Ricci, Brian Jackson, and Floyd North III each had 12 points with Ricci also adding 12 rebounds to his credit.

Ricci leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game, which is also good for sixth in the conference. Ricci also pulls down 8.7 rebounds per game, tops in the Pac-10. He joins Cal's Amit Tamir, Oregon's Luke Jackson, and Arizona State's Ike Diogu as the only individuals to rank in the conference top-10 in both scoring and rebounding.

"They have been very competitive," said Romar of Oregon State's somewhat surprising success.

"Brian Jackson was one of the most highly talented high school players to ever come out of Oregon. He's starting to play better this year and Philip Ricci could be All-Conference. With Jimmy Haywood a senior, those three guys right there have been through a lot so it does not surprise me that they have won more games this year."

Oregon State has won the last three meetings in Seattle. Historically, this series is the second oldest series in the country in terms of the amount of games played. This will be the 271st meeting of the Huskies and the Beavers.

Looking at Oregon

"I said Oregon State is a must-win, but when you look at the Oregon game, I think we need to get both of them," said Romar regarding the Ducks.

While Oregon is not having the type of season preseason hype said it would have, they are still a solid team led by the famous "Luke & Luke" duo of Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson. Oregon took the first game of the season series after defeating Washington 91-66 at Mac Court. The Ducks drained 13 three-pointers, the most ever allowed by the Huskies. Leading the onslaught was James Davis, who scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shots from beyond the arc. Ridnour contributed 15 points as well as 11 rebounds. A pair of freshmen in Mike Jensen and Nate Robinson led Washington. Robinson finished the night with 18 points, and Jensen scored a career high 13 points in a losing effort. Oregon's Luke Jackson missed a majority of the game after colliding with Doug Wrenn and suffering a deep laceration on his finger.

Ridnour is having a potential Pac-10 Player of the Year type of season. He is averaging 19.2 points per game and leads the Pac-10 in assists at 6.5 assists per game. Jackson is averaging 15.9 points per game and 6.4 rebounds as well as 3.8 assists.

Oregon is the conference's second highest scoring team behind Arizona, and they are also the conference's best three-point shooting team. Oregon does not turn the ball over that much either, as they are the conference leader in assist-to-turnover ratio.

A weakness the Ducks have is their rebounding. The good news is that the Ducks are not a very good rebounding team. They rank eighth in the Pac-10 in rebounding. The bad news is Washington is dead last in the same statistic. Washington must control the boards and make sure Ridnour does not get in rhythm in order to win this game. The Huskies must not fall victim to the three-pointer again. The Ducks tend to fall in love with the three-point shot.

Washington holds a commanding 172-98 lead in the all-time series with Oregon, with the Ducks taking the last three contests. In Seattle, the Huskies are 101-33 against the Ducks on the home court.

"This season has come down to five games for us," said Romar. "If we can be successful in these five games, and I don't mean win five straight, I just mean win our share in these five, I think we can look at our season and say that we've improved this year, and that we're headed in the right direction."

#23 Husky Women Hit the Road

After sweeping the Bay Area schools at home, the #23 Washington women's team heads down Interstate 5 to pay a visit to Eugene and Corvallis.

The Huskies find themselves in a similar situation as two weeks ago. After two big wins at home, and finding themselves ranked in both of the major national polls for the first time this season, the ladies went down to Arizona and Arizona State only to return unranked.

This time, they must be careful not to come back with the same result as their last road trip and play with the same intensity and efficiency that got them a huge win against #8 Stanford.

In their previous meetings this season at home, Washington defeated Oregon State 82-56, and defeated Oregon 79-60.

Washington hopes to see better performances by Loree Payne and Andrea Lalum, who had terrible days against Cal. The Huskies may not be able to see those kinds of performances and escape with wins on the road.

Hopefully Payne can recapture the same time of magic that saw her drown the Ducks with a 29-point performance that saw her make 6-of-10 three pointers. All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Giuliana Mendiola scored her third Player of the Week award this season, and second in three weeks. Mendiola averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in the wins against Stanford and Cal.

The Huskies are currently sitting in second place in the Pac-10 standings, with three games to go. They can technically still come out as regular season conference champions, but will need Stanford to drop at least two out of their remaining four games. Top Stories