The Road to the Pac-10 Tournament

The Washington Huskies begin a stretch where head coach Lorenzo Romar calls it the "make-or-break" stretch of the season. As the season comes down to the nitty-gritty part of it all, the Huskies will be looking for every break and opportunity to solidify their position in the Pac 10 Tournament on the road. The first stop will be Pullman, Washington in the second round of the "Apple Cup of the Hardwood."

State of the Huskies

After a "Jekyll and Hyde" type of performance last week against Oregon State and Oregon, everyone will be curious as to see which version of the Huskies will show up against Washington State.

"If I knew the answer to Thursday night's game, (vs. Oregon State) I would quit coaching and go into business as a consultant to coaches," said head coach Lorenzo Romar after Washington's upset over Oregon.

The reality is, Washington has been playing a lot better than what their record may indicate for the last seven games. Just how much different is this team than the team we saw in the first half?

Despite having a 2-5 record during the last seven games, it has also been the finest shooting stretch of the season. The Huskies have shot 50 percent or better in four of their last seven games. During the first eight conference games, the Huskies shot 36.7 percent from the floor, and 28.3 percent from three-point territory. For the second half of the conference season and the last seven games, Washington has been shooting 47.1 percent including 36.7 percent for threes.

The Huskies were also 3-6 against conference opponents the first time around and suffered five losses by double-digit margins. Even though they are just 1-5 thus far for the second half, none of the losses have been by double-digits. In fact, the five losses are by an average margin of 5.4 points including the two overtime losses to current #1 Arizona and Arizona State.

Washington leads UCLA by just a hair in the conference standings and has their backs against the wall. The road has not been particularly too welcoming for the Huskies, especially against conference foes. Washington is just 2-22 in Pac-10 road games in the last three seasons, and has not won at Friel Court since 2000.

With UCLA and the Huskies tied for eight, the last spot for the conference tournament may ultimately be decided on the final game of the season, which happens to be against UCLA no less at Pauley Pavilion. If Washington defeats UCLA and both schools find themselves in a tie for the final spot, the Huskies will own the tiebreaker due to a win that they own over Stanford, the conference's second-place team.

Washington will once again be without the services of freshmen center Anthony Washington. After suffering a sprained foot, Washington has missed the last six games and there is still no definite time period of his return. Romar is "hopeful" that he can return to action in time for the Los Angeles road trip and for the tournament. Washington has been cleared by doctors to do some more physical activities on the foot now, and is out of the boot and has his crutches off. He was working out individually with a trainer at Tuesday's practice.

The Huskies now have four players averaging double digit scoring for the season. After his 17 points performance against Oregon, junior guard Curtis Allen is now sitting at an even 10.0 points per game this season. Will Conroy once again leads the team at 12.8 points per game, followed by Doug Wrenn and Nate Robinson who are both tied for second with a 12.7 average. Robinson has a streak of seven straight games of scoring double-figures.

Looking at Washington State

The Cougars snapped a 21-game Pac-10 losing streak on Saturday after a 75-71 victory over Oregon State amid confetti and streamers falling from the ceiling of Friel Court. It was also Washington State's first conference win of the season, which gives them a big shot in the arm heading into the game against their cross-state rivals.

"That team is one of the teams in spite of going winless in as many games that they did and still stay together," Romar said of the Cougars. "They (Washington State) just kept coming all year. That is a very dangerous team."

During the Cougars' visit to Hec Ed Pavilion this season, the Huskies came out on top, 81-6 as they played one of their best games of the season despite being allowing the Cougars to pull down 24 offensive rebounds.

"I don't think we can beat them if we allow them to get 24 rebounds at home. We have got to do a better job on the boards."

With Marcus Moore going down and out for the season, the Cougars were searching for somebody to step up and be the go-to guy for the team. They may have found one in Randy Green.

A walk-on freshmen guard out of Rainier Beach High School and a cousin of Nate Robinson, Green has burst on to the scene lately since he took over the starting point guard duties for the Cougars. Green scored a career-high 22 points against Oregon State after scoring 18 points against Oregon. Against the Oregon schools last weekend, Green averaged 20.0 points on 13-of-22 shooting (.591) and 4-of-6 from three-point range.

"You always pull for those guys," Romar said of the walk-on Green. "I always pull for the underdogs. I won't be pulling for him on Saturday, but those guys are great to coach because they don't expect anything. They don't complain about much at all."

It will also be senior day and the final home game of the season for the Cougars so they will have an added incentive to pull out their second consecutive win at home.

Washington has not swept a Pac-10 series since 2000, when they beat the Cougars twice that season. The Huskies have won 10 of the last 13 contests, and are 163-90 all time against the Cougars.


Current Pac-10 Standings
			
                           Conference	Overall
1.  Arizona		14-1		22-2
2.  Stanford		13-3		22-6
3.  California		12-4		19-6
4.  Oregon 		9-6		19-7
    Arizona State	         9-6		17-9
6.  Oregon State	         5-10		12-12
    USC			5-10		10-14
8.  Washington 	         4-11		9-15
    UCLA		         4-11		7-17
10. Washington State	1-14		6-18


Game Time:
Saturday, March 1st
@ Friel Court
Pullman, WA
8:00pm
TV: Fox Sports Northwest
Brian Webber and former WSU and Sonics player Craig Ehlo will call the action.
Radio: KLFE (AM 1590) in the Seattle area. (schedule conflict with KJR)
As usual, Bob Rondeau will have the play-by-play.

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