BY Bob Sherwin 10:52AM 02/14/2011

Washington wants to bring the noise

Huskies need to figure out how to take momentum on road

Venoy Overton is feeling fresh and his ball pressure will be a key this week in road games against the Arizona schools / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

When they are playing like they practice, when everyone is in sync and when the Dawg Pack has uproarious instant reaction to every little thing that they do, it must be fine to be a Husky on the Hec Edmundson Pavilion home court.

They just don’t lose at home, at least not this year. They are 14-0, winning all by 10 or more points. Their average winning margin is more than 26 points. They are 120-17 at home since the beginning of the 2003 season.

But as good as it is, as good as the Huskies players feel when they are in rhythm, there is another comparable experience even more ameliorating that Washington coach Lorenzo Romar brings up with his players occasionally.

“I talk to our team and I’ll say, ‘I don’t know which one is more exciting, when you’re at home, you’re on a run and the crowd is going crazy. Or you’re on a run on the road and the crowd is just silent,’ ” Romar said. “The only thing you can hear is your team and that bench going crazy. That’s exciting, too. We have to look forward to that again.”

This would be the week to do it. The Huskies (17-7, 9-4 in the Pac-10) will be hoping for a whole lot of Simon-and Garfunkeling in the desert, Thursday at Arizona State (9-15, 1-11), then Saturday in the big one, at first-place Arizona (21-4, 10-2). How about a little sounds of silence at McKale? Some one-hand clapping?

It’s not easy to generate dead-air road runs. It has happened maybe once for the Huskies, Jan. 16 at Cal, a 92-71 victory. The Huskies certainly are not alone. Most teams struggle on the road. Yet to be a champion, you have to win on the road. The Huskies need two wins in Arizona.

Through 24 games, what has become apparent for Washington this season – and may explain why this team has such contrasting home/away numbers – is that it’s a severe momentum team. Almost everything this team does, it does in a big way.

Momentum propels them to success at home and may take them in another direction on the road.

By Romar’s admission, this is his best perimeter shooting team. And what is the natural by-product? Trey showers. The Huskies are on a school-record-pace for 3-pointers made and attempted. They are 231 of 591. The records are 275 and 670.

Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas enjoys the Huskies' play with the home crowd Saturday / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It’s also a dunking team, an alley-oop team and a fast-breaking team. Crowds feed off that action. You’re not a fan if you don’t enjoy all that above-the-rim chaos and subsequent celebrations.

All that Husky scoring diversity has produced the nation’s No. 2 scoring average at 85.9. Washington is 14th in field-goal percentage and 20th in 3-point percentage.

Yet there’s more. Unlike most teams, the Huskies can show off additional momentum plays. Perhaps their most under-appreciated element is their blocking prowess. The Huskies have 123 blocks, just 13 blocks shy of the school record.

They also have 173 steals, which generally get the team running.

Pac-10 opponents hate playing at Hec Ed because of the constant threat of momentum plays and the exuberant outbursts.

“Once you hear the Dawg Pack on defense,” UW center Matthew Bryan Amaning said, “then you know we’re where we’re supposed to be.”

Then there’s the road. A momentum of a different sort.

“It goes the other way on the road,” Romar said. “We miss a couple shots, don’t get some stops, turn the ball over, their crowd going crazy. I’ve seen it go other way.”

What we’ve seen is stagnation on the road. The Huskies settle more for perimeter shots, hitting fewer (30.5 percent). They fog up on defense. They turn the ball over more (17 turnovers, compared to 11 per game at home). They concede the inside to the opponent. They score less (71.8 ppg.) and they win fewer (4-7 away from Hec Ed).

Washington freshman Terrence Ross is one of the many Huskies who provided highlights over the weekend. Can they do it on the road? / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

“On the road, you have to bring your own energy,” Bryan-Amaning said. “You have to bring that much more intensity on the road because you haven’t got anyone else cheering you on.

“I’m not saying that we have, but I think it’s just easier to coast at home because you can use the crowd as energy. They’ll help you – if you’re not motivated – they’ll give you that extra oomph to get over the top.”

Oomph-lessness has been their road problem. However, based on their two rousing home wins last week, oomph may sit on the Husky bench this week. That’s oomph as in Overton. The senior guard, Venoy Overton, finally is up to full speed, feeling confident with his body and in a rhythm.

“When we pick it up full court (pressure), they can just see it in my eyes, ‘it’s on,’ ” said Overton, who had 11 assists and just two turnovers in the two games last week. “It fires up the bench. That’s what going to be different this time from the last road trip.”

Overton had been expected to rank among the best defenders in the nation this season but has been a non-factor because of hamstring, tailbone and knee injuries. The team essentially will have the full Venoy for the first time in Arizona. It’s almost like signing a free agent. He’s got fresh legs and an old attitude.

“With him playing like that, pressuring the guards like that,” guard Scott Suggs said, “and the wings are up denying, it makes it real hard for them to get in their offense. That’s a big key for us.”

Against Stanford, the Cardinal persisted in holding the Huskies in the half court. And it was Overton, more often than anyone, who took it upon himself to break down their zone.

Over the first 30 minutes – until the Huskies built an 18-point lead with less than 10 minutes left – Overton dribble penetrated six times, compared to three for Isaiah Thomas. He drew defenders and passed out for better shots. He challenged the system and forced the Cardinal to respond. That kind of play was missing during the three-game losing streak.

“It’s probably a little harder for Isaiah because he’s always getting keyed in on,” Overton said. “With me, you never know. I’m not scoring as much but they’re still collapsing on me. If he’s the only one doing it, it’s going to be tough for our team.”

There’s no recourse for the Huskies now. They have to beat both Arizona schools.

“It’s (fast pace) definitely more of my style, especially now that I got my legs back,” Overton said. “It’s a big part of the season, and a good time to turn things around.”

And time to turn down the volume.


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