BY Andrew Harvey 06:30AM 02/18/2016

Huskies need some stops to end the fade

With five conference games remaining, starting Thursday night at home against Cal, the Washington Huskies’ freshmen can’t seem to sustain 40 minutes of defense.

Dejounte “Baby Boy” Murray is a young star on a young team, but the Huskies may be too green for their own good. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

On a three-game skid, the University of Washington men’s basketball team is under pressure. After getting swept on the road against Utah and Colorado, the 15-10 Huskies (7-6 Pac-12) need to make up major ground against California Thursday (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1) and Stanford Saturday (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

With the Huskies on the bubble of the NCAA tournament projections, hopes hang heavily on a sweep. Despite a poor second half against Utah, and a poor first half against Colorado, coach Lorenzo Romar said that now is not the time to change his team’s “switch all the time” defensive strategy.

“We’ve done it the right way this year, a lot of times,” said Romar. “That’s why we’re able to have success. But when it breaks down, it really breaks down; there probably would be more breakdowns if we did it another way. Once we’ve gone this far, then we come in and say, ‘OK, we’re going to change and do it this way,’ we forget what we were doing before.

“You have to guard against tweaking, tweaking, tweaking, tweaking . . . that’s when you end up not being good at anything.”

The problem is consistency. The Huskies specifically have struggled with big men recently. A forward has been the opposition’s top scorer in the past three games.

More worrisome for Romar, those forwards also cleaned up offensive rebounds that have cost Washington crucial possessions. Arizona’s Ryan Anderson and Colorado’s Wesley Gordon both had eight offensive boards against the Huskies.

Still, Romar defended his team’s play over the course of the season, even as he admitted that stretches of recent games had been “very bad.

“If you look at our games, take (the first game against Arizona) away, find me a game that we have not had a chance to win,” he said. “This team is in every game, so it’s a matter of a few things getting a little better and turning the corner. It’s a matter of three, four, five possessions a game, where if we’re better — I’m not exaggerating — we literally would be in first place.

“We’re not approaching it like, ‘This is a disaster, what’s going on here?’ We’re talking about if we can get a little better here, and a little better here, we’re going to be just fine.”

That little bit of improvement is where Washington’s fate, and possibly Romar’s, will be decided over the last five games of the regular season. The freshmen-laden Huskies proved that they could play above their age earlier in the conference stage, but have been showing signs of fatigue lately.

Is it too much for a young team to manage? Was it always going to be too much? First-year collegiate athletes and the word “dependable” are seldom together in the same sentence, even with the sort of exceptional talent Romar brought to Montlake.

The freshmen had high expectations when they walked in to the gym for the first day of practice. An entire city was looking to see them end a four-year tournament drought, and possibly even restore some basketball relevance to a city that’s been in a state of post-partum depression since the Sonics left in 2008.

When a team relies so heavily on youth, however, slip-ups are inevitable. Even talented ones make errors, miss assignments, miss shots. The heat of the moment gets to them.

Powerhouse teams can temper instability with veterans. Juniors and seniors have been there. Washington does not have that luxury, except for fifth-year senior  Andrew Andrews.

The Huskies’ hopes come down to a race to maturity, developing resistance to the weight of expectations drawn from a fast start in conference play. To make the tournament, Washington has to be something it’s not shown yet — consistent.


YourThoughts

  • MrPrimeMinister

    It just seems the region is content with the hoops program consistently being middle-of-the-pack. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  • notaboomer

    some coaches can recruit but not coach so well in close games. romar is one of them. tom izzo (msu) strikes me as one who can both recruit and coach. it’s too bad b/c uw has major talent this season.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Wait. What? You mean the men’s hoop team is fading down the stretch?
    Gee. Never seen that before.

  • disqus_0fotImVld4

    Offensive rebounds. Give me a Jon Brockman-type rebounder, a force inside. Go get me that man and don’t bother coming back until you have him in tow.

  • 1coolguy

    Stops? Huskies? Romar? Hello – where have you been the past 10+ years? Romar has no idea how to coach defense, none. It’s all about the easy stuff – playground, one-on-one ball. Throw it up, hope it goes in.

  • Pixdawg13

    It’s fairly clear several of these posters are totally clueless. “stoned” obviously never saw any of Romar’s teams for the first 8 years or so he was the coach–you know, when the hallmark of his team was getting better continually from January through March. And “1coolguy” who obviously isn’t, clearly doesn’t remember the teams with Overton and others who were known for their fierce defense.

    Maybe those guys think the NBA All-Star game is good basketball.