Washington Looks For Turnaround Against Rival

Jan. 16, 2008

SEATTLE - For the last six weeks, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar pushed his team to focus on defense and strengthen what was the Huskies' biggest weakness early in the season.

It may have come at the expense of the Huskies' once-prolific offense.

Washington has now started Pac-10 Conference play 0-3 in two consecutive seasons and for the third time overall in Romar's six seasons at his alma mater. In 2004, the Huskies were able to turn around an 0-5 conference start, winning 12 of their final 13 conference games to make the NCAA tournament.

But to match that accomplishment this season, the Huskies, while improved at the defensive end, must also rediscover an offense that has yet to score more than 55 points since 2008 began.

'We've got to figure out how to win. We'll put together big stretches of playing well and then we'll break down,' guard Tim Morris said. 'That whole defensive thing helped us as a team ... if it took us a second not concentrating as much on offense, then so be it.'

Thursday night should help when Oregon (12-4, 3-1), the top-scoring team in the conference, comes to Seattle for what is now almost a must-win for Washington. At 9-7 overall, the Huskies will need a flurry of wins over the next six weeks, or likely be left out of the NCAA tournament for a second straight year.

'The way things have gone, we've got to get some serious work done here,' forward Jon Brockman said.

Part of the Huskies' struggles in Pac-10 play is the schedule they've faced -- No. 8 Washington State, No. 4 UCLA and Southern California -- statistically three of the five best defenses in the conference.

Compounding the difficult schedule is the lack of another scorer to emerge as a complement for bruising forward Jon Brockman, who is the only Washington player averaging in double figures, with 18.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Sharpshooter Ryan Appleby has been shut down by all three Pac-10 opponents thus far.

Washington State hounded Appleby with Kyle Weaver, holding Appleby to 6 points. UCLA went with the combo of Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, holding Appleby scoreless.

Appleby finally got a couple of open looks against USC, but missed all five shots and again was scoreless. He's scored just 15 points in his last four games.

'I've had teams focus on me before, but I don't think to this extent,' said Appleby, who is shooting 45 percent on 3-pointers. 'I get everybody's best perimeter defender and they're pretty much face guarding me and not paying attention to what's going on out there. (But) I think we'll be fine.'

Romar is confident Appleby will find his way back into the offense, but finding a third scorer to take the load off Brockman and Appleby certainly would help.

Morris seemed poised to be that person, scoring in double figures in seven straight games, before getting just 10 points total in Los Angeles last week. Both Quincy Pondexter and Justin Dentmon have shown flashes of developing into those needed additional scorers, but each has been equally inconsistent.

'We need effort from someone else to step up and hit the open shots,' Brockman said. 'Our guys are doing a good job of it, I think we just need one person to get real comfortable doing it.'

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