Huskies, Panthers Each Looking To Ace A Test

Dec. 8, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) - Final exams won't begin on the University of Washington campus until next week.

When the Huskies and No. 12 Pittsburgh meet on Saturday, each will be facing a fairly big test.

'They're strong enough to where if we don't play a very good game we're going to have a tough time,' Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.

For the Panthers, Saturday's matchup will be their first game outside the city of Pittsburgh. Their first road game wasn't until Wednesday night, when the Panthers (8-0) simply drove across town and held off a challenge from city rival Duquesne, beating the Dukes 73-68.

For Washington, facing Pittsburgh provides the Huskies (4-3) another opportunity to beat a big-name program from a major conference. Already this season Washington has missed chances against Texas A&M and Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off, and last weekend was overwhelmed in a 96-71 loss at Oklahoma State.

'Those three are missed opportunities. We had a lot of those missed opportunities last year,' Washington's Quincy Pondexter said. 'This year, we have a better recognition of what's at stake.'

What is at stake for Washington is getting critical non-conference victories to boost its resume and hopefully find a way back into the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Huskies went 19-12, but won just twice away from home -- both times against Arizona State, the last-place team in the Pac-10. Their only notable non-conference win was over LSU at home, a victory that became less and less impressive as the Tigers faltered during the season.

Washington wasn't even impressive enough to find a spot in the postseason NIT and the Huskies' final record included a 65-61 loss at Pittsburgh in February.

This season, Washington has dropped three of its last four games, all three important losses in terms of its postseason resume. That makes a win over the Panthers critical.

'We're all disappointed at this point,' Romar said. 'But it's a young season.'

This will be Pitt's first game at Washington since 1950, when the Panthers lost here twice in two days during an eight-game, two-week holiday road trip that saw them go west on a train and return via plane and train.

It wasn't a very successful trip -- Pitt went 0-8. The Panthers face a similar road now. They return home to face Oklahoma State next weekend, they play a neutral site game in New York against Duke and face Dayton, before playing Lafayette at home on Jan. 2.

Six of the Panthers' next eight games are away from the Petersen Events Center.

'That's what you get for playing seven at home. It's based around TV,' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. 'All these games are nationally televised. That's the reason. It's never going to be perfect flying five hours across the country.'

Pittsburgh is led by forward Sam Young, averaging 18.6 points and 8.5 rebounds. He should engage in an entertaining matchup with Washington's Jon Brockman. Brockman has carried Washington in its first seven games, averaging 19.3 points and 11.3 rebounds.

But Brockman may be getting some help. Ryan Appleby, the Huskies' sharpshooting guard who made a school-record 84 3-pointers last year, has been out all season with a broken right thumb, but could return against the Panthers.

'They have to respect him all over the court,' Brockman said. 'They can't just leave him alone.'