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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pac-10’s mighty have fallen

    The Washington Huskies are like freshmen in their first week of college. They get homesick.

    At Bank of America Arena in Seattle, the Huskies (14-7, 4-6 Pacific 10 Conference) are a cool 13-1, but get them on an airplane or bus and they start calling for their mother.

    Washington’s lone win on the road came yesterday against ASU, but prior to playing the worst team in the Pac-10, the Huskies had a bagel in six road games. Even after leading ASU by 23 at the half, Washington escaped with just a five-point win.

    “”It’s something that we’ve got to get over the hump that way,”” said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar in Tuesday’s Pac-10 teleconference. “”When we’re at home, we’ve done pretty good.””

    No. 20 Arizona (14-7, 5-5) is in a similar situation as it readies to finish its season series with Washington tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. in McKale Center.

    Likethe Huskies, who were ranked as high as No. 13 earlier this season, the Wildcats are also trying to claw back into a position they found themselves earlier in the year.

    “”(Washington was) one of the favorites to win the Pac-10, and that’s just how crazy it is right now,”” said junior guard Jawann McClellan.

    Arizona (14-7, 5-5) shot a season-high 65.3 percent in the teams’ last meeting, a 96-87 victory Jan. 4 to cap a 12-game winning streak.

    The game figures to be high-scoring yet again, as both teams love to push the tempo.

    “”It’s an exciting game to be a part of,”” said sophomore forward Marcus Williams. “”It’s a good rivalry.””

    Because of his team’s injuries and ineffectiveness, Romar has had to shuffle Washington’s lineup.

    Only one player, sophomore forward Jon Brockman, has started every game. Eight different Huskies have seen time at tip-off, partly because of Washington’s youth (six of its top seven scorers are underclassmen).

    But no matter which lineup Romar starts with, the Huskies have failed to respond at times, losing by 20 at then-No. 18 Gonzaga, by 22 at then-No. 1 UCLA and by 28 at Washington State earlier this season.

    “”It seems we’ve done well regardless of what the lineups are at home, until we go on the road,”” Romar said. “”I don’t have any answers yet.””

    Romar’s freshman star, center Spencer Hawes, hasn’t had the answers of late, either. Hawes has had a hurt ankle and also battled a stomach illness, missing the Jan. 20 game against WSU.

    Hawes has played in the three games since, but has come off the bench.

    “”He’s getting stronger, but he’s still coming back,”” Romar said.

    Quincy Pondexter, who hurt Arizona with 25 points off the bench on Jan. 4, has averaged less than seven points per game since and has only one double digit scoring game.

    Still, the Huskies have won their last three games, taking down the Oregon schools at home along with ASU.

    “”They’re young, very talented, not scared,”” McClellan said. “”(Guard Ryan) Appleby has an unconscious shot, (Hawes) is quick with his moves, you can’t really come double-team, Pondexter is playing pretty good right now, and I think they’re getting rolling.””

    Starting point guard Justin Dentmon, who was replaced by the junior Appleby against the Wildcats, has been reinserted into the starting lineup and responded.

    Dentmon averaged 20.5 points and 5.0 assists in two wins at home over the Oregon schools and made a basket and two free throws in the final minute to help beat ASU.

    “”When he had his struggles last year, he had his struggles around this time,”” Romar said, “”and once he came out of it and turned the corner, he never looked back and hopefully – well he’s definitely turned the corner – but hopefully, he does not look back at this point.””

    The departures of Brandon Roy, to the NBA, and Jamaal Williams and Bobby Jones, whose eligibility expired, left Dentmon alone to assume the leadership role.

    But Romar said Dentmon shouldn’t “”take the blame”” for Washington’s struggles.

    “”Last year, he had the seniors and Brandon Roy be his chaperone. This year, he’s had to chaperone others, and he’s adjusting to his role,”” Romar said. “”As of late, he’s done a much better job of it.””

    Though Dentmon and the Huskies have started to play better basketball, their defense has still much to be desired.

    With Arizona’s struggles shooting the ball, the type of defense Washington has had this year (ninth in the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage allowed) may finally cure the Wildcats’ shooters.

    “”Saturday will be a lot more wide open, and maybe that will help us – sometimes you shoot better in a rhythm you’re more accustomed to,”” said UA head coach Lute Olson. “”Saturday is another day, and you just have to keep on keeping on.””

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