UW Men's Basketball | "Gut-check" win for Huskies
Seattle Times staff reporter
BATON ROUGE, La. — The Washington Huskies had to come a long way. And then they had to come a long way back.
But neither a distance of 2,000 miles, nor a deficit of 16 points, could deter the Huskies on Saturday from what might have been their most profound moment of self-discovery this season.
"We've grown up," said UW guard Tim Morris after the Huskies rallied to beat Louisiana State on Saturday 73-65, outscoring the Tigers 46-24 in the second half. "We couldn't have come back and got this win [a month ago]."
Such a breakthrough seemed far off, however, when the Huskies fell behind 41-25 with 1:33 left in the first half, a predicament that looked similar to most recent UW road games — the Huskies had won just one of their previous 12 games on a visiting floor before Saturday.
It was 41-27 at the break, and during a halftime meeting that guard Joel Smith said was "pretty emotional," UW coaches laid into their team.
"They were just testing us, calling us out, seeing if we are strong enough," Smith said. "[They said] you guys have to show some heart, like you want to win. So we got together in the huddle and said, 'We've all got heart. We want to win. So we've got to do this.' "
And then they did, erasing the deficit with stunning swiftness by scoring the first 12 points of the second half, taking their first lead with 11:10 left, then holding on after LSU cut a nine-point lead to three.
"That was a great gut-check win for our guys," said Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. "It's one thing to do it at home. It's another thing to do it on the road against an SEC opponent. I couldn't be more proud of our guys."
It was Washington's biggest comeback since rallying from a 16-point deficit at Oregon State on Jan. 17, 2004, a game that kick-started the Romar era. That win snapped an 0-5 Pac-10 start and propelled the Huskies to the first of three straight NCAA tournament berths.
It's too early to tell if this win will have the same impact, but the positives were everywhere.
The Huskies, 8-4 and winners of four in a row, got a standout game from sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter, who led UW with 17 points and hit 5 of 6 shots in the second half. The Huskies heeded Romar's call to play smothering defense in the second half (LSU shot just 11 of 29 and had 12 turnovers after the break), and came away with their first nonconference road win since Dec. 12, 2004, at Loyola Marymount.
"This is great progress from a month, ago when we were at Oklahoma State [a 96-71 defeat]," said Romar.
The Huskies made only three of their first 18 shots.
"We weren't putting forth the type of effort on the defensive end like we should have," said Romar, who said he also told his team that "we needed to not hesitate and go right at them" on offense. Romar said he felt his players were too concerned with LSU's height inside in the first half.
But UW coaches also adjusted, going with a smaller lineup that featured Pondexter at strong forward along with Jon Brockman (who turned in a typical 15-point, 12-rebound outing) and three guards.
Romar said LSU's big players "are hard [to defend] for a slower guy, so while it seemed like height-wise we were smaller, it also gave us an advantage [being quicker]."
Said Pondexter: "In the first half, we were a little passive. In the second half, we came out and really just manned up and played really hard."
Morris scored 11 points in the second half and guard Ryan Appleby hit two big three-pointers, the second one keying a 9-0 run that put UW ahead 62-53 with just over six minutes left. LSU (7-5) then scored six in a row to force a UW timeout. But Morris responded by driving for a layin down a baseline left open when the Tigers doubled Brockman inside, and then stealing the ball and sprinting for another layin to put UW back in control for good.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
|UW had lost five consecutive nonconference regular-season road and neutral-site games until Saturday's 73-65 win at LSU:|
|Dec. 1, 2007||at Oklahoma State||L, 96-71|
|Nov. 23, 2007||vs. Syracuse*||L, 91-85|
|Nov. 21, 2007||vs. Texas A&M*||L, 77-63|
|Feb. 17, 2007||at Pittsburgh||L, 65-61|
|Dec. 9, 2006||at Gonzaga||L, 97-77|
|* at New York|
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