SEATTLE – No Lorenzo Romar lineup is ever set in stone, but at the beginning of the season, the University of Washington’s plans included 7-footer Aziz N’Diaye starting at center.
But since the junior from Senegal took a nasty fall in the Huskies’ nationally televised game against Duke on Dec. 10, injuring his right knee and sitting out two games, Romar has since used a four-guard starting lineup.
The Huskies are 2-1 in those games – with wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge (N’Diaye returned to action against Northridge but did not start). Romar especially liked the way his team shared the basketball last time out in the 74-51 victory over Northridge.
Is Romar going to stick with that starting lineup for the opening of Pacific-12 Conference play Thursday against Oregon State?
“Not 100 percent sure,” Romar said Tuesday.
One thing’s for sure: Even as uptempo and, at times, smooth as the lineup has been with guards Abdul Gaddy, Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten, the frontcourt has been taxed by N’Diaye’s absence – particularly against bigger UC Santa Barbara, which collected 14 offensive rebounds in the Huskies’ 87-80 victory.
“It might be a gradual process (getting N’Diaye playing time), but Aziz always brings one thing – he is going to go hard, and bring toughness,” Gaddy said. “He brings that force down low, so anybody who drives into the lane – you have a shot blocker back there, you’ve got a rebounder.”
N’Diaye played Thursday, scoring 11 points and pulling down seven rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
“It feels like the knee is back the way it was, and having some practices down and running up and down, doing a lot of extra conditioning,” N’Diaye said. “I am fine.”
While not revealing who will start against Oregon State, Romar did state he did not notice any lingering effects from N’Diaye’s injury and that there would not be a cap on how many minutes the center plays.
“We need him back. A 7-footer like that … his presence is big,” Wroten said. “He is there to block shots. He rebounds. At the end of the day, you need somebody to change the game.”
Romar said the team is relatively healthy going into conference play. Wilcox did have a root canal in the past couple of days but should be ready to go Thursday. The guard also had a wisdom tooth extracted earlier in the year. … Wroten said he still has lingering wrist soreness after a fall in his last game, but did not think it would be a hindrance. … With the Oregon State tipoff and the Alamo Bowl kickoff at the same time Thursday – 6 p.m. – the football game will be shown on the big scoreboard screens during timeouts, at halftime and at the conclusion of the basketball game. … With Bob Rondeau in San Antonio with the football team, Mike Gastineau, of KJR-AM, will do the basketball play-by-play broadcast with regular analyst Jason Hamilton.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports
Read about what star freshman guard Tony Wroten expects as the Huskies head into Pacific-12 Conference play.