TUCSON, ARIZ. - The Washington Huskies lost their third straight game in the young Pacific-10 Conference season Sunday, and coach Lorenzo Romar admitted afterwards that he hadn't foreseen that kind of collapse.
“Not to where we’ve lost three consecutive games by double digits – I didn’t see that coming,” Romar said. “I knew we still had a ways to go, but I didn’t know that it would happen this way.”
The latest blowout loss came to the Arizona Wildcats, who dominated early and late on their way to an 87-70 win at McKale Center.
Romar regularly advises against overreacting to what happens in any one game. But now he has seen enough to admit that some of his team’s troubles have grown into trends.
For the third straight game, the Huskies were outrebounded, in this case badly: 40-23. And once again they also got off to a slow start, falling behind 22-11 and 32-17 before closing to 37-27 at halftime.
Romar on the rebounding: “Even before Jon Brockman, we usually did a decent job on the backboards. This is one of our first teams that as of late has not done what we’re supposed to do there, and we’ve got to fix that.”
Romar on the slow starts: “We’ve got to move the ball better. Early in the game we’ve got to establish ourselves and not rush anything. (In the losses at Arizona and Arizona State) we didn’t have the type of focus we needed on the defensive end. Once we settled down and focused we did a pretty good job.”
The slow starts even added a new wrinkle Sunday, as leading scorers Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas were shut out in the first half, when Pondexter took only one shot and Thomas three.
Romar put that on himself, saying any coach has to find a way to get his leading scorer more involved.
And that’s what happened early in the second half, when Pondexter and Thomas combined for eight straight points that suddenly pulled the Huskies back within two.
“Teammates gave us good passes and we finished shots,” said Thomas, who went on to lead UW with 18 points. “Whatever we do, we do as a team. It’s not just me and Quincy. Other dudes got to step up, and they will.”
However, Arizona answered Washington’s burst with a short run of its own, including a jumper by Jamelle Horne, who led all scorers with 22 points – 15 coming on 3-pointers.
“People were getting on me for taking those 3s at the beginning of the year, but now they’re going down and that’s quieted that,” Horne said. “It’s huge for our team when I can knock down shots like I did.”
The Wildcats’ response to the UW run also got the crowd of 12,899 back into the game, and Arizona (8-8 overall, 2-2 Pac-10) pulled away for good.
The crowd also spent much of the afternoon booing freshman Abdul Gaddy of Tacoma, who had originally committed to play for Arizona before switching to UW.
However, Gaddy said he tried to turn those boos in his favor and responded with a career-high 13 points.
“I think it put a chip on my shoulder to come out and play with my heart, really play hard,” he said. “It just gives me more confidence going into more games.”
Romar pointed to Gaddy’s improved play as a reason for belief that the Huskies can turn things around. He also pointed to the play of Elston Turner, who had 12 points – all but one in the first half when Pondexter and Thomas were being shut out.
“Abdul, Elston – Tyreese (Breshers) unfortunately got in foul trouble – those guys are key to come alongside some of the other guys who have been playing well and give us more options,” Romar said.
Now the Huskies (10-5, 1-3) return home to face Stanford at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and California on Saturday.
“We’ve just got to get back after it in practice,” Gaddy said. “We’ve got to come back and get two wins at home. We have to get that first one, and once we get that first one I think we’ll be fine.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808