STANFORD, CALIF. - Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion has surpassed Arizona's McKale Center as the biggest home-court advantage in the Pacific-10 Conference.
At least that’s the consensus of the league’s officials, according to Bill McCabe, Pac-10 coordinator of men’s basketball officiating.
“The toughest environment officials are working in right now is Washington – by far,” said McCabe said Friday. “It used to be Arizona. ... But let me tell you, officials will tell you the tougher place now, because of the crowd really, really getting after it, is Washington. And Arizona’s still good.”
Home-court advantages seem especially topical today as Washington, which is 0-7 away from home, visits Maples Pavilion, where Stanford is 5-0 in the Pac-10.
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So McCabe’s opinion offers a twist on the hot-button issue of this UW season. Maybe it’s not: Why can’t the Huskies win on the road? Maybe it’s: Why are they so hard to beat at home?
“You go into (Edmundson Pavilion) and the crowd there is flat-out intimidating for those teams,” McCabe said. “It’s a tough place to play.”
McCabe’s opinion was sought because a number of Pac-10 coaches have cited officiating as the key difference between the Huskies at home and the Huskies on the road.
Coaches, including Washington State’s Ken Bone and most recently Cal’s Mike Montgomery, have implied that the Huskies are allowed to play with more defensive aggressiveness at home than they get away with on the road.
McCabe admits that some officials will make more calls than others, but not that those differences are influenced by whether the Huskies are at home or away.
“Washington does play physical,” he said. “That’s a fact. Every coach in the league feels that way. But among my 44 officials, I have some that will blow and blow and blow. They’ll call a foul if they see them, and they’ll keep calling the fouls. I have other officials who would like to pass on some things and hope that the game will go on and let them play a little bit more.”
McCabe attributes home-court advantages to other factors: players sleeping in their own beds, eating their usual food on their usual schedules while the visitors go from airport to hotel to hostile gym.
But while those rabid home fans might affect visiting teams, McCabe doesn’t believe they affect his officials.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar diplomatically expressed doubt.
“The only thing I’ll say to that is we’re all human,” Romar said. “But, you know, some officials compensate the other way: ‘I’m going to show you that I do not react to crowds,’ and any 50-50 call will go against the home team. I just think everybody’s different; but the human element still perhaps comes into play.”
Two of Washington’s best defensive players – guard Venoy Overton and forward Justin Holiday – indicated no doubt that games are called differently home and away.
Overton: “I feel like the officials lean more to the home team a little bit. At home I feel like I can get out and play as hard as I want, but on the road I have to change a little bit.”
Holiday: “Especially on the road you have to adjust to certain refs. Especially somebody like Venoy, who’s really aggressive, he most definitely has to adjust.”
Sheer numbers reflect only modest differences. The Huskies have been whistled for an average of 23.6 personal fouls in seven Pac-10 home games compared with 25.2 in five Pac-10 road games.
Meanwhile, Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins credits much of his team’s flawless home league record to the fans who show up at Maples Pavilion.
“We wouldn’t have the home record we have if they weren’t supporting us and giving us the energy and enthusiasm that they give – absolutely,” he said. “Our crowd has been great. I like to give them a lot of credit for the record we have at home.”
On the other side, Romar seemed to challenge his team to forget about officials, crowds and hotels, and do what must be done.
“I just think men win on the road,” he said.
UW MEN'S BASKETBALL GAMEDAY
WASHINGTON (16-8 OVERALL, 6-6 PAC-10) AT STANFORD (11-13, 5-7)
Tipoff: 5 p.m., Maples Pavilion, Stanford, Calif.
TV: FSN. Radio: 950-AM.
Series: Stanford leads 69-63 overall and 44-19 at home. UW has won four straight, including a 94-61 blowout Jan. 14 in Seattle.
Statistical leaders: For UW – F Quincy Pondexter 20.5 ppg and 8.1 rpg; G Venoy Overton, 3.4 apg. For Stanford – G/F Landry Fields, 22.7 ppg and 8.8 rpg; G Jarrett Mann, 4.8 apg.
Scouting report: Matthew Bryan-Amaning will return to the UW starting lineup at forward in place of Tyreese Breshers. ... The game pairs two of the top contenders for Pac-10 player of the year: Fields, who leads the conference in scoring and is second in rebounding; and Pondexter, who is third in both categories. ... Washington leads the league in scoring, rebounding margin, turnover margin and offensive rebounds. Stanford is last in the Pac-10 in field-goal-percentage defense and blocked shots and is ninth in field-goal percentage. ... The Cardinal ended a four-game losing streak Thursday with a come-from-behind 60-58 win over Washington State. UW had a four-game winning streak snapped that same night, losing 93-81 at Cal. Tavita Pritchard of Tacoma, Stanford’s starting quarterback in 2007 and 2008, has joined the basketball team. He has appeared in one game, but hasn’t scored. ... Stanford averages 6,461 fans per home game, about 88 percent of capacity.
Next: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, vs. USC, Hec Edmundson Pavilion; FSN.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808