Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has a straightforward explanation for the Huskies' three-game losing streak: They haven't played good defense.
However, California coach Mike Montgomery – whose Golden Bears visit Washington on Thursday – blames what he considers an almost unfair stretch of schedule that had UW follow a Sunday night game at Washington State with visits to the Oregon schools the following Thursday and Saturday.
“Sunday on the road and then turn around and then go back on the road: That’s tough,” Montgomery said Tuesday. “I made this statement at the conference meeting: I didn’t think a Sunday team should have to go on the road the next week. We had done it in a similar situation. I thought it was really unfair. You throw Pullman into the equation; they’re over there, then they have to come back and go on the road Wednesday. It does not give you a lot of time.”
Romar admitted that turnaround is tough. And he seems to support Montgomery’s idea of the league avoiding such scheduling.
But he said in this case the problem was mitigated because the Huskies were able to fly out of Pullman the night of the game, and he added, “I’m not prepared to blame that about our situation right now.”
WSU coach Ken Bone came closer to doing so after his Cougars followed their emotional Jan. 30 win over UW with a 26-point loss at Oregon four days later.
“The biggest challenge that I thought was playing on a Sunday and then having to turn around and play on a Thursday,” Bone said. “Especially when that Sunday game was an emotional game with Washington.”
Asked about the topic during their weekly conference call Tuesday, several league coaches said more difficult scheduling looms ahead as the league looks to increase revenue with a new broadcasting deal.
So, Romar stuck with the coaching philosophy of worrying about only what he can control.
“I think we’ve just gotten away from what’s been good for us,” Romar said. “We’ve been sitting back a little too much, playing a little more passive defensively than we should have been.”
Those three straight losses have dropped Washington to 7-4 in the conference, two games behind Arizona (9-2) and a half-game behind UCLA (7-3).
And while most Huskies said Tuesday that they didn’t see this kind of slump coming, that put them in the same boat as Arizona coach Sean Miller, who admits some surprise about his Wildcats’ sudden launch to the top of the conference.
And like anyone else who has followed the conference standings over the past couple of weeks, he realizes how fast fortunes can change.
“We’re at this place right now, and it can certainly be taken quickly,” he said. “I’m proud of a lot of things that this year’s team has accomplished. We’ve always started with the emphasis of being better than we were a year ago. Not just in games, but having the wherewithal to work hard every day. We certainly have made progress, with a lot of big games and a lot of basketball yet.”
Washington plays at Arizona on Feb. 19.
Romar said he plans no lineup changes for Thursday when California visits Hec Edmundson Pavilion. However, he said he hasn’t yet committed to sticking with the lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, Justin Holiday, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye for the rest of the season. USC coach Kevin O’Neill said he believes as many as five Pac-10 teams can make the NCAA tournament this season, and that the young talent makes it likely that as many as five, six or seven will be back in the tournament in coming seasons.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports