Huskies hope to find groove on the road
At least Washington players don't constantly hear questions anymore about their inability to win on the road.
But the road will help determine where the Huskies stand when the Pac-10 Conference tournament arrives in two weeks.
The Huskies' friendly home schedule is finished. They now will close the season with a trio of road tests, beginning on Saturday night in Pullman against rival Washington State and closing out next week at the Oregon schools.
While these final three games aren't likely to do much for Washington's slim chances of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection, any road game is significant for these Huskies, whose only win away from home this season came on Feb. 13 at Stanford.
``I didn't think there was a curse out there in the first place. We're going to continue to talk about what we need to do to win ball games. We'll just do what we can control and play the best we can play,'' Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. ``I don't think we'll make too many references to it. We've done it once. This week, we've got to make sure we play right.''
Washington's final three games will come against teams currently eighth, ninth and 10th in conference play. It doesn't exactly make for attention-grabbing opportunities to bolster an NCAA tournament resume sorely lacking in quality victories in what has become a down year for the normally powerful Pac-10.
But with their well-documented struggles away from home this season - 1-7 overall - stringing together a few wins leading up to the Pac-10 tournament, knowing that they most likely need to win the conference tourney to make the NCAAs, is important.
``The guys know, to be honest. Everybody says that we have to win out. But we've obviously put ourselves in a position where most likely, the opportunity is just winning the Pac-10 tournament,'' Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. ``We're still focusing on the three games before that, but we just know we've got to take care of business out in L.A.''
Knowing what challenge awaits in two weeks in Los Angeles could make it easy for Washington to look ahead. Then perhaps it's beneficial for the Huskies to open this final stretch against their rivals, still smarting from a second-half shellacking at the hands of Washington last month in Seattle.
When the two met on Jan. 30 at Washington, the Cougars actually held a 40-36 lead at halftime. That advantage disappeared in a flash as the Huskies outscored WSU 56-24 in the second half and turned a competitive game into a 28-point rout.
``They were flaunting their jerseys, smiling and all that. But they had all the reason to do that; they were playing well, and we really weren't playing that well,'' Washington's Isaiah Thomas said. ``But we shut them up and won the game.''
Add in Washington senior Quincy Pondexter saying on a local television show earlier this week that the Huskies would win in Pullman, and Washington's players understand and accept the Cougars will be plenty motivated.
``We've got three tough road games coming up, and it's one at a time,'' Pondexter said. ``We really have to try to turn the page and get these wins so we could have serious consideration from the selection committee.''