Huskies pleased with 7-2 halfway through Pac-10

BY foxsports • February 2, 2011

Funny how being 7-2 and tied for first place can seem like a slight disappointment.

Even Isaiah Thomas took notice.

''A lot of teams aren't 7-2,'' Washington's star guard said. ''It's crazy because a lot of people feel like we're not doing as well, but we're at the top of the league tied with Arizona. We could be 9-0, but it is what it is.''

The 20th-ranked Huskies (15-5) seemed to be the class of the Pac-10 through the first trip around conference play. Yet they find themselves beginning the second half of the league season on Thursday night at Oregon State tied in the league standings with Arizona and with the general feeling that there should be more to what the Huskies have accomplished.

As it stands, the Huskies are 7-2 in conference play for just the fourth time in the last 25 years, and are experiencing a complete turnaround from a year ago when Washington spent the final weeks of the regular season trying to crawl out of last place in the Pac-10.

The last time Washington started Pac-10 play 7-2 was two seasons ago when the Huskies won their first outright regular season conference title in 56 years.

But if not for a second-half collapse at Stanford and an inability to slow down Washington State's offense last weekend, the Huskies might be looking at a perfect run through the first half of conference play.

''If you can get by with one or two losses in the first half of conference, you'd like to think that things are going OK for you,'' Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. ''You say that before (the season) starts, but when you're actually in that position you kind of get a little more greedy.

''You kind of wish the ball would have bounced your way a couple of times. But it didn't happen. It is the way it is and, all and in all, you look back and we'll take 7-2 at this point.''

Part of the deflated air around the Huskies could be the lingering hangover from last Sunday night's 87-80 loss to rival Washington State.

The Huskies committed a season-high 24 turnovers, including seven from Thomas after he'd played masterfully the previous two weeks. Washington also shot just 37 percent - second lowest all season - and regularly settled for outside shots instead of trying to establish an interior presence. The Huskies attempted 31 3-pointers against the Cougars, while posts Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N'Diaye combined for nine total shots.

Bryan-Amaning's six points were a season-low.

''They weren't letting anything happen inside and our guards weren't having a good shooting night,'' Bryan-Amaning said.

And all that was before the Cougars student section rushed the floor for a postgame celebration, irritating some of the Huskies. As a capper to the miserable night for Washington, the school's website reported that sandwich boxes from a Pullman sandwich shop waiting for the players after the game came with a little added jab - a condolence note.

''May memories of the fun you share bring you gentle comfort. So sorry for your loss,'' reported the prank note as saying.

Needless to say, the Huskies will be ready when Feb. 27 comes around and they face the Cougars in Seattle.

''I guess it was a big win for them. Hats off to them, they played a great game,'' Thomas said. ''But I told my guys in the locker room, 'just remember that.'''

But before the end of February arrives, the Huskies will face road tests at the Oregon schools this weekend, and in two weeks the road trip that could decide the regular season conference champion when Washington plays at Arizona State and on Feb. 19 at Arizona.

''It's the midpoint, there's no awards, no championships given on January 30th or February 1st,'' Thomas said. ''We've got a long way to go.''

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