EUGENE, Ore. — They’ve done it before.
If you can remember all the way back to the first week in January, when the Washington Huskies traveled to Tempe, Ariz., for their Pac-12 Conference opener at Arizona State, then you can remember a time when UW played quality basketball on the road. A nine-point loss at top-ranked Arizona two days later provided further evidence.
So, yes, it has been done. But it has not been done since. Washington plays at Oregon on Wednesday in search of its first road victory since that Jan. 2 triumph over ASU, a win that signaled hope for a Huskies team that had struggled to that point.
Since defeating the Sun Devils, 76-65, UW has lost six consecutive games away from home.
“I just think we played more of a defensive game at ASU, similar to how we play defense at home,” said freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss. “For whatever reason, we really haven’t been able to duplicate our defensive intensity on the road like we do at home. I think that was more of a home defensive effort that we played at ASU.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar continues to tell his players that this is not a “how-to” issue. They already know what to do — it starts, as always, with a focused defensive approach — and they’ve done it before. Just not in the last six weeks.
“It’s a matter of not allowing anything to distract us,” Romar said Tuesday before the Huskies departed for Oregon. “You’ve got to be able to play through everything. We just haven’t shown the ability to do that on a consistent basis.”
The Huskies (14-12, 6-7 Pac-12) even failed to do it at home last week, losing to California, 71-59, for their first loss to a conference team at Hec Edmundson Pavilion this season.
After that game, Romar said his players need to be mentally tougher. Part of the problem, he said, is that UW allows poor offensive stretches to seep into its defensive mentality. That leads to big runs for the opposition, such as the 19-2 spurt that Cal ripped off in the first half of Saturday’s loss.
If not for their road woes, the Huskies might feel pretty good about their opponents this week. Washington defeated both Oregon and Oregon State in Seattle in late January.
The Ducks (16-8, 4-8) began the season 13-0 before losing five of their first six Pac-12 games. They have regained the services of center Waverly Austin since they last played UW.
But the Huskies know what Oregon is about. UO runs and runs and runs, scores 83.7 points a game and doesn’t play a whole lot of defense.
This game is more about which UW team will show up at Matthew Knight Arena.
“If (Romar) says that we need to be more mentally tough, I can’t argue with him,” Williams-Goss said, “because what we’re doing is not working.”
WASHINGTON (14-12, 6-7 PAC-12 CONFERENCE) AT OREGON (16-8, 4-8)
6 P.M., MATTHEW KNIGHT ARENA, EUGENE, ORE.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Washington leads, 188-108.
Scouting report: This season hasn’t gone the way Oregon had hoped. Or the way anyone thought it would after the Ducks won their first 13 games and earned a top-10 national ranking. At 4-8 in Pac-12 play, the Ducks more or less have to win out to have any chance of earning an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Oregon is still a team that will take full advantage of any defensive lapses the Huskies might experience. UO ranks eighth nationally in scoring offense (83.7 points a game), and its three starting guards are all capable of creating their own shot or making a jumper from the perimeter. The Ducks rank 10th in the conference in field-goal percentage defense – two spots ahead of the No. 12 Huskies.
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