Lorenzo Romar has tried to figure out why stout first-half defensive efforts for the Huskies have disappeared after halftime. In the past five games, Washington held opponents to 33.4 points before the break. Opponents have teed off on UW in the second half while averaging 49.4 points.

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LOS ANGELES – For weeks, coach Lorenzo Romar has tried to figure out why stout first-half defensive efforts for the Huskies have disappeared after halftime.

In the past five games, the Washington men’s basketball team held opponents to 33.4 points before the break.

But opponents have teed off on UW in the second half while averaging 49.4 points.

It happened again during Thursday’s 86-84 win at UCLA when the Bruins recovered from a 33-point outing in the first half and scored 51 in the second half.

Fortunately for the young Huskies, who have six freshmen in an eight-man rotation, they improved to 14-6 and rose to the top of the Pac-12 standings at 6-2 despite their second-half defensive meltdowns.

“That’s a part of the maturation of this team,” Romar said. “The great thing about this team is as we’ve been learning, we’ve been able to sneak out wins as we’ve been learning and haven’t had good second halves.

“We’re going to continue to get better and that defensive thing will hopefully carry over for 40 minutes.”

Washington can’t afford to let up against USC, which brings a high-octane offense into Saturday’s noon showdown at Galen Center.

The Trojans average 83.5 points, which is second in the Pac-12 behind Washington (84.6).

Romar attributes fatigue and foul trouble as the biggest reasons for the recent second-half defensive troubles.

“We need to be a little fresher in the second half and we need to be able to go out and play the same aggressive type defense with the same level of intensity mentally that we did in the first half,” he said. “It would help if we could go into the second half without being in foul trouble.”

By necessity and design, Romar expanded the rotation three weeks ago, to include reserve guard/forward Dominic Green.

The 6-foot-6 freshman gives UW another long-armed interchangeable player who can defend multiple players on defense and knock down perimeter shots on the offensive end.

“My defensive focus hasn’t changed, but on offense I’ve gotten to a point to where if my shot is there, I’ll take it,” Green said. “Before I wasn’t trying to miss a lot of shots because my percentage was down. But then I got to a point where I thought percentages don’t matter.

“I’m just going to try and hoop and play basketball. Then I really focus on playing good defense. That helps to translate over.”

An emerging confidence among bench players such as Green, who has been pressed into action, has been an unexpected byproduct of Washington’s foul trouble.

Still, Romar continues to harp on the Huskies to cut down on the fouls – especially in the first half — while maintaining their defensive edge.

The biggest culprits have been freshman forwards Marquese Chriss, Matisse Thybulle and junior forward Malik Dime. They have fouled out 11, seven and six times, respectively.

“They’re a little handcuffed when they pick up that second foul,” Romar said. “In their mind, they don’t want to pick up that third foul. They’re not putting out fires like maybe they would in the first half.

“The problem with that though is we’re cautious, but the shot would go up and we may just swing at it anyway (and pick up a foul). So that defeats the purpose.”

Notes

• In their first meeting, Washington recovered from a 22-point deficit in the second half to beat USC 87-85 on Jan. 3 at Alaska Airlines Arena.

It was the largest comeback during Romar’s 14-year tenure at UW. Dejounte Murray scored a career-high 29 points and Andrew Andrews had 24, including a game-winning putback with 25 seconds left.

• USC is 12-0 at Galen Center, the Trojans’ best home start since going 13-0 in 1943.

Tale of two halves
Here’s a look at the first- and second-half scoring from Washington’s opponents in the past five games.
Opponent First half Second half Result
UCLA 33 51 W, 86-84
Utah 26 40 L, 90-85 (OT)
Colorado 33 50 W, 95-83
Arizona State 34 51 W, 89-85
Arizona 44 55 L, 99-67