Washington (15-8, 7-4 Pac-12) must devise a plan to stop 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl in Wednesday’s game at Utah.
SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t blame the defensive scheme.
Lorenzo Romar insists the Huskies’ ballhawking pressure defense that sometimes requires 6-foot guards to defend 7-foot centers isn’t the reason why the Washington men’s basketball team has struggled against the biggest players in the Pac-12.
“We’ve gotten better at it, but there are times when we simply have breakdowns,” the UW coach said. “If we were playing zone, if we were playing regular man-to-man, whatever it is, if you have breakdowns in anything that you run, it can look like you’re not being effective.
UW @ Utah, 6 p.m., ESPN2
“Our breakdowns, I think, are diminishing, though.”
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Still, there’s a common theme in Washington’s four conference defeats.
After their last outing — a 77-72 loss to then-No. 23 Arizona on Saturday — the Huskies admitted to being bullied by Ryan Anderson. The Wildcats’ 6-9 senior forward tossed UW players aside while accumulating 22 points and 15 rebounds, including eight offensive boards.
Last month, Anderson bulldozed his way to 21 points and nine rebounds during a 99-67 Arizona rout.
And the Huskies had no answer for 6-11 junior forward Nikola Jovanovic, who scored 28 points to lead USC to a 98-88 win.
As good as Anderson and Jovanovic were against UW, they weren’t as impressive as Jakob Poeltl. The 7-foot center, who is projected as a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft, carried Utah to an 80-75 overtime win on Jan. 24 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Poeltl pounded the Huskies for 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He converted 8 of 14 field goals and was 13 of 16 on free throws.
Romar said several miscues led to Poeltl’s big night, but didn’t lay the blame squarely on UW’s defensive scheme.
“I think he had (29) and four of them were off of us missing assignments on out-of-bounds plays,” Romar said. “He had four free throws. There were three switches that we didn’t execute (and) he scored off those. So there were 10 points just off of our lack of switching. He scored four points in transition where he got ahead of the pack, once on us and another time we kind of lost him in transition. He scored that way.
“He scored I believe six points off of them running good offense and getting him the basketball. They practice too. He scored that. So there’s 20 right there. He scored in a lot of different ways. There wasn’t just one way he just got us. And that’s a credit to him as a basketball player.”
Washington (15-8, 7-4 Pac-12) needs to devise a better plan to stop Poeltl before Wednesday’s 6 p.m. (PT) game against Utah (17-7, 6-5) at the Huntsman Center.
Slowing down the 248-pound Austrian, who averages 17.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and has nine double doubles, is no easy task.
“There’s not a lot of ways to draw things up to stop him,” said Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle. The Beavers held him to 13 points and eight rebounds in last week’s 76-66 win.
“He’s a pretty good weapon,” Tinkle said. “We had a little bit of success at times of double-teaming him whether it was man or zone, but he’s such a good passer that you have to pick your poison.
“They’ve got some guys who are starting to shoot the ball pretty well from beyond the arc, so that’s a dangerous proposition as well.”
In their first matchup, the Huskies did a nice job defensively on Utah’s other four starters. They combined to shoot just 34.9 percent (15 of 43) from the field and none scored more than guard Lorenzo Bonahm, who had 12.
However, Poeltl took over in overtime with eight points to pace Utah, which outscored UW 14-9 in the extra period.
The Huskies were short-handed on the front line last Saturday because forward Noah Dickerson played just seven scoreless minutes before fouling out. He’s been bothered by a left ankle injury for about two weeks, but during Tuesday’s Pac-12 conference call Romar said Dickerson practiced Monday and is cleared to play Wednesday.
That’s good news for Washington, considering Romar described Dickerson, a 6-8 freshman who averages 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, as “our most physical post player.”
Since suffering the injury, Dickerson is averaging 5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 15 minutes in the past three contests.
Marquese Chriss, a 6-9 freshman forward, has picked up the slack. He’s averaging 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in the past three games. It’s the best three-game span for Chriss since he started the season scoring 12, 29 and 15 points. He fouled out Saturday for the 12th time — a Pac-12 high — but logged a personal best 35 minutes.
“He really is making a log of progress,” Romar said about Chriss, who has avoided foul trouble in two of the past three games.
• Junior center Malik Dime has 67 blocks and is tied for second on UW’s season list with David Dixon (2001-02) and Chris Welp (1985-86). He averages 2.9 blocks per game, and with seven regular-season contests remaining, Dime is on pace to break the record of 85 set last season by Robert Upshaw in just 19 games.
|In its four Pac-12 losses, Washington has been dominated inside by the opposing team’s big man. Here’s a look back:|
|Feb. 6||Arizona||Ryan Anderson||6-9/235||F||Sr.||22 pts, 15 rebs||L, 77-72|
|Jan. 30||USC||N. Jovanovic||6-11/235||F||Jr.||28 pts, 5 rebs||L, 98-88|
|Jan. 24||Utah||Jakob Poeltl||7-0/248||C||So.||29 pts, 10 rebs||L, 80-75 OT|
|Jan. 14||Arizona||Ryan Anderson||6-9/235||F||Sr.||21 pts, 9 rebs||L, 99-67|