Washington has dropped three straight while being pushed around by opposing teams’ big men. The Huskies have to toughen up inside to make a late-season push into the NCAA tournament.
There will be no intricate analysis or complex criticism here.
A deep-seated understanding of basketball and its nuances is unnecessary for now.
Washington is on a three-game skid and on the verge of extending its Dance-less streak to five years.
The solution? Easy.
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They need to man up.
Sorry if that sounds like the kind of assessment you’d hear from an alumnus who sneaked his flask past security, but it’s true. If there has been one commonality in the Huskies’ past three losses, it’s that an opposing big man has manhandled them down low.
Arizona’s Ryan Anderson had eight offensive rebounds in the Wildcats’ win two Saturdays ago, which matched the Huskies’ team total. Utah’s Jakob Poeltl was 11 of 12 from the field in his 23-point night, which aside from his 6-for-6 evening against College of Idaho, was the most efficient he has shot all season. And Colorado’s Wesley Gordon had 17 points, eight offensive rebounds and 11 free-throw attempts — the last more than double that of anyone else in the game.
These aren’t acceptable numbers for a group vying for an NCAA men’s basketball tournament bid. Not by any means. It’s time for the Huskies to institute an anti-bullying campaign pronto, because right now, they are getting pounded.
“It bothers me, but I think that sometimes is going to happen because we don’t have a true center,” said Marquese Chriss, Washington’s 6-foot-9 freshman forward. “We just have to play physical and not let anybody bully us or take advantage on the boards. We have to take it more personal.”
Yes, they do. They really, really do.
This isn’t an indictment of the Huskies’ will, heart, character or any of that stuff. They have won three of their four overtime games this season and have made 20-point deficits magically disappear.
But while this year’s team has shown a knack for luring fans inside the arena, it hasn’t been able to outmuscle teams inside.
Granted, Washington’s style of defense is partly responsible for some of the recent rebounding disparities. When you lead the nation in blocks — as the Huskies do — it means your post players are spending half of every defensive possession in midair. And when that’s the approach, board-crashers are left unmanned and easy putbacks ensue.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar insists that the low-post woes go beyond strategy. Sometimes, his players are simply being outclassed.
So it just a desire thing? A matter of ambition?
“I would say the word is determined,” said Romar, whose team hosts Cal on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday. “We gotta be determined to keep guys in front, and when that ball goes up, we gotta be determined to not leak out.”
Even in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Huskies (15-10, 7-6 in the Pac-12) have exceeded expectations this season. Their athleticism makes them imposing and entertaining on the defensive end and downright electrifying in transition.
Combine all that with a season sweep against UCLA and comeback wins against USC and Arizona State, and you have reinvigorated fans on the brink of an eruption. Slip in some of the miscues and blunders, however, and you have fans on the brink of more disappointment.
Wednesday, Romar said that a few possessions are all that separate the seventh-place Huskies from first place in the Pac-12. And if you want to look at one specific area, some of those possessions could have turned with being more physical under the hoop.
Washington isn’t suddenly going to morph into the bad-boy Pistons, where pain is a likelihood for any foe on offense. But if the Dawgs have any aspirations of doing better than the NIT, they are going to have to install some nasty immediately.
The common thought is that if UW is going to feel good about its NCAA-tournament prospects, it must win four of its next five games. That’s no easy task in any conference, let alone the Pac-12.
In other words, the Huskies’ long-awaited breakthrough is going to require a late-season push.
And, for that matter, a couple shoves as well.
|UW has been beaten inside in losing three straight. Here’s a look at the player who hurt them most and the overall rebounding differential:|
|Player, school||Pts||Reb||Reb dif.|
|Ryan Anderson, Ariz.||22||15||-14|
|Jakob Poeltl, Utah||23||6||+9|
|Wesley Gordon, Colo.||17||13||-20|