By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
March 24, 2010
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Here are some things you need to know about the Washington Huskies - West Virginia’s Sweet 16 foe on Thursday night in Syracuse, N.Y.:
The 11th-seeded Huskies have won nine straight games heading into Thursday night’s clash with the Mountaineers at the Carrier Dome with Washington’s last loss coming against USC on Feb. 18. In those last nine games the Huskies are averaging 78.1 points and are shooting 50 percent from the floor, including 40.1 percent from 3.
“At the beginning of the year we thought, in theory that we could play with anyone” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said following his team’s 82-64 second-round victory over third-seeded New Mexico. “But we didn’t put that on the floor in the way we worked every day and the way that we played in the games. Now what we thought could happen before the season started is happening.”
Five-foot-eight point guard Isaiah Thomas has scored the most points (1,121) of any Husky player in two seasons. Thomas is averaging 17.1 points per game this year with 11 20-plus scoring games and 59 double-digit games in 69 career outings.
Six-six forward Quincy Pondexter is the only senior on the team. Pondexter, a teammate of West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler on Team USA last summer for the World University Games, is averaging 19.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Pondexter has scored 1,779 career points and has hit the 30-point mark four times this year, most recently at Oregon on March 4 when he poured in 34 in an 86-72 Husky victory.
Coach Lorenzo Romar is making his third trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 at Washington and fifth overall during Romar’s eight-year tenure at Washington. Romar is now third on UW’s career win list with 171, trailing Hec Edmundson (488) and Marv Harshman (246), Romar’s coach at Washington. Romar was a two-year starter at point guard for Harshman in 1979 and 1980 before playing five years in the NBA.
Romar’s coaching career included stops at St. Louis and Pepperdine. He is 52-17 over the last two seasons at Washington.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and Lorenzo Romar hooked up frequently when the two coached in Conference USA, Huggins winning five of seven meetings during that time. However, it was Romar’s St. Louis team that knocked No. 1-ranked Cincinnati out of the 2000 Conference USA semifinals when Bearcat forward Kenyon Martin went down with a broken leg.
||West Virginia coach Bob Huggins offers a pointer to freshman center Deniz Kilicli during Wednesday's practice at the WVU Coliseum.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
“I’ve known Lorenzo for a long time and he does a great job,” said Huggins. “I’m very familiar with Lorenzo and he’s very familiar with me. We’re good friends and he does a fantastic job at Washington.”
Romar actually finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1992 when Huggins was making his run to the Final Four with the Bearcats.
The last time Washington was a No. 11 seed in 1998, the Huskies defeated Xavier and Richmond before falling to Connecticut in the Sweet 16.
West Virginia and Washington have faced four common opponents this year: Texas A&M, Portland, Marquette and Georgetown. The Mountaineers were 5-0 against those teams while Washington was 3-1.
Before Washington’s 80-78 win over Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Huskies had lost 10 straight to Big East teams dating back to 1989. Three of Washington’s last six NCAA tournament trips were ended by Big East teams in 1998 (Connecticut), 2005 (Louisville) and 2006 (Connecticut).
Pondexter and Thomas combined to score 37 points in Washington’s 80-78 victory over on March 18. Pondexter scored the winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, overcoming a 15-point second half deficit to the Golden Eagles.
Pondexter and Thomas were also effective in Washington’s eight-point loss to Georgetown on Dec. 12, combining to score 44 of Washington’s 66 points. The Huskies were just 4 of 18 from 3-point range against the Hoyas.
Thursday’s game will be Washington’s 33 in NCAA tournament play. Washington has a 17-15 record in the Big Dance, while West Virginia evened its NCAA tournament mark at 22-22 with last Sunday’s 68-59 victory over Missouri.
Much like the Missouri game, tomorrow’s game with Washington will be a battle of wills. West Virginia is going to try and control tempo and keep the score in the 60s while Washington wants to try and make it an up-and-down contest. Washington is averaging 79.9 points per game this year and under Romar, the Huskies have produced three of the top four offensive seasons in school history, including a school-record 86.5 points-per-game average in 2005.
“They’re a great transition team,” said Huggins. “You can’t let them run up and down the floor. And they have really shot the ball well the last five games.”
Washington is averaging 83.5 points per game in its 26 victories and just 69.4 points per game in its nine losses.
Here is Washington’s geographical roster breakdown: Washington (five), California (four), Texas, Missouri, Utah and London, England (one each).
Although presently not in the rankings, Washington began the season ranked 14th in the preseason, but chemistry, role-defining and the lack of replacements for departing seniors Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon were part of Washington’s mid-season struggles. The Huskies are 14-2 since going 2-5 to begin the Pac 10 season.
Romar has been using to his advantage the false perception around the country that his team is “soft”. Some of that was revealed after Washington’s first-round victory over Marquette.
“They talk about how we shouldn’t be in this tournament and we’re soft,” said Washington guard Venoy Overton.
Added Romar, “As a coaching staff we can get on our player and talk about them, but we don’t want anyone else to talk about them,” he said. “I think our team is a physical team. I think our team goes out and plays a tough brand of basketball.”
Six-nine sophomore Brendan Sherrer has been dubbed the ‘Human Victory Cigar” by his teammates for his involvement in 10 blowout wins this year. Last year, Sherrer was a member of the UW student section and made the team during an open walk-on tryout.