COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – Coach Lorenzo Romar is about to learn something important about his Washington Huskies: how they play in a hostile gym.
The 21st-ranked Huskies are 5-0 at home, 1-2 on neutral courts, and today will visit Texas A&M.
“I’m anxious to see,” Romar said. “The only experience I can draw from ... last year away from here at a neutral site was against Georgetown. We didn’t do a very good job there. (This season, going 1-2 at the Maui Invitational), I thought we played well. I thought we played better on a neutral site than we did last year at our first neutral site. Hopefully, this trend can continue.”
The Huskies have picked quite a place to find out.
For whatever A&M’s Reed Arena lacks in national reputation, it makes up for with numbers that suggest it ranks as one of college basketball’s toughest places to visit.
The Aggies have won 69 consecutive regular-season non-conference games there.
A&M is 144-53 (.731) over 13 seasons at Reed. It is 102-12 (.895) there since the 2004-05 season, and 70-6 (.921) since the start of the 2006-07 season.
A&M has won 23 of its last 24 home games overall, including all five so far this season.
Welcome to Texas, Huskies.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” UW senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. “They know what they’ve done in the past, and know what they have to do to defend their home court. Especially playing on the road, it gets you ready for the Pac-10. What we play on the road normally is stronger teams than the rest of the teams in the non-conference, so I think it just helps us prepare.”
However, the Huskies have to contend with more than hostile fans and Reed Arena’s iconic parquet floor, which features the state of Texas outlined at midcourt.
There are also the Aggies themselves, who also have won three of their four games away from home. Among those was a four-point win over Temple, which was ranked 21st at the time – the same position the Huskies now occupy.
Despite the departure of three key seniors from the team that UW beat, 73-64, last season in Seattle, Texas A&M is 8-1, with that lone loss coming by two points against Boston College on a neutral court.
“This year we have a lot of balanced scoring,” said Elston Turner, a former Husky who is sitting out this season after transferring to Texas A&M. “... It could be anybody that has a good night. That’s the good thing about our offense: You can’t just be concerned about one or two guys because we have so many people who can create on offense.”
The statistics reflect that balance, as guard Khris Middleton leads A&M with an average of 14.2 points a game, while three other starters average between 10.4 and 9.9 points.
However, what impresses Romar most is something less quantifiable.
“They’re more physical this year than last year,” he said. “They were physical, but this year that seems to be more their identity; that they’re just going to come out and punch you in the mouth right away. That is very evident in the film that we watched. ... Man, they play hard and come after you.”
This will be Washington’s only road game before starting Pacific-10 Conference play with games at Southern California and UCLA.
This also is Washington’s final game in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, which has not been renewed for future seasons. The Huskies split last season, beating A&M at home and losing to Texas Tech on the road.
In the previous game this season, Washington routed the Red Raiders, 108-79, in Seattle.
Without the interconference series annually serving up Big 12 opponents, Romar said UW hopes to infuse future schedules with other big-time opponents.
“We’d like to try to replace those games with the same level of game; a nationally televised, high-level game,” he said. “We’d like to try to do that, and we’re working on that again now, so we’ll see.”
Washington at Texas A&M, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2, 950-AM.
Inside: Preview capsule. B4 HUSKIES GAMEDAY
NO. 21 WASHINGTON (6-2) AT TEXAS A&M (8-1)
1:30 p.m., Reed Arena; College Station, Texas
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM
Series: The Aggies lead, 3-2. Washington won at home last season, 73-64. This is the Huskies’ first visit to College Station.
Statistical leaders: For UW – Isaiah Thomas, 15.6 ppg; Justin Holiday, 6.8 rpg; Venoy Overton, 4.6 apg. For A&M – Khris Middleton, 14.2 ppg; David Loubeau, 5.3 rpg; B.J. Holmes, 4.1 apg.
Scouting report: Texas A&M began this week ranked second in the NCAA in rebounding margin (plus-13.1 rpg) and ninth in scoring defense (55.3 ppg). Washington ranks first in scoring (95.5 ppg) and 3-point percentage (47.5) and is in the top 10 in assists per game, field-goal percentage and 3-pointers made. ... The Aggies have won 69 straight nonconference regular-season home games. ... A&M has won five straight games since its lone loss to Boston College on Nov. 25. During that span, the Aggies have held opponents to an average of 54 points, a 35.4 shooting percentage, and 25 percent from 3-point range. ... In its only previous game against a ranked team, A&M defeated then-21st-ranked Temple, 54-51. ... UW has won three straight since its back-to-back losses at the Maui Invitational. ... A&M junior guard Elston Turner played his freshman and sophomore seasons at UW. He is ineligible this season due to transfer rules. ... UW guard Abdul Gaddy ranks second in the Pacific-10 Conference in assist/turnover ratio. ... This will be UW’s final game in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, which was not renewed for next season.
Next: 7 p.m. Dec. 18, vs. San Francisco, Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Don Ruiz, staff writer