Trojan tuneup matters to UW men's basketball team, coach says

christian.caple@thenewstribune.comMarch 8, 2014 

SEATTLE — No game is meaningless to the coaches and players involved in it, so Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar insists his team has plenty to gain in Saturday’s regular-season finale against USC.

“It matters quite a bit,” Romar said Friday afternoon. “(A victory) puts us at .500 in our league. It’s one more victory. It’s another chance to get better. It matters. It definitely matters.”

But at this point, there is very little the Huskies (16-14, 8-9 Pac-12 Conference) can do against the Trojans (11-19, 2-15) to improve their postseason prospects. Even with four teams currently tied for fifth place and UW one game back of that mess, there are no tiebreaker scenarios or potential outcomes that would allow the Huskies to enter next week’s Pac-12 tournament as anything other than a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

And because the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds play each other in the tournament opener at noon Wednesday, the outcome of Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against USC won’t have any bearing on what time UW plays, either.

The Huskies’ first-round opponent won’t be known until Saturday’s games are over — it could be California, Oregon, Stanford or Utah — but regardless of who they play Wednesday, No. 1 Arizona will await the winner of that game in the second round.

Anyway, first things first for Romar, who at this point is more concerned about correcting the defensive failings and turnover problems the Huskies inflicted upon themselves during Thursday’s 91-82 loss to UCLA.

“We just have to somehow, between now and tomorrow and next week, we have to have that focus that we’ve had at times this year where we’re just so together on the offensive and defensive end that we’re a much, much better team,” Romar said. “We have to find that focus.”

That shouldn’t be all that difficult against the Trojans, who won at Washington State on Thursday night but lost 10 consecutive games before that.

USC lacks depth and experience under first-year coach Andy Enfield. It has beaten just three Division I teams that hold winning records — Xavier, Dayton and California.

Still, the Huskies must put on their uniforms and play, even if the outcome will have no bearing whatsoever on what happens next week in Las Vegas.

A victory, though, would assure that UW will finish the season with a winning record, and it could allow the Huskies to feel better about themselves heading into the Pac-12 tournament.

“I think that matters. I think you have to go in ... this is so intense,” Romar said. “This is such an intense four days, that you have to go into that tournament really believing that you can win.”

The game will be the last at Hec Edmundson Pavilion for seniors C.J. Wilcox, Perris Blackwell and walk-on Connor Smith.

Wilcox will leave UW as the second-leading scorer in school history after redshirting in 2010, then choosing to return to school for a fifth season after considering NBA draft options a year ago.

Barring a miracle in Las Vegas next week, Wilcox will finish his career having played in one NCAA tournament. He leads the team with 18.3 points per game, but from a win-loss perspective, his senior season has not gone as planned. The even-keeled native of Pleasant Grove, Utah, admits the season hasn’t lived up to his expectations.

“In the wins and losses column, it hasn’t, but from the get-go, we had some adversity to get through,” Wilcox said Wednesday, referring mostly to 6-foot-10 forward Jernard Jarreau’s season-ending knee injury suffered in the first game. “That didn’t go as planned.

“I thought we did a good job staying together and coming together as a team, and doing what we could do. In our minds, the season’s not over, so we’ll keep plugging away and see what happens.”

HUSKIES GAMEDAY

USC (11-19, 2-15 PAC-12 CONFERENCE) AT WASHINGTON (16-14, 8-9)

1:30 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle

TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 950-AM. The series: Tied, 69-69.

PROBABLE STARTERS

USC

NamePos.Ht.PPGRPGAPGFG%FT%

Pe’Shon HowardG6-310.82.93.936.876.9

Byron WesleyG6-517.56.82.346.371.2

J.T. TerrellG6-310.12.91.037.173.1

Nikola JovanovicF6-107.84.30.550.875.0

Omar OrabyC7-28.36.10.458.665.1

WASHINGTON

NamePos.Ht.PPGRPGAPGFG%FT%

Nigel Williams-GossG6-313.54.34.347.272.8

Andrew AndrewsG6-212.43.92.637.978.6

C.J. WilcoxG6-518.33.62.646.385.7

Desmond SimmonsF6-74.94.40.742.575.0

Shawn KempF6-94.31.80.156.769.2

Scouting report: Andy Enfield’s first season at USC has not been pleasant. The Trojans lost 15 of their first 16 conference games, finally receiving a reprieve Thursday by winning at equally hapless Washington State. The Trojans have a trio of guards who average double-figure scoring, led by Byron Wesley. J.T. Terrell can be dangerous from 3-point range if he gets going. USC’s tall front line might present a challenge to the shorter Huskies. The Trojans don’t bring much off the bench, however, and they have lost a handful of close games this season. Finishing has been a problem. ... UW coach Lorenzo Romar said he hadn’t decided if forward Perris Blackwell will start for the Huskies. Seniors typically are inserted into the starting lineup for their final home game. Guard C.J. Wilcox and walk-on forward Connor Smith also will make their final appearances at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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