The travel is nothing new. Washington began this basketball season by flying to Shanghai for a single game against Texas, and two weeks later trekked to the Bahamas for a three-game tournament.
In Shanghai, though, the Huskies played before a neutral crowd on a neutral court. In the Bahamas, they played before only about 1,000 people inside a converted ballroom.
This weekend’s trip to Pullman, then, represents another first for UW’s young roster. Saturday’s noon game against Washington State is the first the Huskies will play in an opponent’s arena this season, a new experience for their seven freshmen.
UW (10-4, 2-0 Pac-12) at WSU (9-5, 1-1), noon, Saturday, Pac-12 Network, 97.7-FM, 1000-AM, 710-AM
Coach Lorenzo Romar’s message to those rookies?
“Don’t change a thing,” Romar said Thursday. “You don’t have to change the way you play. If you play the right way, it should translate, and when you go on the road that way, you have to make sure that you try to take care of the ball even more. Bad shots are the first pass to a fast break for the other team. You’ve just got to be more aware.
“But in terms of your philosophy, your style of play, we’re ready to go on the road in terms of what you’re supposed to do. You just can’t get distracted and sidetracked.”
The Cougars (9-5, 1-1 in Pac-12) are 8-2 at home this season, with losses on Dec. 2 to Gonzaga and last week to USC. But their most recent game at Beasley Coliseum was an 85-78 victory over UCLA on Sunday night, further evidence of the perceived depth of the Pac-12’s talent level.
(UW and WSU were picked to finish 11th and 12th, respectively, in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.)
The Huskies (10-4, 2-0) swept their opening weekend of league play, taking a 96-93 double-overtime victory over UCLA before erasing a 22-point deficit in an 87-85 win over USC.
That comeback, Romar said, was “somewhat magical,” and helped the Huskies “understand what can be accomplished when we’re playing with that type of intensity and that type of togetherness.”
He hopes it translates to the road, where UW won just three games in 10 tries last season.
“I think we’ll have a good response to it,” said senior guard Andrew Andrews, who won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after averaging 29.5 points in UW’s two games last weekend. “A lot of these guys like being the underdog. They actually take it and play better with it, so it’ll be a good experience for us.”
Sam Timmins, a 6-foot-10 center from New Zealand, has enrolled in classes at UW and will practice, travel, suit up, warm up and sit on the bench with the team for the rest of this season, but he will not play as he uses a redshirt year.
Romar said Timmins has practiced two or three times with the Huskies so far, and early returns are favorable.
“We’ve not had a session where we’ve taken him to the side with four other guys and said, ‘OK this is what we’re doing,’ ” Romar said. “He’s just kind of watching and we’re talking to him on the fly and he’s picked things up really quickly. And man, he’s really strong. He’s really strong.”
Romar compares Timmins to former WSU forward Aron Baynes, who currently plays for the Detroit Pistons.
“I think physically, the comparison is there,” Romar said. “I feel like he’s further along offensively than Aron Baynes was.”
UW’s 22-point comeback against USC was the largest of Romar’s UW career. The Huskies trailed by 21 points in the first half of a win over USC in January 2003, Romar’s first season at UW. … Andrews leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.1 points per game, more than three points better than the next player on the list (Colorado forward Josh Scott, 17.9). Andrews has scored in double-figures in 25 consecutive games and 46 of his past 52.