The Washington Huskies could again be without their best player when they face No. 3 UCLA on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said freshman guard Markelle Fultz, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, has not been cleared by doctors to return to the court, and his status for Wednesday’s game remains uncertain. Fultz sat out UW’s 79-71 loss at Washington State on Sunday, and has now missed three of the team’s last five games due to a sore knee.
Romar did not rule Fultz out for the UCLA game, but said he wouldn’t be able to play if the game were today, and did not seem particularly optimistic about his return.
Here is everything Romar said during his Tuesday press conference.
(How is Markelle Fultz?) “A little bit better, but not to a point where the doctors have cleared him. So we’ve got to wait and see.”
(So he’s out for tomorrow?) “Well, like I said, the doctors have to just be in a position where they would have to clear him. That hasn’t happened.”
(What is the issue with his knee? Is it unstable?) “Oh no, no, no, it’s just something where he would need rest. If it were the summer, it’s not as big of an issue. It’s just we’re playing a lot of games now.”
(So if you had a game today, he wouldn’t play?) “No.”
(But tomorrow?) “I wish I could give you more answers.”
(Is there any thought that the injury is a result of playing so much over the last year or so?) “Who knows if that’s the case? He definitely is a gym rat, loves to play. Played a lot of basketball. Working out, playing for teams, practicing, all of that, last year. But who knows if that’s the cause.”
(The decision is out of Fultz’s hands?) “As I mentioned before, rest assured, if it were left up to Markelle, he’s not going to miss one moment of anything to do with basketball.”
(On the idea of resting him this week before the Pac-12 tournament) “It’s not my decision. If you can have him for any game, it’s great, but it’s not our decision. It’s going to be entirely up to our medical people, who we trust a great deal.”
(Did he come back to play too soon?) “No, I don’t think so.”
(And how is Noah Dickerson?) “Noah is doing better. He did tweak his ankle in the game. He should be OK to play.”
(What do you lose without Fultz playing?) “(You lose) 35 points a game, right off the bat. You talk about his 23 points and six assists – right away, you’re without that. Someone has to be able to step up and provide some of that, which some guys have, Carlos Johnson in particular. Just (Fultz’s) basketball intellect, he’s a smart basketball player. He’s in the top 10 in the league in steals, top 10 in blocked shots, I believe, something like that. He’s just a playmaker all around, an all-around playmaker that you don’t have when he’s (not) playing.”
(On what happened in the final minutes at WSU) “We settled. I thought we started to settle. We went up 7 because we were getting stops, but also, we were aggressive attacking the basket, we were getting in the paint. We started to settle for quick outside shots, and still maintained the lead until the last couple minutes of the game, but I just felt we missed out on a couple opportunities to maybe create some distance between us and them.”
(Any positives to take from the first time they played UCLA?) “Not a whole lot of positives to draw from that game. UCLA was really efficient and we weren’t very good, so it’s a bad combination.”
(On how tough it is to match up with UCLA) “It’s difficult. Again, this is one of those games where we’re not going to go stall and run the clock out every time, but what happened at Wazzu, when we lost the lead – quick, long shots on multiple possessions, you’ve got to stay away from that. That will help us on the defensive end. If not, UCLA, they’ll just get the ball and they’ll get in a rhythm and they’ll just continue to score. They are literally the most potent offensive team in America at the college level, at the D1 level.”
(Can you zone them, because they shoot so well?) “We zoned them here, zone and man to man. You’re talking about, Thomas Welsh, who just doesn’t miss when he’s open, and then the other four guys that start, it’s not that they can just shoot, they can make plays for their teammates, all of them. You don’t have very many teams that have that. Then Aaron Holiday comes off the bench, I mean, he scored (20) against us last time, and he’s a guy that can get going, he shoots it extremely well. Their personnel is at a high level in terms of scoring. And then Coach (Steve) Alford and their staff have done a good job of making sure they share the ball and stay out of each others’ way, and they play off each other. So they’re difficult, difficult to deal with.”
(Are they a threat to win the national title?) “They have an opportunity. They could. It’s hard to stop them from scoring. When they’re guarding like they did against Arizona, they really guarded well. I think – I could be wrong – but from the 14 1/2 minute mark to the last couple of minutes, Arizona scored 24 points in that stretch. So when they’re doing that, they’re a tough team to deal with.”
(Do you refer back to the first game, or throw it out?) “Well, with these particular two teams, we have to refer back to it. In the past, there have been games where you just said, that did not look like us, and you just know that next time, you have the potential to turn it completely around. Now, it’ll be hard to turn it completely around and go down there and beat UCLA by 40. That would be hard. But we’ll play this game, and refer back to where we made errors last time and try to improve upon those, because if you don’t improve upon those this time, it can happen again. They’re just that good.”
(On having to change the gameplan this time) “There are some things we probably will do different this time.”
(On confidence being an issue this time with Fultz possibly out) “I just think we’re a little different team, a little different mindset than the last time we played them. I think we’ll fight.”
(Are you a grittier team without Fultz?) “I think we’ve been grittier, but it’s not because we haven’t had Markelle. I said this last week, with the Arizona games, I just felt like our team has grown up a little bit. We played Washington State with Markelle last time, and I think in the second half, they went up 7, 9, and we came back later and went up 4. This game, after the first few minutes, I thought we did a great job of doing well. We led almost the entire second half without Markelle. I just think our team has grown up more. And if Markelle would have played, who knows what would have happened. Put it like this: Markelle would have been gritty right there with us. It wouldn’t have been like we left him behind in the grit area. He’s gritty himself. I just think we’ve become grittier, to use your term.”
(Do you talk to the team about the losing streak or use it as a rallying cry?) “I believe in sports, in situations, you have to find different ways to push people’s buttons and teams’ buttons, motivate them. But just to say, ‘all right, we’ve got to stop this losing streak.’ OK, good. So what do you do to stop it? I’m more interested in what we have to do, as opposed to let’s just go do this. We’ve got to find the solution. We’ve been working toward that. Like I said, I think we’ve been getting better.”