The Washington Huskies are playing more zone defense this season than in any previous one under coach Lorenzo Romar, and they may have played more zone today at Oregon than in any previous game.
“We thought it was a difficult cover with (Oregon forward Joevan) Catron early on,” Romar said. “So when Aziz (N’Diaye) was in the game we tried to play more zone. We tried to offset that matchup a little bit.”
Romar said he saw improvement in the Huskies’ defense on Saturday, even though little of it showed up in the numbers.
Oregon’s 81-76 victory represented the Ducks’ highest offensive output of this Pacific-10 Conference season. And Catron, a 6-foot-6 245-pound senior, led the Ducks with 20 points and nine rebounds while sinking eight of 14 shots.
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“We haven’t played that much zone in the last few games,” senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. “You can’t put it down to the zone, we’re just not getting after it the way that we should.”
UW defensive specialist Justin Holiday said shifting into a zone defense can offer other advantages.
“It helps us to not get as fatigued as fast,” he said. “But at the same time, I think we do want to pressure teams and put that defense on them, which has helped us so much in the past. But … I think it does help us to give different teams different looks.”
Romar said he switches to zone based on matchups, fatigue, foul trouble or to change the tempo of a game.
And while he shown increasing willingness to use the zone, he said the Huskies remain a man-to-man defensive team.
His players – who often use the term “Husky basketball” to describe uptempo aggressiveness on both ends – admit they are happiest in that style.
“Of course, we would want to (play man),” Holiday said. “That’s what we’ve done since Day One. That’s the main defense we work on. … Of course I would love to go man and get in the passing lanes and things like that.”
"Coach always says you have to work even harder in zone, maybe, than you do in man," Isaiah Thomas said. "We used a lot of zone today and it was just cause of matchups. We’ll be back to man-to-man come Thursday."
That's when Cal visits Hec Ed.