Here's much of what Washington coach Lorenzo Romar had to say during his media availability today ...
(On playing WSU) “As they say, throw all the records out when we play against WashingtonState. We played WashingtonState three times last year and none of those games were easy. When we play them, it’s usually tough, and that’s what we expect. I’m sure DaVonte Lacy will be back and that will give them a shot in the arm. They’ll be fired up. I’m sure it’ll be a very competitive game.”
(So you think Lacy will play?) “We’re preparing for him to play.”
(How has his absence hurt their offense?) “We played Stanford last week in the Bay, and they decided they were really going to do a great job and take C.J. (Wilcox) out of the game, and we weren’t able to step up and make shots. OregonState decided the same thing and we made shots. It made all the difference in the world. And without Lacy, they’ve been in a situation where you’re talking about your leading scorer is out, there’s someone else they’re going to concentrate on, and if the others aren’t making shots, there’s not a whole lot of things you can do. I think WashingtonState plays good defense. They do a good job that way, but they’ve had their trouble scoring. We know their leading scorer is out but somehow people feel like you’re still supposed to score and be the same. You’re not the same. The guy’s out. He’s their leading scorer. So it makes it more difficult.”
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(Are they different in other ways from last year?) “I think they’re better defensively this year than they were last year. And last year, again, you’re talking about a guy you had to gameplan for, Brock Motum was probably, to me, along with Kyle Anderson, the most difficult matchup for anyone, because it’s hard to put a 5-man on him because he’d take him outside. You put someone that’s good enough to guard him outside and he’d go inside. And I thought they ran very, very good offense to get him good looks last year, so that was a problem, that mismatch there. And a guy like C.J. is a problem to defend, but you do have guys that are 6-5 on your team that maybe can try to do the job. With Motum, there was not many players like him, so it was very difficult.”
(Will teams still focus on Wilcox despite others stepping up?) “I think they’ll still look at that as the key and take their chances. Utah, Andrew Andrews scored maybe six or eight of our last points in that game. If Andrew doesn’t step up and make those shots while they’re keying on C.J., maybe we don’t win that game. So it’s very important that others step up to help C.J. if teams are just totally game-planning on taking him out of the game. I give C.J. a lot of credit in that there are not a lot of times where he just forces a whole lot. They’re going to double him, they’re going to try to take him out, he’s finding his teammates, which is good. I think our guys for the most part have stepped up … when they’re trying to take him out of the game. He’s not able to get real good looks, I think other guys have done a good job of stepping up.”
(Do you encourage guys to look at the standings?) “I think you guys that have been around me year after year, that’s something I don’t really talk about, the standings. But this year, we’ve talked about it more. The reason we have is we started out the way we did. We were so poor defensively. Our record wasn’t the best. We didn’t play great basketball. I think it’s important now for us to see the big picture and see where we’re at, because it’d be easy to still think about how we were, and not realize what we accomplished. We’ve talked to our team about, we had the injuries, we had this happen, we had the adversity, and this is where we are. Look at the standings. Do we want to go back to poverty? Do we want to go back there? Or do we like the way this feels? And in order for us to stay here, these are some of the things we’re going to have to do, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve brought it up and made them more aware of it this year.”
(Do you think you’ve improved each week?) “I do. I think we’ve been improving probably over the last month. I think we’ve been improving. Five weeks.”
(On Nigel Williams-Goss’ progression since November) “First of all, I wouldn’t say he couldn’t have done that (score 32 points) in November. Nigel was pretty ready to play when he came in here his first game as a freshman. I thought he was ready to play. You talk about Nigel’s game along with the rest of our team. We were a very unsettled team. We play Seattle U, and Perris (Blackwell) and Desmond (Simmons) and Jernard (Jarreau) are all out and Shawn (Kemp) isn’t at full strength, you’re just playing on the fly. We (were) just kind of smoke and mirrors for a long time. When that happens for a point guard, that’s pretty unsettling. And Nigel is the type that he has things organized. Nigel is not the guy that goes and plays pickup ball somewhere in the middle of nowhere and dominates at first. Once he plays and gets to know his teammates, then that changes. And I think it’s the same with our team. When we were the way we were before, we weren’t running good offense, guys weren’t in the right position, guys were learning new positions. All that stuff I think impacted Nigel’s play. And because we’re more settled, he’s the type who can take a hold of what we’re doing and pick his spots and know what to do and when to do it.”
(Will teams change the way they defend him?) “I think Nigel’s the type of player that he doesn’t have to go get 30 to impact the game. So all of a sudden, like some teams have put bigger guys on him so he doesn’t post up, because he’s been able to take advantage of that on the post, smaller guards. So teams have made adjustments like that. But I think Nigel is talented enough and smart enough to still be able to impact the game in a positive way, regardless of how they’re defending.”
(Nigel said if you finish in the top four, you should make the tournament. Agree?) “I think with the way our league is now and the success our league had in non-conference, I think that would certainly help. It sure would help our chances if we were able to do that.”
(Is the league night and day different from two years ago?) “Yeah it is because when we lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament, I told our team, ‘tomorrow, we’re not going to meet, we’re not going to open it to the public and watch Selection Sunday because fellas, I don’t think we’re in. (Players said) ‘But we won the league!’ I just know how it works. I don’t think we’re in. When we lost at UCLA ... but then lost to OregonState, I didn’t think we were going to be in, because the strength of the league wasn’t where it is today. So this is a completely different year. There is more strength in the league. If we were able to win the league this year and did exactly what we did before, we’re in. so this is a different year and the league is stronger.”
(Would it be best for Arizona to win out?) “I don’t think it hurts. I think as long as they’re No. 1, that Pac-12 still looks good. Arizona obviously is the class of the conference this year, but I still think there are other teams that … you say, OK, they’re going to play this team at this particular place. I mean, they play Cal next. I don’t think anyone in our league is just saying ‘oh, it’s a piece of cake, no one’s going to beat them.’ As good as they are, I think it speaks more to the other teams in this league that are also good.”
(On playing a WSU team that’s struggling) “We will learn a lot about our team and where we’re at based on our approach to that game. We learned a lot about our team against OregonState. We got down 12 and I don’t think our guys flinched. I don’t think guys were pointing fingers, I don’t think guys put their heads down. I thought we just continued to play and actually turned the heat up. So that showed us as a staff that our team has some resiliency there, some resolve. That’s something that if we can continue to have, we’ll be OK. Going into play in Pullman you just look at the numbers alone and there could be a mental letdown. But I was saying this earlier, we played them three times last year and every time we played them it was a fight. And I don’t see any other reason it won’t be a fight this time. If our guys can come in – I didn’t say win, lose, what the score’s going to be – if we can come in with the right mindset, that will tell us a lot about our team, also.”