University of Washington

Huskies seek return to form in Pac-12 men’s basketball opener

After 11 wins in a dozen non-conference games, Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar said he believes his Huskies are ready to open their Pac-12 season Friday at California.

“We’d better be: It’s here,” he said. “We’ve played against a lot of different systems in this non-conference season, a lot of different looks. I think it helped to prepare us for this conference.”

UW rolled to 11 consecutive wins and a No. 13 national ranking before ending its non-conference schedule with a 62-57 home loss to Stony Brook on Sunday. And even if that isn’t an ideal way to head into conference play, Romar sees the Huskies’ challenge as simply returning to form.

“If our first game was Stony Brook and we lost at home and then the last 11 we did what we did, I don’t think people would even talk about it,” he said. “People would say our team was headed in the right direction. But we had the one day — two hours — that we didn’t do what we were supposed to do — which we did not. … I can’t say all of a sudden, what are we going to do to fix this whole thing, it’s falling apart. We had a rough one. We had a bad one. I can’t excuse it. It’s terrible that it happened. But the big body of work — the majority of our non-conference — we played the right way. And that’s how I anticipate us moving on: playing the right way.”

That attitude seems to have filtered down to the players.

“It’s not the end of the world,” senior Shawn Kemp Jr. said. “We’re still 11-1. … It’s still one of the best teams we’ve had since Coach Romar has been here. We can definitely take from this game what we need to work on or what we need to bring for the teams that are going to really bring it.”

Romar said what the Huskies need to bring is full effort, a defensive mentality and an offense that takes care of the ball, shares the ball and takes intelligent shots.

Do all of that, and he seems to believe these Huskies should be up to the many tests he foresees awaiting in what he believes will be a competitive Pac-12.

“Some teams have probably played better than some people had anticipated going in, which makes it even better,” Romar said. “But it should be a competitive conference.”

The Huskies’ path will begin with Calthe Golden Bears, who, like the Huskies, got off to a solid start, going 12-1 before taking back-to-back losses, first against No. 6 Wisconsin before taking their own preconference pratfall with a 55-52 home loss to Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday.

Romar noted that the Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion can pose a particular challenge for the Huskies, who are playing their first game of the season on an opponents’ campus.

He also had particular praise for junior guard Tyrone Wallace, who leads the Bears in scoring (19.2 points per game), rebounding (8.8 per game) and 3-point shooting (15 for 34, .441 percent) .

“Usually we’ll have a couple of people defending him,” Romar said. “… Cal plays hard. They play good defense. They’re going to be ready to go. Like us, they had a loss at home that they probably feel they’d like to play it over again. So you’re talking about two teams that are coming back after a tough loss and ready to go to start conference. We definitely respect who they are and what they’re capable of doing.”

TAYLOR TO TRANSFER

Sophomore guard Jahmel Taylor will transfer from UW, Romar announced Thursday. Taylor (Los Angeles/Pacific Hills High) appeared in 20 games in his UW career, averaging 1.3 points.

He has been given his full release and can start looking for a new school immediately.

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