University of Washington

Huskies basketball team travels south for Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Anaheim

They’ve found a five-player combination to feel good about. Now, coach Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team wants to breed more cohesion among the reserves.

That was part of the problem in UW’s sluggish, 76-69 victory over University of the Pacific last week. The Huskies’ starting five of Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, Mike Anderson, Jernard Jarreau and Shawn Kemp Jr. — all of whom played together last season — seem to have developed a sort of chemistry that lends itself to smoother play.

But once Romar starts making substitutions, things tend to go haywire, particularly on defense.

“We can be a very good defensive team if we can maintain our focus,” Romar said Tuesday. “I learned that we have a group of five that we’re really comfortable with, that play together really well, and that we have to get a few to join them so we can play a full 40 minutes.

“Those five, I feel — and my staff feels — comfortable (that) those guys play well together,” Romar said. “We just have to make sure that regardless of who is in the game, we have to maintain that level of intensity.”

A big factor in that progression is 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, a third-year sophomore transfer from Fresno State who blocked seven shots in each of his first two games. But he committed five fouls in just eight minutes against Pacific.

That’s part of the process, Romar said, for a player who has been out as long as Upshaw has.

“Not only did he not play last year, he didn’t practice the whole year,” Romar said. “And the year before, he was injured, his freshman year of college. So I think we can get enamored with how spectacular he can be at times with his ability to block shots and run the floor and all that. But this is someone who still is going to have nights like that every now and then in the beginning.”

Another chance to knock off that rust comes Thursday, when the Huskies face San Jose State in the first game of the Wooden Legacy tournament at Titan Gym in Fullerton, California.

The Huskies (3-0) are guaranteed three games this weekend against an eight-team field that also features Long Beach, Princeton, San Diego, UTEP, Western Michigan and Xavier. On Friday, they’ll play against either Western Michigan or Long Beach State, and will have Saturday off before capping the weekend with a game on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

“It’s the Pac-12 tournament, somewhat. It’s not necessarily three, four nights in a row because we get one day off, but it’s about as close to it as we can come,” Romar said. “You’ve got to prepare each night. … I think in this young season, it’s pretty good for us.”

They return home on Dec. 7 for a 6 p.m. game against No. 15 San Diego State, and don’t play away from home again until a Dec. 20 game against Oklahoma at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

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