Lorenzo Romar is probably never going to deliver a rant as outrageous as Southern Illinois’ Barry Hinson, who mercilessly ripped and ridiculed his team following a disappointing defeat.
However, Sunday’s post-game press conference following Washington’s 82-70 defeat to No. 10 Connecticut was particularly enlightening.
Romar questioned whether he’s assembled a team of players that’s mentally strong enough to endure the rigors of a basketball season filled with injuries and defections and basketball games filled with runs and momentum swings.
He blamed many of Washington’s 16 turnovers on its negligence.
He questioned the team’s effort, but later said he meant to use the word focus.
And several times he cited a lack of maturity for the team’s defensive problems.
“We have to grow up and understand the importance of very possession and value every possession,” Romar said. “Right now we don’t seem to understand that. You can’t take a play off here or there because it may lead to a run from the other team.”
Washington is 6-5 heading into the holiday break. The Huskies get a few days off before returning for practice Christmas night in preparation for Friday’s game against Mississippi Valley. They finish the non-conference season next Sunday against Hartford. The Pac-12 opener is Jan. 2 at Arizona State.
Romar admits, the Huskies aren’t ready for the Pac-12.
“Right now we are not mature enough to handle runs from the other team it appears,” he said. “We’re not mature enough to handle the adversity that comes along throughout your season. Conference season starts here pretty quickly – we’re on the road four out of the first six games – so we better grow up pretty quickly.”
Not sure if wins against 3-7 Mississippi Valley and 5-8 Hartford is really going to improve the Huskies’ confidence or harden a defense that allows opponents to shoot 49.8 percent from the field and surrenders 80.3 points per game.
Add a new problem to Washington’s list of concerns: turnovers.
In the past four games, the Huskies have committed 16 (San Diego State), 13 (Idaho State), 18 (Tulane) and 16 (UConn) turnovers.
“This has been a re-occurring issue in the last four games,” Romar said. “We were averaging 9 turnovers a game before these last four and whether it was against Tulane, Idaho State, San Diego State or UConn, it’s kind of been the same issue. That bit us in the butt in this game.”
Another troubling trend: Washington plays in spurts against the good teams.
After poor first halves, UW trailed Indiana 52-47 and led Boston College 44-43 in the second half. Against San Diego State, Washington led 30-21 at halftime and fell apart 49-33 after the break.
On Sunday, it was another fantastic start (31-14) followed by a disastrous finish to the first half and a 29-8 UConn run. Connecticut led 43-39 at halftime.In the second half, UW fell behind by double digits after with 12:34 remaining trailed by as much as 14 (62-48). Washington never got any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“I thought we played excellent basketball for about 12 minutes in the first half,” Romar said. “But the game is 40 minutes, not
Washington entered the game allowing opponents to shoot 49.3 percent from the field, but UW forced UConn to miss 6 of its first 17 (35.3 percent) shots. At halftime, Connecticut was shooting 51.6 percent from the field and finished shooting 54.9 percent.
Considering UConn struggled in the second half (5 for 31 and 0 for 12 on three-pointers) in Wednesday’s 53-51 loss against Stanford’s 2-3 zone, it’s surprising Romar didn’t use a zone more often.
“One time we did it they got a dunk,” Romar said. “I think we did it another time. … They were shooting in the 20s at some point in the game. Why go zone? Then they started to score. We went zone a little bit and it didn’t work out.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— At least three NBA scouts were in the building watching the matchup between C.J. Wilcox and UConn’s Shabazz Napier. Both players will be taken in next year’s draft, but there’s still some question on if they can elevate their stock and rise into the first round. Not sure if Sunday’s game helped or hurt their draft status. Wilcox finished with 19 points on 6-for-15 shooting. He also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 37 minutes. Wilcox started off defensively on Napier, who had a game-high 20 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He was 9 for 10 at the free throw line. He also had six rebounds to offset four turnovers in 38 minutes.
Wilcox (1,521) moved into ninth place on Washington’s all-time scoring list past No. 10 Steve Hawes (1,516) and No. 11 Louie Nelson (1,504). Next on the list is No. 8 James Edwards (1,548).
— With Desmond Simmons back, you wonder how much longer Mike Anderson will remain in the starting lineup. He’s listed at 6-5, but many say he’s 6-4 and he’s playing out of position in Washington’s four-guard lineup. Anderson doesn’t complain and he’s surprisingly productive. He led UW with eight rebounds and had 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting in 32 minutes. Anderson has been forced to play taller opponents, but when he’s matched against smaller players he can dominate like he did on this play against 6-0 Ryan Boatright. Just imagine how good the Huskies might be if they started Simmons and Anderson.
— Darin Johnson had 13 points in what might have been his best offensive showing of the season. His season-high is 16 points, but he’s never been more efficient (4 of 7) from from the field. He was also 4 of 4 on free throws. However, his performance was marred by three turnovers and a couple of defensive miscues in which he left opponents open on the perimeter.
— Andrew Andrews had eight points, three assists and a steal. He also had three turnovers in 31 minutes.
— Simmons joked he wanted to play more than 12 minutes in his season debut, but it’s possible coaches and trainers were monitoring his minutes. No sense in overloading the 6-7 forward who is returning from arthroscopic surgery. Simmons also bemoaned his one rebound, but he contributed offensively with five points. He drained his only shot, a three-pointer, and was 2 for 2 at the line. Simmons also had a steal.
— You can almost pencil Shawn Kemp Jr. in for 16 minutes, five points on high-percentage shots near the basket and two rebounds.
— Romar doesn’t believe Nigel Williams-Goss has run into the mythical freshman, but his turnovers have increased lately. He’s committed at least three turnovers in the past five games. Williams-Goss didn’t have any in the first half, but committed two to start the second half for UW, which had four before its first point at the 16:28 mark. Williams-Goss also missed 7 of 10 shots, including 0 for 3 on three-pointers. He finished with six points, five rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes.
— Perris Blackwell beautifully executed an alley-oop layup that had courtside observers gasping. The 275-pound leaped and caught a pass from Wilcox and contorted his body to kiss the ball off the glass for a basket in the first half. It was one of few shining moments for Blackwell who his hands full with 7-foot Amida Brimah. Blackwell finished with as many turnovers (four) as points. He also had a season-low two rebounds.
— Jahmel Taylor played the final minute.