With their Pac-10 season opening at USC in less than two weeks, the Washington Huskies quickly put the sting of last Saturday's loss behind them and focused on the thing that has most plagued them so far this season.
"We're ready to move forward," said Venoy Overton after practice on Wednesday. "Two games left before the start of Pac-10 so we're just keeping our minds forward...rebounding the ball - that's really the only concern. We're defending well, but we're just giving up too many second chances."
There is no difference of opinion about the Huskies' rebounding struggles and so it should come as little surprise that they were focused on rebounding in practice this week after struggling to rebound once again last weekend in College Station against Texas A&M.
"Boxing out," said Romar when asked about what they would focus on in practice this week. "If we don't do anything else - everything else remains the same - and we do a better job of boxing out, we're undefeated right now...But we could execute totally 100% the right way and miss the shot. But an offensive rebound, that's a basket right there. If we just take away a few of those every game, we really would be undefeated."
So although the Huskies should probably be expected to win tonight's home game against San Francisco, if there's anything to look for it's how well they do on the boards. And it's not unreasonable to wonder about it even against a presumably inferior opponent - their focus on rebounding wasn't a TAMU problem, but a troublesome pattern.
Washington Huskies Need A Collective Effort To Become A 'Functional Rebounding Team' - SB Nation Seattle
"Texas A&M has outrebounded every team they've played against this year," said Huskies Lorenzo Romar after practice on Wednesday. "In the games we've lost we've been outrebounded. We got outrebounded by Eastern Washington. We got outrebounded by St. Martin's...But we're addressing it, we're working on it. But if you know me over the years, a lot of times I will say I'm not going to panic off one game - 'Why is everybody in a panic off one game?'
"But this has been a pattern. So patterns over a period of time have to be addressed. This has been a pattern and we have to address it. We know who our best rebounders are and we probably have to give them more minutes."
So tonight against USF, some improvement as a collective - from guards to posts - in boxing out and guards leaking out less will be keys to watch for.
"They're gonna play an entirely different game than anyone we've faced this year," said Romar. "They run a 1-3-1 zone. It's not as aggressive and as pressure as Oregon State's is, but they run that quite a bit. They run a lot of more Princeton motion, that type of thing. So we haven't played anyone with that combination."
And although Romar expects them to play primarily a 1-3-1 defense, they actually rebound relatively well by doing what UW needs more of as described in yesterday's feature - making it a collective effort that includes guards.
However, the determining factor in the game might be USF turnovers.
Key statistical battleground: turnovers
USF commits turnovers at about the rate Washington opponents have made committed them and forces them at a lower rate than Washington commits them. With a week off focused on maintaining their offensive execution and energy levels overall in addition to rebounding, it's not inconceivable that Washington exploits a major USF weakness with their defensive pressure and finds their way to easy points in transition.
Perris Blackwell, F (6-foot-8, 240 pounds, So)
Perhaps the Dons' turnovers could be attributed to youth as coach Rex Walters has eight freshmen and two underclassmen on his team. After their starters got off to a 21-4 start against San Jose State in the second game of their season, those sophomores - Perris Blackwell and Michael Williams moved into the starting lineup.
Unfortunately, Blackwell has been the team's biggest contributor to the turnover problems, committing close to three per game. Despite the turnover problem, Blackwell is the team's second most efficient scorer and leading rebounder with 7.1 per game. In terms of the distribution of minutes, he'll be the rebounding threat that the Huskies will have to most focus on. And if he gets offensive rebounds, he's the type of player that can draw fouls and get to the free throw line as a high rate, although he makes barely over half of them.
Michael Williams, G (6-foot-0, 170 pounds, So.)
In addition to being the team's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, Williams is rebounding much better in his sophomore season on the defensive end pulling down 4.22 per game thus far this season. Offensively, Williams is going to be something of a focal point for the Dons as he uses up the second highest percentage of possessions as the second most efficient player in the rotation.