After the Washington Huskies' "road" win against Seattle University on Tuesday, coach Lorenzo Romar suggested that the reason that his team started off a little slow was an emotional loss to the Arizona Wildcats last week on ESPN.
"We just came off a big, big game," said Romar after the win at KeyArena. "And I think our guys actually did an OK job with that emotion."
However, Seattle U coach and Romar protege Cameron Dollar had a slight different take on the game that seems to describe a challenge that UW has faced throughout the season.
"You can look through a game and see where that it was just a talent play," said Dollar. "Aziz (N'Diaye) catches the ball on the block on Gavin (Gilmore), Gavin's got behind him, and he turns and hits a jump hook off the square - ain't nothing you can do about that. They drive and we rotate down and we need to box out and there's nobody there to box out and he catches it and dunks it - there's probably something we can do about that. So once you eliminate those plays and then all they're making is talent plays, then we can talk. How the game usually goes -even on their end - to consistently make talent plays all game long is hard for any team to do. So let's make sure we take care of what we need to take care of first."
We could go back and forth for days talking about why the Huskies haven't run away with the Pac-10 crown this season as some expected - including some who expected an undefeated season, but ultimately the number one thing we've learned during conference play is that although the Huskies are still arguably the most talented team in the Pac-10, they can't consistently win games by making talent plays alone.
The prime example of that this season has been on the defensive end where their focus has occasionally wavered and arguably cost them games. However, perhaps something specific to watch for tonight is their own offensive execution.
Key statistical battleground: taking care of the ball
Craig Powers of CougCenter has already detailed UW's turnover problem in the teams' first meeting at WSU.
WSU VS. UW PREVIEW: A Second Look At The Huskies - CougCenter
UW also turned the ball over an uncharacteristic amount of times in Pullman. Led by Thompson's five steals, WSU was able to force the Huskies into a 28.9% TO Rate, well above their 17.9 average in Pac-10 play.
WSU was able to limit the Huskies in two areas in which they generally excel last meeting, TO Rate and 2-point field goal percentage. Those are the Cougars' two biggest strengths on the defensive end, and they are going to need to duplicate that performance tonight.
One could definitely argue that the turnovers help to explain that low 2-point percentage: UW's offensive execution was seriously disrupted by an outstanding WSU defensive effort, which prevented them from establishing Matthew Bryan-Amaning in the post and helped hold him to 1-for-8 shooting when they did find him.
Certainly there are other factors that may heavily influence the game, but the first meeting was almost certainly of effort and smart play overcoming talent. The Huskies will need to maintain their intensity on defense as well as do a better job controlling the ball on offense to win tonight.