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March 6, 2011The Washington Huskies' final home game was one that was supposed to be celebrating their senior class as well as improving their chances to make the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks.
Prior to the game, the team looked excited and ready to go, but a few Huskies never even got started.
Justin Holiday, Aziz N'Diaye, Darnell Gant and Terrence Ross all went scoreless, while Thursday night's hero, C.J. Wilcox, scored just four points in the game.
Washington's early offensive struggles set the tone in what turned out to be a 62-60 loss to USC Saturday night that left the Huskies most likely needing to win the Pacific-10 Conference tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
"No one was able to knock down shots to get us back into the game," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Three-point shooting was once a strength of this team, but the Huskies were 2-for-16 on the night, including 0-for-5 from Wilcox.
Romar has talked about this team's depth being one of its strengths, yet Saturday night, he used the same five players the majority of the game, never letting Ross leave the bench.
"Sometimes there just aren't enough minutes," Romar said.
Romar explained that Ross didn't play because Scott Suggs and Overton came out and played well, and Wilcox was coming off one of the best performances he'd seen by a redshirt freshman.
As the Huskies head into the conference tournament Thursday against Washington State in Los Angeles, it would seem they will need their depth even more.
Huskies set for round three against Cougars
Before the game started, the Huskies knew their first round match up at the Pac-10 tournament. Washington will face their cross state rival Washingon State at approximately 8:40 p.m. Thursday night in Los Angeles.
"We've got Washington State again and I'm sure they're excited to get us too," said Suggs, who scored 14 points against USC.
Washington State swept the regular season meetings, but the Huskies sound as if they're ready for another shot.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in any sport so we're focusing and getting ready for them and hopefully we will have a good game," junior Isaiah Thomas said.
The Huskies are hoping they learned something from the previous meetings against Washington State.
"They've beat us twice already so we've got to be ready to play against a zone," senior guard Venoy Overton said. "The zone has been getting us, you could say."
Romar doesn't think the reason the Cougars have won is all that complicated.
"They're good, they've outplayed us twice, but I don't think that means they're a bad match-up," he said.
Trojans dominate the boards
USC outrebounded Washington 38-28 in the game, which led to 18 second-chance points for the Trojans.
They were led by Alex Stepheson with 14 rebounds and Nikola Vucevic with 10.
The rebound discrepancy could be blamed on the 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye not logging many minutes in the game and he had zero rebounds in 12 minutes.
"We did get outrebounded and that has a lot to do with him (N'Diaye) being in the game," Romar said.
Early in the season, the Huskies were being out-rebounded by inferior opponents. Romar made the change to put N'Diaye in the lineup and he has been a key to the Huskies' improvement on the glass.
"Before Aziz was playing a lot, we didn't rebound well," Romar said. "Tonight he didn't play a lot. He makes a big difference."
N'Diaye has had few problems on defense and rebounding, but his slow growth offensively has perhaps kept him from getting more minutes.
The Huskies are 2-6 in games that their opponent has more rebounds than they do.
It's now or never for Huskies
Heading into the Pac-10 tournament, the Huskies (20-10) don't know if they are a lock to make the NCAA tournament. What they do know is that this is the time they need to step up their game.
"It's March, there's no more excuses," Thomas said. "Everybody has to be held accountable for what they're doing, me included."
Last season the Huskies won the conference tournament in order to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They hope that experience will be helpful this year.
"We have guys who have been in this situation," Thomas said. "Everybody just has to be ready, play their part and be ready and do really well."
Overton, who has been huge for the Huskies the last few games, has confidence in the team.
"It's the big stage, and I think we'll play good on the big stage," he said.
Even though the Huskies haven't played like it, they at least sound like they still have the hunger to make a run in March.
"Last two years we've had parties because we knew we'd be in the NCAA tournament," Thomas said. "I want that feeling again, I mean, who doesn't?"