The Washington basketball team once again will be shorthanded — No. 2 scorer C.J. Wilcox still isn’t ready to return from stress fracture in his femur — but it will be a lousy excuse Thursday at Arizona State, the first of the usual conference pair in the desert.
Chief concern is that ASU (6-13, 2-5) likes to slow it down, sit back in a zone and dare the Huskies (12-7, 5-2) to beat them from distance. Washington has mostly solved it, winning five of the past eight games, but it is an annual tooth pull.
Personnel-wise, ASU, losers of eight of their past 10 games, including an embarrassing 64-43 collapse against Utah Saturday, is a mess, so Romar may be inflating the fear factor. The Sun Devils’ top player, 6-4 junior guard Trent Lockett, sat out last two games with a bum ankle, and may not play Thursday.
When healthy, Lockett, who leads ASU in scoring, minutes, field goals and three-point percentage, is most of the ASU team. For the first time in his career, he was forced into the point guard spot to fill a screaming void. Earlier this month, starter Keala King, a 6-4 sophomore, was kicked off the team by coach Herb Sendek for a bad attitude.
He was already the third player penciled in for the spot. Jahii Carson was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA Dec. 9. His backup, JC transfer Chris Colvin, made too many turnovers and was benched. And now Lockett is limping.
At Montlake, Romar played only seven players in the win Saturday over Stanford, but nearly all had big games, including newcomer Austin-Sefarian Jenkins. Despite fouling out scoreless in 16 minutes, the football refugee was a load such as the Huskies haven’t had since Jon Brockman, now in the NBA.
“The most fun was seeing guys get banged around,” said teammate Terrence Ross. “He moved around like he knew he was the strongest player on the court. You could tell by halftime the other team didn’t like it much.”
Yet Seferian-Jenkins was slowed Tuesday by mild illness. He is scheduled to make the trip, which includes a 4 p.m. game Saturday in Tucson against Arizona that will be nationally televised on ESPN.
“He played with an attitude that said, ‘Yeah, this is the way I play — why is everyone so excited?'” said Romar, smiling. “He’s not one of those players who demands a favor of a coach — ‘No matter what I do, coach, leave me in.’ He earns his minutes by the impact he makes. “