GAME: Arizona State (8-18, 4-9) Pac-12 at Washington (17-8, 10-3 Pac-12). WHEN: Thursday, 8 p.m., Alaska Airlines Arena. MEETING: 291st (Huskies lead 154-136). RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. TV: FSN. RADIO: KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.
Although only the Pac-12 tournament champion receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, the conference’s regular-season champion has made the postseason field every year since 1954. Given the mediocre play in the Pac-12 this year, however, the NCAA selection committee could bypass all other teams, including the regular season champ if it does not win the league tourney, which may be a first among the traditional power conferences.
Washington (10-3), winners of 12 of its past 15, can earn at least a share of the regular-season title by winning its final five games, starting with Arizona State Thursday. The rest will be sorted out in March.
The Huskies are tied with Cal for the league lead. Oregon, Arizona (UW’s opponent Saturday) and Colorado are a game back at 9-4.
“Everybody’s fighting for their lives right now,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said this week. “Our challenge is to remain in first place and win the conference championship. So I’d say it’s pretty critical.
“Control what you can control, is how I see it. We are in a situation where we can help control our future, if we do what we are supposed to do.”
One thing the Huskies need to do is shoot better. They made just 34.8 percent of their field goals in grinding out a 75-72 win over Oregon State Sunday, made only 36.4 percent in a no-show loss to Oregon a week ago, and haven’t hit 50 percent since Feb. 2 against UCLA.
“We haven’t shot the ball very well,” Romar said. “C.J. (Wilcox) has been rusty, so he hasn’t shot it as well as he can. Scott (Suggs) hasn’t been here. We’ve been inconsistent shooting the ball from outside.
“We’ve scored points in the paint in a different way. We’ve gotten offensive rebound baskets. We’ve penetrated and gotten baskets. But we haven’t had much in transition (scoring). Those are all areas that usually we’re nails. Usually we can count on those things happening.”
SERIES: Dates to Nov. 28, 1977, when Washington defeated Arizona State 68-62 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Washington has won the past four meetings and six of the past eight. In the last meeting Jan. 26, UW won 60-54 in Tempe as UW Tony Wroten had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. C.J. Wilcox returned from an injury to add four late free throws. ASU star Trent Lockett did not play because of a sprained ankle. Romar is 17-5 all-time against ASU.
LAST GAME (Washington, Feb. 12): Washington, which entered the game ranked 11th in Pac-12 free throw percentage, made 20 of 28 in the second half (24 of 35 for the game), including eight of 10 in the final minute, to hold off Oregon State 75-72. The final-minute free throw flurry included two by freshman Desmond Simmons with 21.5 seconds left to put UW ahead 72-68. Portland native Terrence Ross came up large for the Huskies with 21 points, including five of UW’s final 10, and 13 rebounds. C.J. Wilcox had 17 points off the bench, and Tony Wroten had 12.
LAST GAME (Arizona State, Feb. 11): Freshman Jonathan Gilling, who a career-high 20 points against Washington, led the Sun Devils with 11 points, Lockett had 10 and Kyle Cain put up eight, but Arizona State could not hang with Colorado and lost 63-49 at Wells Fargo Arena. Spencer Dinwiddie was a difference maker for Colorado in the second half, recording all of his 15 points and helping the Buffaloes hold onto a double digit lead.
UW STATS/NOTES: Washington continues to rank No. 2 in the conference in scoring at 75.3 ppg and No. 10 in scoring defense at 70.4 ppg . . . Despite making 20 of 28 free throws against Oregon State, UW still ranks 11th at 61.4 percent . . . One of the best 3-point shooting Pac-12 teams early in the season, the Huskies now rank 9th (34.6 percent) . . . Washington leads the Pac-12 by a wide margin in rebounding, averaging 40.5 to Stanford’s 37.2 . . . Washington also leads in offensive rebounds per game, 14.44 to Stanford’s 12.68 . . . Wroten, who once had a shot at the Pac-12 scoring title, now ranks third at 16.4 ppg (2.4 ppg behind Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham), despite having made just 53 percent of his free throws this season . . .Wilcox, the Pac-12’s free throw percentage leader most of the season, has fallen into second place (.883) behind Oregon’s E.J. Singler (.894), this week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week.
ARIZONA STATE STATS/NOTES: ASU has lost numerous players to injuries, flunk-outs and defections. One only player, junior Carrick Felix, has started all 25 games . . . Arizona State has the conference’s 10th-ranked offense (60.3 ppg) and the seventh-rated defense (65.0) . . . ASU makes 35.2 percent of its 3-point attempts (8th, Pac-12), slightly better than the huskies (34.6) . . . Only one Pac-12 school, California (30) allows more defensive rebounds than Arizona State (30.1) . . . ASU ranks fourth in blocked shots (4.12 per game) . . . Lockett is 11th in Pac-12 in scoring (13.6) and also leads ASU in rebounding, 6.3 per game and is ASU’s best overall shooter (.538).
COACHES: Lorenzo Romar is in his 10th season as Washingtons head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies beat Stanford 76-63 Jan. 21.
Herb Sendek: A 1985 graduate of Carnie-Mellon (PA.), Sendek is in his 19th season as a college head coach and his sixth at Arizona State. Sendek has coached three 20-win teams at ASU, in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10. In addition to his ASU tenure, Sendek has been the head man at Miami of Ohio (1993-96) and North Carolina State (1996-06). He has been the Mid-American Coach of the Year (1994-95), ACC Coach of the Year (2003-04) and Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2009-10). He was also a finalist for national Naismith Coach of the Year (2001-02).
ART THIEL’S TAKE: There’s always the possibility of a trap game with the young Huskies, who obviously are looking ahead to the home finale against Arizona Saturday. And the Sun Devils have two seven-footers that they can play side-by-side, which proved bothersome for the Huskies in the first meeting.
But honestly, with all the personnel losses, ASU isn’t even a middling WAC team now, especially on the road. This should be a tune-up game for Saturday. The Huskies need to start fast so they can use the home momentum to rest starters. The Huskies are unlikely to run the table since the final three regular-season games are on the road, but it’s hard to imagine a stumble Thursday. Washington 80, Arizona State 59.
STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: This will be Washington’s next-to-last home game of the 2011-12 season, and I expect a big Husky win — nothing like the 60-54 grind-it-out victory that UW scored over ASU Jan. 26 in Tempe.
ASU simply does not have the weapons to stay with Washington when its clicking.
But as we’ve seen all year, it’s difficult to predict what kind of team will show up for Washington.
The Huskies can play with any team in the conference (and beat most), but apparently have the capacity to take games off, as was the case last week at Oregon. Still, UW has too much here. Washington 68, Arizona State 56.
COMING UP: Washington plays its final home game of the regular season Saturday against Arizona, and closes out its conference schedule with games at Washington State (Feb. 25), at USC March 1 and at UCLA March 3. The Pac-12 Tournament opens March 7 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results
(Rankings Are Current)
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|11/4/11||vs. Seattle Pacific||—||—||W||77-60||0-0|
|11/12/11||vs. Georgia State||—||—||W||91-74||1-0|
|11/13/11||vs. Florida Atlantic||—||—||W||77-71||2-0|
|11/20/11||at Saint Louis||—||—||L||77-64||3-1|
|11/25/11||vs. Houston Baptist||—||—||W||88-65||4-1|
|12/2/11||at Nevada||—||—||L||76-73 (OT)||4-2|
|12/16/11||vs. UC Santa-Barbara||—||—||W||87-80||5-4|
|12/18/11||vs. South Dakota St.||—||—||L||92-73||5-5|
|12/22/11||vs. Cal-State Northridge||—||—||W||74-50||6-5|
|12/29/11||vs. Oregon State||—||—||W||95-80||7-5|
|1/10/12||vs. Seattle U.||—||—||W||91-83||10-6|
|1/15/12||vs. Washington St.||—||—||W||75-65||11-6|
|1/26/12||at Arizona St.||—||—||W||60-54||13-7|
|2/12/12||at Oregon St.||—||—||W||75-72||17-8|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||—||—||—||—||—|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||—||—||—||—||—|