Facing the embarrassment of dropping to 0-3 in Pac-12 play against a 4-12 team, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar called for an unusual measure Friday evening: A team meeting the night before a home game. The appeal worked. Washington rolled over the Oregon State University Beavers, 87-61.
Romar said the meeting was a head check for a team that looked disjointed and demoralized in a 22-point loss to No. 15 Oregon Wednesday.
“We spent time talking about (Oregon State), but we spent a whole lot more time talking about us,” Romar said. “Just try to identify some areas that, if we didn’t change the mindset, the things that had been happening were going to continue to occur.”
Oregon State (4-13, 0-3 Pac-12) did not put up much of a fight. Washington (8-7, 1-2 Pac-12) used a four-minute, 12-0 run that began at 17:09 to climb on top for good. The Beavers never seriously challenged after that, with the Huskies building a 31-point lead midway through the second half.
The Huskies seemed to recapture a bit of the creative spark that made UW fun to watch last season when Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss were involved. David Crisp tossed up an alley-oop that Markelle Fultz happily slammed home. Later, the two connected again on a fast break for another Fultz dunk. Huskies came away with 15 turnovers and 11 steals, scoring 29 points off Oregon State’s miscues.
Not all the highlight-reel efforts pleased Romar. Leading by 13 late in the first half, Crisp gave up a sure layup on a fast break to attempt a pass-off-the-glass to a trailing Fultz, resulting in a turnover and a quick layup for the Beavers’ Drew Eubanks.
Incensed, Romar burned a timeout, throwing his jacket to the floor in disgust as his team sheepishly jogged over. When play resumed, Crisp was on the bench.
Romar didn’t need to say much.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of words for them, to tell you the truth. I think it kind of spoke for itself,” Romar said. “That’s one of the things we’re concentrating on — that mindset of being businesslike out there.
“It wasn’t a grudge being held, or (a benching) for the rest of the game. He only came out as a reminder.”
A reminder that the Huskies are still a long way from where they need be.
“Sometimes those decisions to drive to the basket when it might not be the best time, those are some of the ones you live with,” Romar said of flashy plays. “(Crisp’s turnover) is not one of them. But we do like to see them have fun. We have had players to make that play before, just in a different circumstance.”
Crisp was able to smile about the incident.
“He knew if I could get that one back, I wouldn’t (try it again),” Crisp said. “He didn’t have to say anything to me once I saw his jacket on the floor.”
Romar put Crisp back in to start the second half. The sophomore guard took the businesslike message to heart and went to work, scoring 14 points and dishing out a career-high 10 assists to record his first collegiate double-double.
Romar was asked if Crisp was continuing to develop as a core guy.
“He really has been,” Romar said. “It’s the energy he’s bringing right now. David is really starting to emerge as a leader on this team. You can see it. It’s been good to see him do that. I think it’s been good for the team.”
Others followed Crisp’s example. Fultz scored a game-high 20 points, while Matisse Thybulle and Carlos Johnson added 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Eubanks paced the Beavers with 19 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard JaQuori McLaughlin also scored 19.
It was against weak opposition, but Saturday’s win is a step in the right direction.
Romar’s goal is to eliminate end-of-half pitfalls, which plagued the Huskies in conference losses to Oregon and Washington State.
“It’s been a pattern that we don’t finish the halves out very well,” Romar said. “We give up leads, teams close gaps on us. We didn’t do that this time, so I thought that was progress. We have to be able to do that on the road.”
A pair of stiff tests will show how long-lasting were the effects of Friday’s adjustment meeting. The Huskies will travel to Berkeley to play Cal Thursday (6 p.m., FS1), before playing Stanford Jan. 14 (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
If the new approach works, the Huskies may be able to hang in against teams with greater talent, a must to salvage the slow start.