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Originally published Monday, December 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Men's Basketball | Travel-weary Huskies face final warmup test

A comeback win from a 16-point deficit at Louisiana State, several Washington Huskies said afterward, was just the kind of spark they needed...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Idaho State @ Washington, 3 p.m.

A comeback win from a 16-point deficit at Louisiana State, several Washington Huskies said afterward, was just the kind of spark they needed heading into Pac-10 play.

One technicality — the Huskies first have to finish off nonconference basketball action today against Idaho State before setting their sights on the Pac-10 opener Saturday against Washington State.

On paper, today's game doesn't figure to be much more than speed bump. The Bengals of the Big Sky Conference are 3-9, with two of their wins against NAIA Montana State-Northern and Division II Northwest Nazarene, a 71-66 victory on Saturday. Idaho State's third victory came in overtime against 3-8 Idaho.

The biggest obstacle for Washington could be remembering to show up to play. The Huskies couldn't find any flights out of Baton Rouge, La., after beating LSU on Saturday, and they didn't return to Seattle until Sunday afternoon. (When the game was originally scheduled, they didn't anticipate a problem finding a flight on short notice.)

The Huskies were scheduled to hold a practice upon arrival back at campus in preparation for today's 3 p.m. tipoff.

"It's definitely a challenge, but we are up to challenges," said guard Joel Smith.

Coach Lorenzo Romar said the schedule "just kind of worked out this way. There was no way around it. But you'd prefer to be playing at home the second game of one of these trips regardless of the opponent."

Other than the travel, the quick turnaround will give Washington some good preparation for the rigors of the Pac-10 season, when it will often play on a Thursday night and again on a Saturday afternoon.

The game could also give UW momentum heading into conference play. A win would be Washington's fifth in a row, its longest streak since starting last season 7-0.

Asked what he wants out of the game, Romar said, "We want to play our kind of basketball and make progress again, and the score doesn't always measure your progress."

The Huskies did that in the second half at LSU, rallying from a 41-27 deficit to win 73-65. They used their athleticism to force 18 turnovers (including 11 steals), outrebound the Tigers 38-33 and hold them to 11-of-29 shooting in the second half.

Washington also got a bounceback game from sophomore Quincy Pondexter, who scored just two points in his previous game but tallied a team-high 17 against the Tigers.

Pondexter, who has come off the bench the last five contests, has scored in double figures in back-to-back games only once this season, but predicted that what happened against LSU was just a beginning.

"You're going to see a lot better me from now on," he said.

Washington doesn't have much history against Idaho State, having played the Bengals just three times, all in the early 1990s, all Washington wins. The most recent was a 61-60 win in Pocatello on Dec. 23, 1993, that was the first UW victory for coach Bob Bender.

Idaho State is a young team under second-year coach Joe O'Brien with eight freshmen and sophomores, including 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Austin Kilpatrick of Puyallup High. Kilpatrick is the team's third-leading scorer at 7.5 points per game. Matt Stucki, a 6-6 junior from Pocatello, averages a team-high 12.2.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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