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Originally published Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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UW Basketball | Streak-busting not Lorenzo Romar's first goal

UW men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar insists he's more worried about a beginning than an ending as the Huskies face the Cougars today.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Washington men @ Washington State, 3 p.m., FSN

PULLMAN — Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar insists he's more worried about a beginning than an ending today.

Sure, that seven-game losing streak to Washington State is annoying. "I can't go too many places where people don't remind you of that," Romar said.

But the biggest carrot dangling in front of the Huskies today, he says, is opening the Pac-10 schedule with a win — and on the road, at that.

"To me, the first conference game totally, totally, by far outweighs the seven-game losing streak," he said. "That's not the issue to me as much as this is a conference game here."

Washington fans, who haven't been able to celebrate a basketball victory over the Cougars since Feb. 19, 2005, likely feel a little more urgent about ending the streak.

So, it seems, do some UW players, none of whom has ever beaten the Cougars. Seniors Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Artem Wallace have been around for all seven losses, the longest streak of futility against WSU in school history.

"Any time you lose to them seven times straight, it's definitely a game you want to win," Brockman said. "It's something that I definitely want to accomplish before I leave here."

Also present for all seven of the previous Cougars wins was the now-departed WSU trio of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill. With those three graduated, the Cougars are in more of a rebuilding mode, and some think this could be Washington's best chance to beat WSU since the first two games. Both were big upsets over a Huskies team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in Brandon Roy's senior season.

But Romar says that the Cougars' success against UW can also be traced to style of play. Washington State uses a patient offense and a defense that slows the game down and forces teams to make outside shots.

"To me, you just replace players into their system, and it's their system that has been so effective," Romar said. "Obviously their players have been good, too, but they are going to plug other guys into their system. They have good players still."

Washington hasn't been without chances against the Cougars during the streak, however. The last four games were all in doubt in the final five minutes, and three were decided by four points or less.

"Take style out of it, they have just been a smarter team," Brockman said. "It really makes you think how each possession is so important, how every single mistake you make can come to haunt you toward the end of the game, and that's been evident the last few times we've played them."

Washington State's veteran players say they think ending the streak will loom large today for the Huskies.

"Things have gone our way in the past," said center Aron Baynes. "It's something we want to keep, but we know [Saturday] it's going to be tough. They want it. They want us bad. We're a big target for them. We know that going into the game."

The game is the first of three in a row at home to begin conference games for the Cougars. All will be played before students return for classes, which could affect the tenor of the crowd today.

Today's game could be pivotal in setting a tone for the conference season for each team. Each is projected to be in the middle of the Pac-10, fighting for one of the last bids into the NCAA tournament.

Washington won its last seven to conclude nonconference play at 9-3. But the Huskies have won just four Pac-10 road games the past two seasons, the biggest thing keeping it out of the NCAA or NIT tournaments. The Cougars have lost four of their last seven this season after a 5-0 start.

Cougars coach Tony Bennett hopes today will find his remade team mimicking the style that allowed his former group so much success against UW.

"Let's put it this way, we haven't lost any of those games," he said. "We made them have to beat us to be successful. And certainly we had some lady luck on our side a couple times, even that one last year [a 76-73 double-overtime win in Pullman]. If you saw the film, we had a couple breaks that were just great, but that's part of it."

Romar says it's time for the Huskies to make their own breaks against the Cougars.

"I don't know if it's a mental block," he said. "Lakers against the Celtics back in the day, when they [Lakers] just couldn't get it done, something would happen and they said a little leprechaun was on the rim or whatever batting the Lakers' shots away.

"I don't think it's anything like that. But as a competitor you know that's looming over you. You want that to come to an end."

Note

• Huskies freshman guard Elston Turner remains doubtful with a sprained ankle suffered Tuesday against Morgan State. He was "extremely limited" in practice on Friday.

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

Dawggone long
Washington's longest losing streaks against each Pac-10 team:
Opponent No. Span
Arizona 10 1986-1990
Arizona State 14 1990-1996
California 8 1957-1960
Oregon 7 1938-1939
Oregon State 11 1978-1983
Stanford 10 1998-2002
UCLA 25 1963-1974
USC 7 1999-2002
Washington State 7 2006-08

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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