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Originally published Friday, February 18, 2011 at 5:01 PM

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Pac-10 coaches try to keep players focused

Women's basketball coaches in the Pac-10 use a variety of tricks to get players' attention.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Arizona @ Washington, 12:30 p.m., UWTV

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A mirror, dessert and meditation — those are some of the tactics Pac-10 women's basketball coaches have used this year to get their players to focus and be consistent.

How's it working?

"I probably shouldn't say this, but the kids these days that we're coaching ... " began Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne, in her 15th season with the Sun Devils. "Attention-wise and focus-wise, it's harder to get them to play hard every day. It's a challenge across the country."

Turner Thorne uses desserts when her team wins as perks, saying she'd take ASU to Seattle's downtown Cheesecake Factory after beating Washington 71-63 Thursday.

UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell took a mirror she felt her players spent too much time primping in front of and makes them give it a gut-check during practice instead.

If the Bruins can't give themselves a "thumbs-up" on effort and focus, they run.

"It really came from that saying that's been around basketball for so long, 'You've got to be able to look yourself in the mirror,' " Caldwell said. "We just took it to another level. Now, some of them, I have to get out of the mirror."

Washington coach Tia Jackson also has struggled to find ways to cultivate consistency. Her players have twice admitted in postgame interviews that they didn't really show up 100 percent for games. The first was after a disappointing defeat against Oregon State, and the second was the setback Thursday against ASU.

Jackson begins every practice with meditation. The entire team joins hands in a circle, and everyone closes their eyes and is supposed to clear their minds of everything to focus on practice and the upcoming opponent.

Jackson, in her fourth season at UW, said she has experimented with the technique throughout her career. She decided to make it permanent this year after her high-school coach, Barbara McCool, died from cancer. McCool used meditation with her teams.

Still, Jackson found herself frustrated following the Huskies' loss to the Sun Devils. Washington played the Bay Area schools well last week, defeating California and losing to No. 3 Stanford by 10 points, but has lacked consistency at home.

UW (10-13 overall, 5-9 Pac-10) plays Arizona (15-9, 6-7) on Saturday in the final home game of the season.

"We have to figure out how to be more consistent and take advantage when we're riding high," said Jackson. "We were riding pretty high this week and we've got to be able to put those two weekends together and solidify who we are consistently.

"We have to keep reminding them who we are and keep believing in who we are. We have to go out and do exactly what we are. That's what's going to do it. There's no new plays, no new drills. We will keep sticking to what we do."

Washington is eighth in the Pac-10 behind Washington State and California, despite going 3-0 against them so far this season. And mathematically, six teams still are vying for third place.

"A lot of people beating people is a tribute to what a great conference we have this year," Turner Thorne said. "Tia is doing a great job. She's really brought this group around. You watch them and they play hard. I really think they have things on the upswing. It's just sustaining it."

Note

• FSN Northwest will televise Washington's road game Feb. 26 at rival Washington State. Tipoff is now 5:30 p.m. The Huskies have a 31-game win streak in the women's basketball Apple Cup.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

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