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Originally published January 21, 2012 at 7:29 PM | Page modified January 21, 2012 at 9:47 PM

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At long last, these Huskies getting a feel for Ro-Ball

Physical play helps Huskies against Stanford

Seattle Times staff columnist

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After the first two minutes, Desmond Simmons and Aziz N'Diaye already had crashed to the floor, going hungrily after loose balls.

On the Huskies' third possession, point guard Abdul Gaddy muscled past Aaron Bright to the rim and scored. Seven-and-a-half minutes into the game, Gaddy stepped into an Anthony Brown drive and drew a charge.

Who were these guys?

On this Saturday afternoon, when Washington hammered Stanford 76-63, these Huskies played like most of the other Lorenzo Romar-coached Huskies. This game felt familiar. This afternoon, Husky hoops were fun again.

For one of the few times this season, the Huskies played with grit. They played with passion. They were all elbows and anger, floor burns and fight.

"I think for us, something we can really grab a hold of after this game is how hard we played," Romar said. "I thought we played very physical."

It was almost as if the rest of the players took a cue from their newest teammate, Husky tight-end-turned-post-player Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who entered his first college game and almost immediately leveled a pair of introductory seismic screens that sent an early message to Stanford.

This is how the Huskies have to play. This is Ro-Ball, not the timid, passive game the Huskies have played for too much of this season.

Washington (12-7, 5-2 Pac-12) has looked soft, tentative and unthreatening. Even though it has two future first-round draft choices in Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr., it has been one of the most disappointing teams in the country.

"We've been a work in progress all season, but inch-by-inch we've been getting a little better," Romar said. "We're starting to see some of the things that look more like what we've been talking about in terms of the big picture with our team. We're still not there.

"We've said to our team several times in the last two weeks, 'If 10 is our best and 1 is our worst, we're at a 5 or a 6 here.' We still have a lot of room to improve."

Historically, Romar's teams have played frenetically. They've used defense as offense. They've turned floor burns into fast breaks, dives into dunks.

This style is part of the Husky legacy, handed down from Will Conroy, Bobby Jones, Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson, to Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas.

"I think the difference between this team and the other teams is consistent defensive intensity," said senior Darnell Gant, who knows how Washington basketball is supposed to look and feel. "A lot of times we come into games and we kind of put ourselves into lulls and we kind of dig ourselves a hole that we don't need to be in.

"As far as other (Husky) teams, we always came and brought it from the beginning of the game. That's what I've been trying to get over to our guys. That we got to come out every game ready to go."

Wroten found slivers in the paint and scored over and under the Stanford defense. His aggression was contagious. He connected on lob passes to Ross and Gant that fueled the willing Hec Ed crowd.

This team that too often has looked like a failed chemistry experiment, played together, anticipating each other's moves, making good decisions.

"This was more like it," Gant said. "We came out with more of a sense of urgency. We felt the last game (a home loss to California) was bigger. If we had won that we would have been right into first place, but we didn't capitalize on it. But this game we focused on ourselves and focused on bouncing back and getting this one done and look what happened. We're still in the running for first place."

Like a lot of Romar teams, the Huskies pushed the pace, making Stanford play faster than it wanted. The Cardinal looked jittery, as if it were on a coffee jag. And every time the Cardinal cut into UW's lead, the Huskies had an answer.

This is Ro-Ball and it was fitting that Romar won his 300th career game and 100th conference game when his team played exactly the way it was supposed to play.

Have the Huskies, who are one-half game out of the Pac-12 Conference lead, found themselves? Are they poised for another, familiar second-half-of-the-season surge into the tournament?

It's too early to tell. This was just a first step, a reminder of how they're supposed to play. But this work in progress still needs to progress.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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