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Originally published February 2, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Page modified February 2, 2012 at 11:14 PM

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As usual, Romar's Huskies are beginning to come to life

Thursday's game against UCLA looked like another inexplicable loss. Just when you thought Washington had figured things out, this was happening. But this is February, the time of the year when Lorenzo Romar's teams come to life, just when you think they might be dying.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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It must be getting later in the year. The Husky season must be inching toward March. The games are getting hotter, the gym is getting louder, and every night is feeling as important as final exams.

The Pac-12 Conference season has started its second half, and another Washington basketball team is blooming like the first crocus peeking out from under the snow.

For the Huskies, practically since the beginning of coach Lorenzo Romar's tenure, this has been the time of the year when 10-point deficits disappear in the matter of several hard-to-believe possessions.

Since the beginning, since Nate Robinson and Will Conroy and Brandon Roy, it has been like this for Washington. This is the time of the year when magic happens; when something inexplicable always seems to go right in the last six minutes of conference games.

This is when Terrence Ross' jumper comes alive late in the game; when he drains a three, then spins in the post and flips an underhanded, off-balance kiss off the glass.

This is when Washington's defense awakens late and forces a turnover that Darnell Gant turns into a building-busting dunk; and when, with just more than a minute to play and all of Hec Ed seemingly holding its breath, Ross knocks down another three.

This 71-69 win over UCLA on Thursday night, Washington's fourth win in a row, had everything that is good about college basketball. It was a game, shown on ESPN, that was the best kind of commercial for the conference. Conference games are supposed to feel like this — especially in February in a conference race as close at the Pac-12's is.

Washington was far from perfect. This team has too many holes and too much inconsistency to be perfect.

Even though Romar challenged his team all week to build on the momentum from last Saturday's win over Arizona, it played sloppy and confused for much of the first 34 minutes.

With six minutes to play, Washington trailed 65-55.

This looked like another home loss, another RPI-busting loss, another inexplicable loss. Just when you thought Washington had figured things out, this was happening.

But this is February, the time of the year when Romar's teams come to life, just when you think they might be dying.

"I don't know why, but it happens," Romar said of these Lazarus-like late-season runs. "I wish I could pinpoint it."

So when UCLA's Norman Powell rose along the baseline and launched a prayer of a jumper over Gant, history told us the shot wouldn't fall and Aziz N'Diaye would pull one last rebound and the noise inside Hec Ed would feel like 2004 or 2005 or 2010 or 2011.

That noise was as familiar as a lawn mower's growl.

"We've been making big strides, but for 34 minutes tonight we reverted back," Romar said after his radio show. "We took a little bit of a step back tonight, a little bit, but with that we still found a way to come out with a win. So I think we're getting it. I really do. But still any team that gets it can still have a setback every now and then."

Sure, if you're Romar, there is a lot you would like to change about this game.

You would like Ross to put together an entire game, not just a final 15 minutes.

You would want your guards, Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy, to take better care of the ball, not turn it over a combined nine times.

You would like Gant to grab more than one rebound in 29 minutes.

You would like your team to play a complete 40 minutes, so that it doesn't have to rely on Ross' dramatic three or, as in the Arizona win, a last-second block at the rim by Wroten.

But that's not this team and that's not this season. Nothing is going to come easily.

"Tonight's game was something that we tried to avoid happening," Romar said. "Wait, let's stop, UCLA's a good team. But at practice yesterday I just sensed a tad bit of complacency. Sometimes it's hard to handle success.

"You fight through adversity, but you get complacent with success a little bit. We had a big road trip to Arizona (wins over Arizona State and Arizona), and I think that crept up on us a little bit tonight. But we won, and I think our team got the message in a win as opposed to a loss."

It seems to happen a lot to Romar's teams at this time of year. His team starts getting his message. It's raining treys again late in basketball games. It must be February in Romarville.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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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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