If that trend continues tonight, UW may well be back in Seattle hosting a National Invitational Tournament game this time next week. That prospect alone should be enough to get the Huskies fired up for their quarterfinal matchup with Oregon State in the Pac-10 tournament.
If we cant find energy (today), head coach Lorenzo Romar said earlier this week, then we dont deserve to be there. I dont care if were playing in an alley or an ice-skating rink. I dont care where were playing. At this point, the entire season is on the line.
A loss by the third-seeded Huskies (21-9) at any point this week might mean the bursting of their NCAA bubble.
Youve got to always think for the worst, sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas said. Weve got to keep working hard and try to get the most, and thats trying to win the Pac-10 tournament for us.
The most immediate goal, as Thomas himself acknowledged, is to beat sixth-seeded OSU (14-16) tonight in a game thats scheduled to start around 8:40 p.m. UW won both meetings with the Beavers in the regular season, including an 82-70 victory Saturday. Its enough to have gotten OSUs blood flowing this week.
Our guys are pretty motivated, Beavers coach Craig Robinson said Tuesday.
The Huskies have beaten a single opponent three times in the same season in four of the nine years since the Pac-10 tournament returned Arizona in 2003-04, Arizona State in 2004-05 and 2006-07, and Stanford last season. The Huskies are 4-2 in that span when playing a team theyve beaten twice in the regular season.
Historically speaking, its not as rare to beat a team three times in one season as its made out to be. Maybe that explains the response of UWs Thomas this week when asked why he thinks its so hard to beat a team three times.
I dont, he told a group of reporters Tuesday. Thats you guys. I dont know. I just say it because you guys say it.
Asked whether that means he thinks it will be easy to beat the Beavers a third time, Thomas said: Im not saying that, either. Well be ready, thats all Im going to say.
The Huskies certainly have been ready for most of the challenges put before them in the past six weeks, posting a 9-2 record. UW has won four road games along the way and risen to No. 49 in the all-important RPI rankings, meaning that a potential semifinal matchup with Arizona State on Friday could mean an at-large NCAA bid for the winner.
But the Huskies arent thinking in those terms. Their most pressing goal is to beat the Beavers tonight a loss almost certainly would knock UW out of consideration for the NCAA tournament while the long-term objective is to leave Los Angeles with a tournament title and an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
In those terms, tonights game is as big as it gets.
A game back in January is not necessarily going to end your season; You can make it up down the road, Romar said. This game right here? It sets you back. You probably dont get in the NCAA tournament. So if you need any other motivation, any other thing to get you going, then I dont know why youre playing at this moment.
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