By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
LOS ANGELES — When Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was growing up in Compton, Calif., he and his crew preferred to hop in a car and cruise for places to play hoops rather than attend the usual weekend parties.
Ironically, with his team back in Los Angeles, he would be pleased if today’s game against USC turned into a coming-out party.
Despite a 13-10 overall record and a 5-5 mark in the Pacific-12 conference, Romar still thinks an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament can be achieved.
He concedes the conference title – Washington is three games behind leader Arizona with eight to play – is likely out of reach.
“Our goal is to try to win enough games here so we can get an at-large bid without the (Pac-12) tournament (title),” Romar said. “I definitely think that’s possible. It’s going to be difficult, but I think that’s possible. That’s what we’re looking at regardless of what place we’re in in the league.”
Two disconcerting trends, turnovers and poor 3-point shooting, have lately dogged Washington, which has lost five of its past six games. The Huskies are down to ninth (31.8 percent) in conference 3-point shooting and they’re 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Again Saturday, Romar bellowed during practice about the importance of taking care of the ball.
Much of it is due to lack of communication, of which Romar cited some examples: “‘Ah, thought you were going to cut that way. My fault’; ‘I thought he was going to step up’; and ‘I should have thrown it higher.’
“Like we told our team, in the game they (officials) don’t say, ‘Nope, he thought he was going to throw it higher so you guys get the ball back. Doesn’t count as a turnover.’ (But) those are turnovers. It’s just kind of an attitude where, ah, (we think) get it next time. … So, we’re trying to do a better job. I’m trying to do a better job of pointing those things out. It is a big deal.”
The Huskies also continue to manage C.J. Wilcox’s irritated left foot. Wilcox was limited in practice Saturday, as he has been all week. Washington plans to reduce his practice repetitions next week, too, so the situation doesn’t worsen. Romar said flatly that Wilcox is not injured, but that the Huskies are trying to protect him from becoming so.
Tonight, Wilcox and the Huskies will play a more free-wheeling version of USC. Since interim coach Bob Cantu took over for fired Kevin O’Neill on Jan. 14, the Trojans have discarded their deliberate offensive style and allowed players such as J.T. Terrell much more freedom.
Romar thinks the Huskies can keep USC’s attack in check by not turning over the ball so much.
“It is our No. 1 key for the SC game, take care of the ball,” Romar said.
Just like finding a weekend pickup game with his buddies was a top priority many years ago.