By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — University of Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar probably won’t need much of a pre-game speech when his Huskies host Nevada this evening.
But UW will certainly needs something.
Getting off to a fast start has been an elusive skill for this year’s Huskies, at least since UW blitzkrieged Seton Hall in the first half of a game that eventually went to overtime almost a month ago. Since that performance, the Huskies have twice trailed by double digits at halftime, have held a slim two-point lead, and had to scramble just to pull even with St. Louis University last weekend.
“I don’t really know what it is,” junior C.J. Wilcox said. “Before, we were playing good in the first half and not finishing in the second half. I think we just need to get a sense of urgency.”
The good news for UW fans is that the Huskies will not lack for motivation today. Nevada (4-4) jumped out to a quick lead early in a meeting with UW last December and eventually won that game in overtime. The Huskies led by five points with 34 seconds to play in regulation before the Wolf Pack tied it and forced overtime, where they prevailed 76-73.
Memory of that loss had some Huskies more focused than usual heading into the rematch.
“We’re going to have more of an edge because we know what happened last year,” Wilcox said. “So we’re going to go into the game with a little bit of a different approach.”
Keeping Nevada’s junior point Deonte Burton in check should be a high priority for the Huskies. Burton, one of two career 1,000-point scorers on the Wolf Pack’s roster, had 31 points in the win over Washington a year ago. He made a score-tying 3-pointer late in regulation and scored eight of Nevada’s 10 points in overtime.
Senior shooting guard Malik Story is the Wolf Pack’s other career 1,000-point scorer.
In addition, Nevada’s bench has been very productive this season. It averages 20.9 points per game and has outscored Nevada’s opponents bench in four of seven games.
While the Huskies might want payback for last year’s frustrating loss to Nevada, Romar said revenge should be the least of UW’s motivations heading into today’s game.
“I think we have more things to be motivated about than just what happened last year,” said Romar, whose team has already lost two home games this season. “We need to be motivated to come out and play better than we played last game in the first half.”
In that game, a 74-72 win over Cal State Fullerton, the Huskies fell behind 17-4 and were trailing 43-29 at the half.
Romar was asked this week about his team’s slow starts and was rather coy in his answer.
“That’s something we’re trying to take care of right now,” he said. “We’re trying to figure it out ourselves. … We’ll see. We have some thoughts we’re kicking around, but we’ll see.”
A reshuffled lineup might help, and that will be easier to do when injured players Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp Jr. fully return to action. One or both of them could see some time tonight, but it’s unclear how much of an impact they can have right out of the gates.
Suggs has missed two games with a foot injury, while Kemp has been out the entire regular season with a knee injury. Kemp was originally slated to come back around Christmas but return to practice earlier this week.