Do the Huskies have a rotation problem?

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Monday, December 21, 2009 10:48pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Of all the things that concern Lorenzo Romar leading up to the Pac-10 basketball season, this problem might be the least of his worries.

And yet it’s there, getting less and less solvable with each passing game.

The University of Washington men’s basketball coach knows that his Huskies are at their best when he’s using a seven- or eight-man rotation. Romar just hasn’t figured out quite yet how to pare it down from nine or 10.

Just about every time Romar went to his bench in Saturday night’s win over Portland, another reserve made a case for extended playing time.

“With Elston Turner playing … his best defensive game since he’s been here, with Scott Suggs and what he did, and then you look at the things that Justin Holiday did — even though he didn’t score a lot of points, he was all over the place — it does make it hard,” Romar said of trying to trim down his rotation.

Suggs was one of the stars of Saturday’s win, scoring a career-high 13 points and shooting 5-of-8 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and adding two steals. Turner also had two steals and scored seven points in 14 minutes of action. Freshman Clarence Trent, who was the last scholarship player off the bench, hit his first two shots and had three rebounds. And Holiday has been one of the Huskies’ top reserves for more than two years.

That doesn’t even include starters-turned-reserves such as bruising forward Tyreese Breshers and guard Venoy Overton, the latter of whom came off the bench Saturday in a reprisal of his 2008-09 role as designated agitator.

About the only scholarship player on the UW roster who did not make a serious push for playing time Saturday night was star freshman Abdul Gaddy, a McDonald’s All-American who was added to the starting lineup, fired an airball on his only shot attempt and spent most of the night in foul trouble. Suggs, Turner, Trent and Holiday made the most of their opportunities, even though none of them played more than 20 minutes in UW’s 89-54 win over the Pilots.

Players like Suggs and Trent said that the unsettled roles have helped light a fire in the bench players during practices.

“It can get a little bit difficult,” Suggs said of not having a set role. “But at the same time, it keeps everybody competitive in practice and keeps everybody playing hard.”

When the Huskies (7-2) host 19th-ranked Texas A&M tonight, Romar will once again be long on players and short on available minutes. UW’s top seven — the starting five, along with Overton and Breshers — are likely to see significant action while Holiday, Suggs, Turner and Trent hope for whatever scraps they can find.

Romar said that finding the right rotation is an ever-changing exercise that often depends on what area the Huskies need to fill on a given night.

“As the first half develops, maybe there’s something else we need,” he said. “You might be about to cook a meal, and as you get into it, you’re like: ‘I don’t have enough salt.’

“We don’t know who’s going to be the salt from game to game. So it appears that the rotation is still out there.”

One area where the starting five has lacked consistency is in 3-point shooting, which makes Suggs’ Saturday performance even more notable. He now leads the team in 3-point accuracy, hitting 41 percent from the outside on 22 attempts. Turner, who is generally regarded as the top shooting threat among UW’s reserves, is shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range.

“Obviously, that’s a weakness of ours,” Romar said of the Huskies’ outside shooting, which ranks 189th out of 268 NCAA Division I teams in 3-point percentage (31.9). “Whether it’s on the bench or with our starters, we’ve got to do a better job of outside shooting.”

Although Romar already has enough able bodies on his bench, he said that it is possible he could keep Overton in that role again this season to get a spark from the reserves. Overton started seven of the first eight games of this season before Gaddy took over Saturday night.

Romar would not say whether Overton or Gaddy would start tonight’s game, but he does like having Overton’s defensive spark off the bench.

“We’ve had sixth men before” that were capable of starting, Romar said. “Brandon Roy was a sixth man his junior year, Tre Simmons was a sixth man, Jamal Williams. Those guys could play.

“Coming off the bench or not, Venoy’s a starter.”

The Huskies have two more games to figure out their starting lineup before Pac-10 play begins. UW hosts Texas A&M (9-2) tonight and San Francisco next Tuesday before Oregon State comes to town for the first conference game Dec. 31.

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