Dominant at home, Huskies still scratching heads over road woes

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 11:18pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — After playing a game in black uniforms over the weekend, the University of Washington men’s basketball team might want to turn to another fashion alternative for next week’s road trip to the Bay Area.

May we suggest red heels?

The Huskies have spent the good part of this season doing their best Dorothy impersonation. For UW, there is no place like home.

“Our crowd does an awesome job of getting on the other team, and we just feed off that energy,” said senior forward Quincy Pondexter, whose Huskies have gone 14-1 at home this season. “I think because we practice here (at Hec Edmondson Pavilion) non-stop, we’ve got a good feel for the court, and the ball seems to go in for us here.”

The Huskies aren’t just good at home; they are at times unstoppable. Since suffering the lone loss in 15 home games against Oregon one month ago, UW has outscored four visiting opponents by an average score of 98-68. The closest of UW’s past four home games has been a 15-point win over Cal on Jan. 16, a game that saw the Huskies score 14 unanswered points midway through the first half and maintain a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Even head coach Lorenzo Romar has been pleasantly surprised by how well the Huskies (15-7 overall, 4-5 in the Pacific-10 Conference) have played at home this season.

“To a degree, it has” been surprising, Romar said Tuesday. “We’re not as interested in the score as much as how well we’ve played and whether we’ve played to our potential. But the outcomes, we didn’t know that would happen.”

The baffling part — for Romar as well as the UW fan base — is how the Huskies have been unable to generate anywhere near the same results on the road. UW has gone 14-1 at home, winning by an average margin of almost 23 points per game, while going 0-6 in road and neutral-site games.

The dominating home performances have given Romar hope that his team might be able to find some sort of consistency down the stretch.

“It does show that it’s within us,” he said. “We haven’t had as much success on the road to show it. Whatever it is, we’re capable of playing much better on the road than we have been.”

One of the teams that humbled the Huskies on the road will be in town Thursday night, when Arizona plays at Hec Ed Pavilion less than a month after beating UW by 17 points in Tucson. Wildcats head coach Sean Miller knows that he’ll probably see a different Huskies team when playing on UW’s turf.

“They play with a tremendous amount of energy and emotion,” Miller said of the Huskies in home games. “You can tell that they feed off their crowd. Certainly, they’re a very difficult team to beat at home, and we know that going in.”

Washington State coach Ken Bone, a former UW assistant, said that the home-court advantage at Hec Ed has increased since he was at the school from 2002 through 2005.

“The more people talk about it, the more the students get fired up and take pride in doing their part,” said Bone, whose Cougars jumped out to an early lead at UW over the weekend but got blown out in the second half. “They do a great job of it. They’re loud, they get there early and they just do a great job with their students.”

The only team to beat UW at home this season was Oregon, which maintained a safe lead for most of the night in a 90-79 win on Jan. 2. Ducks coach Ernie Kent said there was no secret to handling the environment.

“It’s such a great home-court advantage that you’ve got to go in there and be really, really, really focused on the task at hand and drown out everything on the periphery,” Kent said. “It can be really overwhelming. It’s great momentum for them, and we did a good job of that when we were there.

“It’s a great environment up there, maybe the best environment in the conference.”

Since the loss to Oregon, UW has won four games by — in order — 33 points, 15 points, 47 points and 28 points. It’s become the biggest home-court advantage in the Pac-10.

“We feel like we can do that against anybody,” UW sophomore Isaiah Thomas said. “We’ve just got to switch it to the road games.”

Romar likes what he’s seen from the Huskies in recent home games, but he’s not making any promises about how this team might fare when it goes back on the road next week.

“I’m not good at predictions,” he said when asked whether his team has shown enough in recent home games for him to think it will play better on the road. “I wouldn’t go that far.

“I hate to say it, but we’ve got to play Arizona. We don’t go on the road until next week. Before going on about how we’re going to do, we’ve got to get this done here.”

Of note

One of the most popular players in terms of media interviews this week has been sophomore walk-on Brendan Sherrer, a former Archbishop Murphy player who spent last season watching games from the student section. Sherrer has scored a basket in each of the Huskies’ past two games. “When he’s out there,” Pondexter said, “you know (the game is) over either way.”

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