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March 10, 2006At the beginning of Pac-10 play, the Washington men's basketball team showed a propensity for losing its defensive intensity in the second half of ball games. But after they suffered a few tough losses, faced some adversity, they had put that issue to rest.
Or so it seemed.
But as the clock ran out against Oregon and the Huskies watched their chance of repeating as Pac-10 champions fall to the wayside, that same issue was once again thrust to the forefront.
The Huskies had let themselves return to the lackadaisical ways that we thought they had left behind in Pullman.
"Something that we talk about a lot is don't allow your offense to be the thing that gives you a mindset to create intensity," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Tonight we weren't as successful in the second half offensively and it was a let down defensively."
In the first half, Washington was on fire. It hit 50 percent of its shots from the floor and even connected on 4-6 from beyond the arc.
But in the second half, we were witness to something completely different.
The Ducks rallied for an 11-0 run in the second half to tie the game up at 57-57. During that stretch, the UW had five consecutive turnovers.
It mirrored the same collapses we saw against Arizona and Washington State when they started 1-2 in the conference season. It was that same loss of intensity coupled with an opposing player heating up from downtown.
This time it was Chamberlain Oguchi who was doing the long distance damage, and just like Josh Akognon and Hassan Adams before him, the Oregon sophomore was unstoppable in the second half.
He finished with 22 points on 6-15 shooting, and as impressive as those numbers are, what stands out the most was that he didn't hit a single shot until there was just 14:35 minutes remaining in the game.
Talk about catching fire. Contested or not, it seemed like every single shot he took over that stretch was nothing but net.
Still, the Huskies should have been able to weather the storm.
In fact, the team that won eight straight to cap the regular season would have got it done. They need to find that team again.
"This team is two teams," said Brandon Roy. "One team is really good and the other one is the last place team in the conference."
To make the transformation from the bad to the good in the middle of the season, it took a wake up call at the hands of Washington State. Maybe they needed this to happen again to realize that just how slim the margin of error is when it comes to March basketball.
These Huskies were playing as good as anyone in the country before this game, and they are going to need to regain that form to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
What makes this loss so disappointing was that the game started out so promising. Roy was being true to his Pac-10 Player of the Year form with 18 first half points and Oregon's Aaron Brooks was ejected for a dirty hit on Ryan Appleby.
Everything just seemed in order for a Husky win, and maybe because of that they started to relax. They got the lead and saw one of Ducks' best players leave the game -so did they drop the intensity just a notch?
Romar doesn't seem to agree with that theory.
"I don't think it was as much us relaxing as it was the ball wouldn't go down for us," he said.
And he's right, the ball didn't go down. They shot 38.7 percent in the second half and made only one of eight three point attempts. It was quite a contrast to what happened in the first period.
But make no mistake, something was missing in this team down the stretch. There just wasn't that same confidence and swagger emanating from them, knowing they would pull it out in the end.
"I think it was just bad leadership in the second half," Roy said. "We seniors need to take this one because we just didn't have any fight."
Maybe it was the leadership, but all I know is that that something was missing. And if they don't find it soon, they are going to be finding themselves going home earlier than they expected.