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February 3, 2007

Huskies look lost in worst loss of the year

On Thursday, the Huskies were able to find their first road win of the season against Arizona State. After much struggle away from home, it was a welcome sight for a suddenly resurgent UW squad.

However, in Tucson on Saturday morning they could not duplicate the effort.

And it was not even close.

Washington lost its offensive touch somewhere along the 100 mile trip down Interstate-10 as it arrived to face Arizona . Shooting just 38 percent from the floor, the Huskies (14-8, 4-7 Pac-10) fell to the Wildcats for the second time this season, 84-54.

"We rushed a few shots today," sophomore Artem Wallace told KJR. "Our game plan was to go inside-out and when we did that we got some pretty good shots, but weren't able to knock them down."

It was the worst loss of the season for the UW and the worst loss for the program since a 32 point thrashing at the hands of Arizona State in 2003. A squad on a three game winning streak and working to get itself back into the tournament picture, finds itself with no margin for error left this season.

"I thought this would be a much closer game," coach Lorenzo Romar told KJR. "I thought we had a chance to come in here and be successful. There wasn't anything close to that today unfortunately."

While the Huskies kept things close early on, with a Jordan Hill goaltending call putting the UW down just one at 17-16, Arizona began to light up the scoreboard in a hurry. With an array of jumpers, lay-ins, 3-pointers and free throws, the Wildcats ran out on a 20-4 spurt.

"We tried to come out with as much energy as possible, and I thought we did a decent job in the beginning," Wallace told KJR. "But we weren't able to guard their transition and they got some easy buckets on us."

And while they slowed up a bit at the end of the half, the Wildcats still put the UW into a position it had not been all season. With the score at 45-26 going into the break, Washington was facing its biggest first half deficit of the year at 19.

The previous high for the Huskies was their 14 point deficit at UCLA in the first weekend of Pac-10 play.

"That team is a rhythm team, a momentum team," Romar told KJR. "We did not compete hard enough to stop those runs; we couldn't put the fires out."

While the turnover woes that have plagued the UW all season long were not a factor, with Washington actually holding a 14 to 17 edge in that category, the rebounding advantage it usually enjoys was destroyed by a feisty Wildcat squad. Washington - the Pac-10's best rebounding team - corralled 25 rebounds in the contest while Arizona finished with 42.

Part of that was due to the foul trouble picked up by forward Jon Brockman. The sophomore scored ten points in the early going, but after picking up a fourth foul early in the second half he was limited to just 17 minutes in the contest. Brockman is the UW's leading rebounder this season.

In his place, though, Wallace had his best game in the purple and gold. He put up a career-high 12 points-besting his previous high of nine-while shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor.

"I am so proud of Artem. He came in on the road in a tough situation and he just continued to battle, and he out competed anyone who played for us in the game," Romar told KJR. "He was doing the things today that we've seen him do in practice, and we've finally seen him transfer them over into the game situations."

Wallace was the seeming only offensive option for Washington in the second half with Brockman sitting on the bench. In one stretch, he scored six straight.

"I was just trying to play as hard as I can, and you always have to play the same way whether you are up or down," Wallace told KJR. "I get to practice against Jon and (Spencer Hawes), it definitely helps me out a lot. If I can do that stuff against them, I can do it against other teams too."

Arizona (15-7, 6-5 Pac-10) was rolling on all cylinders offensively again after struggling the past few weeks. The Wildcats hit 57 percent of their shots and make 17-of-24 free throws.

Defensively, Hill was the one doing damage. The freshman finished the contest with five blocks to go along with his career-high 16 points.

"There is a reason he is in that starting line up right now," Romar told KJR. "It seems like when we tried to make a run, he was in the middle swatting things back at us."

After losing for the first time in five games in the state of Arizona , the Huskies return home next weekend to face the Bay Area schools.

"We have to take care of our home court," Romar told KJR. "We did get a split here on the road and now we have to go home and take care of business."


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