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Originally published December 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 14, 2007 at 11:36 AM

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UW Men's Basketball | Huskies looking for the "best fit"

The marquee names are off the mantel for the next two weeks for the Washington Huskies, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State replaced by Portland...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Portland @ Washington, 3 p.m.

The marquee names are off the mantel for the next two weeks for the Washington Huskies, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State replaced by Portland, Portland State and Cal State Northridge.

Portland is up first, coming to Edmundson Pavilion on Saturday at 3 p.m.

But while maybe not big on paper, the games will be vital for the Huskies in establishing who they are heading into Pac-10 play, which begins Jan. 5 with a home game against Washington State.

With Ryan Appleby back from injury and Adrian Oliver transferring, UW's roster is settled. Now comes the matter of figuring out roles.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar felt some things start to come together last Saturday when the Huskies took No. 12 Pittsburgh to the wire before losing 75-74 in Appleby's first game back.

Still, UW enters the Portland game with an uncertain starting lineup and rotation. Romar shuffled the starting lineup against Pitt and may do so again this week, rewarding those players who have shown the most defensive effort during practice.

"Last year we had so many new faces, so many new guys and sometimes guys just haven't figured it out yet," he said of the emphasis on defense. "This group should have figured it out a little sooner, and we haven't. It all comes back to me. No one else to put it on but me."

Only forward Jon Brockman and point guard Venoy Overton have started every game. Appleby was a starter before his injury and could be again.

But Romar said nothing is certain (other than Brockman, who has started 72 of 73 games he has played at UW).

"There is no one we would say now 'we can't start him,' " Romar said.

That, however, may change as the Huskies try to find answers in the five remaining nonconference games.

"I don't see this as a team once we get into conference where we are continually making all kinds of changes," Romar said. "We are doing them now. We've got to find the best fit. Five starters doesn't always mean it's the five best players but five players who make the best team — that's where your chemistry comes in. So we are looking for our eight or nine that we can put on the floor for a consistent basis to get the majority of the minutes."

One of the odd men out against Pitt was true freshman forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who after starting the previous three games was back to reserve status and played just four minutes. In his place, junior Artem Wallace played a season-high 16 minutes, symbolic of the changing nature of the rotation.

"Coach is trying to get me to play with more energy and more tempo," said Bryan-Amaning. "I think I'm not as far ahead as I should be. I just have to play with more effort, more aggressive and more energy."

The Pitt loss was the fourth in five games for UW, leaving the Huskies at 4-4 for the season. It's the first time UW hasn't been above .500 this late in the year since the 2003-04 season when the team rallied from a 5-8 start to get to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies stand at 179 in the RPI this week.

But Romar believes the team may be about to turn a corner.

"I am actually excited about where we are headed right now based on Saturday's performance and based on the fact that we have our entire team back now and some guys are starting to play better and starting to understand [what the coaches are preaching] and we are beginning to start to jell," he said.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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