Washington guard Venoy Overton moves back into starting lineup
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar picks senior Venoy Overton to replace injured Scott Suggs in Huskies' starting lineup.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW @ Arizona, 3 p.m., ESPN
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TUCSON, Ariz. — It's all about the legs.
If they're OK, then Venoy Overton is OK. And for so very long, his legs were not OK.
They were bruised and battered, which robbed the Washington guard of his quickness and confidence.
Without his legs, Overton says he was less than average and not the ballhawking, annoying defensive menace who tormented Pac-10 guards the previous three seasons.
Overton's recent return to health is timely for Washington, which faces No. 12 Arizona at 3 p.m. Saturday without starting junior guard Scott Suggs.
Suggs strained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and will miss at least the next three games, leaving the Huskies without their best three-point shooter.
To fill the void in the starting lineup, coach Lorenzo Romar is turning to Overton once again.
He could have given redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox or freshman Terrence Ross their first start, but for now Romar chose the 6-foot, 185-pound senior.
Several factors contributed to the decision, including the fact Overton has started 38 games.
"We're on the road, (and) he's been in this situation before," Romar said. "And he's playing well.
"If it was a different game, a different scenario we might go with someone else. C.J. is playing really well. Terrence Ross is arguably our most talented player. So you could have someone else."
When Abdul Gaddy suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 4, Overton moved into the starting lineup and started three games before being replaced by Suggs.
At the time, Overton was in the middle of seasonlong slump that he attributes to a litany of injuries.
Before the season, he pulled his left hamstring and missed most of training camp and the exhibition opener.
Late in the Nov. 16 game against Eastern Washington, he took a hard spill and bruised his tail bone.
Overton also hyperextended his left knee Dec. 20 in practice and missed the Nevada game, snapping a streak of 114 consecutive games played.
Through the struggles, Overton believed things would get better.
"Basically time was going to tell," he said. "I knew I wasn't going to play like this the whole season. I knew it was going to change."
In the past three games, Overton has averaged 10 points, 5.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
Thursday's performance at Arizona State might have been his best game of the season. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a season-high 30 minutes.
"I feel healthier," Overton said. "My legs are back. I feel like I'm fast again. I can move lateral. Basically I feel like I'm 100 percent. Better than I had been."
Without Suggs, Washington enters Saturday's ESPN-televised contest with just eight available players on scholarship.
Arizona coach Sean Miller said the Huskies might not feel the effects of losing Suggs immediately, but it's going to negatively impact Washington if he's out for an extended period of time.
"If I was in Lorenzo Romar's shoes I would probably feel like it's a tough loss," Miller said. "He's an excellent shooter.
"Part of what makes Washington who they are, they have great depth. But they also have a number of guys who can score coming off the bench. Make threes and change the game. I'm sure in some ways it will be a loss."
Junior co-captain Isaiah Thomas said the Huskies are a different team with Suggs, the Pac-10's three-point percentage leader at 45.5 percent, than Overton, who shoots 27.3 percent on treys.
"I just told Venoy, 'They're going to leave you open,' " Thomas said. " 'Just step in with confidence and shoot the ball. You can't hesitate.' "
Much has changed since the last time Washington and Arizona met, on Jan. 20 at Edmundson Pavilion.
In that game — an 85-68 UW win — the Huskies were No. 20 and the Wildcats were unranked in The Associated Press poll.
Washington had a 1 ½-game lead in the conference standings over second-place Arizona and the Huskies seemed poised to run away with the regular-season title.
In the ensuing weeks, Washington (18-7 overall, 10-4 Pac-10) suffered a three-game losing streak and slipped to third in the conference while Arizona (22-4, 11-2) won seven straight games and moved to the top of the league.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has been impressed with Arizona's ability to win tight games, including a triple-overtime thriller at California and a two-point victory at Washington State.
He said the Wildcats are the most consistent team in the Pac-10.
"When you look at Arizona right now, what you see is the definition of team," he said. "It really seems like to me at this point of the year, from top to bottom, more guys have just said it doesn't matter who gets the credit."
"Some guys are playing better as a result of that. Everybody is just content with whatever I can do to help coach. When teams get to that level, they're hard to deal with."
Making matters worse for Washington, Arizona expects a capacity crowd at the 14,545-seat McKale Center. The school is organizing a whiteout and encouraging Wildcats fans to dress in white.
"This is one of the biggest games of the season," Overton said. "We're playing for trying to get to the top of the Pac-10. We're playing for the NCAA tournament, to get key wins on our resume.
"There's no better feeling than an ESPN game. It's sold out. All white for them guys. It's a big event for them and we're trying to ruin their moment."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Cats and Dawgs|
|Arizona has a decided edge over UW in Pac-10 regular-season play:|
|2||Tied for first||2|
|1||Tied for second||0|
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