Huskies relaxed, ready for Georgia in NCAA tournament
The Washington Huskies, who seemed loose and confident at practice Thursday, have more experience in the NCAA tournament than their opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Washington Huskies arrived 15 minutes late to their news conference Thursday. They danced, laughed and joked in their locker room before practice.
And after a 40-minute workout, Washington thrilled the smattering of fans inside Time Warner Cable Arena with a half-court, buzzer-beating drill and an impromptu dunk contest.
Freshman Terrence Ross drew the biggest applause when he tossed the basketball off the side of the support bar, caught it in midair, went between his legs and flushed a one-handed jam.
Welcome to the NCAA tournament.
Nervous? Not this group.
"It feels familiar," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Hopefully that translates into something good."
The seventh-seeded Huskies (23-10) are making their third straight tournament appearance. They have eight players with tournament experience. Friday's opponent, No. 10 Georgia (21-11), is making its first trip to the tourney since 2008.
"Our experience should help us," junior Scott Suggs said. "We got a few guys that have been in this situation. For me it's just another game. It's a bigger game obviously, but you don't treat it any different. Maybe that's experience that makes you feel that way."
Loose, confident and ready.
That's how senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning described the Huskies.
"It's something that our upperclassmen have been through," he said. "This is our third time. We know how to get everybody's intensity and energy at a high level, but not being erratic."
Eight Huskies played and four started in the NCAA tournament last year when Washington advanced to the Sweet 16.
Two years ago, six of the current Huskies made appearances in the tournament during a 71-58 win against Mississippi State in the opener. UW lost to Purdue in the second round.
Junior co-captain Isaiah Thomas, who starred in last week's Pac-10 tournament, said the pressure increases as teams advance further in the postseason.
"You know it's win or go home now," he said. "One and done or win six in a row and win the national championship.
"Guys now have got to know that every possession counts. Everything we do counts in practice, and just be ready because the bright lights are on now."
Washington flew to Charlotte on Tuesday and Romar hopes the extra time, as well as Friday's 9:45 p.m. EST start, allows the Huskies to get acclimated to the three-hour time change.
"Coming in an extra day — how we see it right now at this point — was definitely very beneficial," Romar said. "I hope it proves to beneficial in the game."
Romar is no stranger to the tournament. It's his sixth trip in nine years as UW coach. His teams have won in the first round in each of their past four trips and he's 7-5 overall with the Huskies in NCAA-tournament games.
Romar downplayed the experience angle. He said second-year Georgia coach Mark Fox, who made three NCAA tournament trips with Nevada, also has postseason experience.
"They have been involved in the NCAA tournament quite a bit, so they totally understand how to get a team prepared and play in an NCAAA-tournament situation," Romar said. "So I don't know if there's any advantage."
Senior forward Jeremy Price, the only Georgia player with postseason experience, said he believes the Bulldogs have played in pressure games. Georgia was considered a bubble team and finished the season 5-5 in its last 10 games.
"The last few weeks were all playoff-type of games," Price said. "We knew we had to win as many as we could just to be here. You don't go through something like that and not be ready. We're ready."
If Thursday's practice is any indication, Washington appeared a little more at ease on the big stage than Georgia, which took a businesslike approach.
Both teams worked out privately earlier in the day, and the public practices were more fine-tuning.
The Bulldogs took a few practice shots and ended early. The Huskies concluded their workout with freshman Desmond Simmons and Suggs banking in midcourt shots to beat the buzzer and several Huskies showing off their dunking skills.
"Experience counts the most before the game," Bryan-Amaning said. "You know how to stay loose, keep calm and prepare for the game.
"Once the game gets going and you get a sweat going, then you're playing basketball."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.comFriday
Washington vs. Georgia, East Region @ Charlotte, N.C., approx. 6:45 p.m., Ch. 7
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