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Originally published Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar trying to fix stumbling Huskies' chemistry

Washington has lost five of its past seven games and coach Lorenzo Romar is focused on figuring out "who's supposed to be taking shots and where."

Seattle Times staff reporter

Thursday

Cal State Northridge @ Washington, 7 p.m.

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After losing five of the past seven games Washington coach Lorenzo Romar identified three problems that threaten to ruin the Huskies' season.

For starters the UW guards have not been able to keep opposing ballhandlers out of the lane, which has compromised the interior defense and allowed opponents open perimeter shots.

"The way we play, defense is the catalyst for everything we do," Romar said. "When we don't defend, things don't go well for us."

Secondly, players need to do a better job moving without the ball, spacing and passing to the open man rather than forcing contested shots.

"With each one of our guards, when someone else is open or has a better shot, pass them the ball," Romar said.

Repairing a broken defense that's allowed 76.3 points per game and getting players to share the ball is easier than improving Washington's sour chemistry, which is the third and arguably most important area of concern for Romar.

It might require shifting responsibilities, redistributing shot attempts among five players who average at least nine points and redefining roles.

"We have not settled on that yet," Romar said. "Who's supposed to be taking shots and where. We're still evolving that way."

Shot selection has been an issue the past two games, which coincides with Washington's switch to a four-guard lineup.

In Sunday's 92-73 defeat to South Dakota State, Terrence Ross attempted just four shots, and C.J. Wilcox had five attempts Friday in an 87-80 win over UC Santa Barbara.

Foul trouble reduced their minutes in both games, but Romar said they need more scoring opportunities. Especially Ross.

"We told our team — not just our guards — we can't go too many more games with Terrence Ross taking that many shots," Romar said. "Terrence is a phenomenal scorer. He needs to get more shots."

Ross, who averages 15.4 points, is third on the team with 121 attempts behind Tony Wroten Jr. and Wilcox, who each have 124.

Romar has no issues with Wroten taking so many attempts because the freshman point guard is third among UW players with a 49.2 field-goal percentage. He also leads the team with a 16.4 scoring average and has tallied 23, 27 and 23 points the past three games.

"The rule of thumb for me if you're shooting at 50 percent, (then) you need to shoot the ball and be very aggressive," Romar said.

If not Ross, Wilcox and Wroten, then somebody has to take fewer shots and distribute the ball and presumably that's Abdul Gaddy.

The junior point guard is fourth in attempts (79) while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 assists.

Gaddy's situation is similar to that of former Washington star Will Conroy.

"Will Conroy had a tough time with being the guy that wasn't going to score," Romar said. "When we weren't winning, he felt 'I'm going to score, just like Brandon (Roy) and Tre (Simmons) and Nate (Robinson).'

"We kept talking to him about it and finally it clicked. You know the rest of the story. All-time assists leader in school history. Did a lot of winning and ended up being one of the best point guards to play here. But that took awhile."

With one nonconference tuneup before the Dec. 29 Pac-12 opener, the Huskies must adapt on the fly.

Junior center Aziz N'Diaye, who missed the past two games due to a sprained right knee, will return Thursday against Cal State Northridge.

However, he'll come off the bench, giving the four-guard lineup another chance to improve the chemistry that's been absent recently.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @percyallen.

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