Lack of seniors starting to hurt the Huskies
The answer no longer is available. His eligibility is up. The player the Huskies so desperately need, they can't have. After four of the...
Seattle Times staff columnist
LOS ANGELES — The answer no longer is available. His eligibility is up. The player the Huskies so desperately need, they can't have.
After four of the kind of years you'd like to put in some indestructible time capsule, Brandon Roy has gone to the NBA, taking all of that steady-handed leadership with him.
And although it was obvious Washington's program would miss him, nobody could have guessed his absence would be this profound.
"That's life in college basketball," assistant coach Cameron Dollar said. "You play four years and then you leave. That's just the way it is."
But some absences hurt more than others. Some leave a hole on the floor and in your heart. Roy gave Washington swagger. He gave it security. Now, 13 games into life without Roy, the Huskies are struggling to fill that hole Roy left.
The 96-74 thumping Sunday by UCLA, the nation's top-ranked team, was a stark reminder of how much the Huskies miss Roy and how far away, at the end of the calendar year, they are from being the Sweet 16 team they've been the past two seasons.
"We aren't as good as last year's team right now," Dollar said. "That's just a fact. We aren't last year's team. Now, can we get back there this year? We can."
The Huskies are young, especially at the decision-making spots, real young. And against UCLA's swarming quickness, they seemed flustered. They committed four turnovers in the first four minutes as the Bruins took a 13-2 lead. And, after cutting the deficit to five, they ended the half with another flurry of mistakes that triggered a 9-0 UCLA run.
Last season, it was Washington making those withering runs. And late in games, when they were protecting leads, it seemed the ball always was in Roy's hands.
"Brandon was one of the best one-on-one players in the country," junior guard Ryan Appleby said. "Any time we needed a bucket we could get the ball in his hands, and he could create something for himself or, if he had to, he could kick it to somebody for a shot. We miss him, but you've got to move on and you've got to grow up."
When the Huskies needed a press broken, Roy broke it. When then-freshman point guard Justin Dentmon was trapped, it usually was Roy who sprung him. And when the offense broke, Roy was there to fix it.
Last season, the Huskies were college basketball's leading anachronism. They were loaded with senior leadership. Roy was the star, but he was complemented by Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen and Jamaal Williams.
This team, as talented as it is, misses all of those seniors.
"You're not going to replace Brandon Roy," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Sure you miss Brandon Roy, but I just think it's a matter of us coming together. Probably we have to grow up a little more, but after tonight, we can't keep using that grow-up thing as an excuse. I've had about enough of that."
After one of the worst losses in his four-plus seasons at Washington, Romar sounded like a parent tired of his child making the same mistakes. Patience is a luxury Romar doesn't have. In college basketball, the remote always is stuck on fast forward.
"You can 'Youth' yourself right out of the season," Dollar said. "No excuses."
Last season, Washington turned the ball over 20 or more times only once. Already this season the Huskies have had seven 20-or-more turnover games.
Against UCLA, they committed 22 turnovers. Freshmen Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter combined for 11 and Dentmon had four.
"To just say we're young is just an excuse," Dentmon said. "I think everybody is old enough to face adversity. I think right now we just hit a wall and now it's time to climb over it. Sure, I miss the whole team from last year, but you have to move forward. You just keep moving."
This season, the Pac-10 is as punishing as it has been in a decade. It might be the best conference in the country. And to survive, to have a chance to make its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Washington (10-3 overall, 0-2 Pac-10) has to win all of its home games, beginning Thursday against Arizona.
There are no more Southern Utahs and Idahos on the schedule. Every game, every night, from now until March is fraught with unpleasant possibilities.
"We've got to grow up," Appleby said. "Everybody on this team's played in big games now. Eventually we've got to start catching up with our schedule and right now is about the time of the year where you've got to start putting everything together."
Because Sunday, it felt as if it all came apart.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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