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Originally published Sunday, February 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies "horrible" in desert debacle

As loudly as the scoreboard at McKale Center spoke, the one in Lorenzo Romar's head said even more. "The thing we talk about with our team...

Seattle Times staff reporter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- As loudly as the scoreboard at McKale Center spoke, the one in Lorenzo Romar's head said even more.

"The thing we talk about with our team more than anything is competing and being tough," Romar said.

That's a game Romar believes the Huskies have almost always won during his tenure.

But Saturday afternoon, it was one they lost as decisively as the official score, which showed Arizona beating the Huskies 84-54 in a Pac-10 men's basketball game.

"I thought we would have competed harder today," said Romar.

Instead, they were outworked, outhustled and outclassed from the opening tip in dropping a game that loomed critical to their NCAA tournament hopes, which had been buoyed by wins in their last three games.

"We took a huge step back," said Washington forward Jon Brockman. "We feel like we can win the rest of our games, but not with this effort. We've got to clean up a bunch of stuff."

It'll certainly help that Washington finishes with five of seven Pac-10 games at home. But Saturday, in an away game against a marquee team, the Huskies again were routed. The defeat was the second-worst of Romar's five-year UW coaching tenure, topped only by a 89-57 defeat at Arizona State on Jan. 9, 2003, midway through his first season.

Arizona used an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take a 45-26 halftime lead, and that was essentially that.

"We didn't come out with the right attitude, and we paid for it," said Washington center Spencer Hawes.

Maybe the Huskies simply aren't good enough to win this kind of game in this kind of setting right now. But Romar would like to have the chance to find out, saying his team never gave itself a real shot due to "our inability to compete at the highest level."

"We talk about that a lot, and it's something we've got to get better at. ... We've got to understand how important it is, and obviously I've got to do a better job of getting our guys to understand it."

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Competing has been a hallmark of Romar's UW teams. But so far, this group hasn't seemed able to match the legacy of Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones and Will Conroy.

"The entire team wasn't working as hard as it should have," admitted guard Justin Dentmon.

As a result, the Huskies find themselves 14-8 overall and 4-7 in conference, mired in eighth place, far removed from anyone's NCAA tournament brackets.

Arizona (15-7, 6-5), meanwhile, busted out of a slump that had seen it lose six of eight since a win Jan. 4 in Seattle against the Huskies.

"It was critical to have a game like this," said Arizona coach Lute Olson.

Arizona had shot better than 50 percent just once since leaving Seattle, a game when the Wildcats made 65.3 percent in a 96-87 win at Edmundson Pavilion. But the sight of the Huskies revived their shooting stroke as the Wildcats hit 31 of 54 for the game (57.4 percent).

"The trick was to make sure they didn't get open looks in the beginning of the game to get them confident," Romar said. "That was the plan, but obviously it was not executed because they came out and they did get open looks."

Arizona freshman Chase Budinger hit 5 of 6 shots in the first half and 3 of 3 three-pointers to lead the way early.

But the Wildcats dominated every area, outrebounding the Huskies 42-25 -- only the second time all year UW has been outboarded -- and holding Washington to 24-of-63 shooting (38.1 percent).

Washington was also just 3 of 20 on three-pointers.

"We settled for the three too often," Romar said.

There often seemed little else to do, however, as Hawes was outplayed by Arizona freshman Jordan Hill, finishing with just six points -- tying his second-lowest total as a Husky -- and Brockman played just 17 minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.

"I just had a bad game," Hawes said. "I don't know what it was."

Unlike some of UW's other losses, however, there seemed no mitigating circumstances in this one. The team thought it had gotten over its road woes with the win at Arizona State on Thursday and health wasn't an issue.

"I don't think there's any excuse for this one," Hawes said.

The Huskies come home for three games now -- against California, Stanford and Washington State.

"We can only go up," Brockman said. "That was a horrible game."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

Forgettable losses
Washington's 30-point loss Saturday at Arizona was the second-worst since Lorenzo Romar became coach. Four of the 10 worst defeats in that span have come this season:
Diff. Score Site, opponent Date
32 89-57 At Arizona State Jan. 9, 2003
30 84-54 At Arizona Feb. 3, 2007
28 75-47 At Washington State Jan. 20, 2007
25 91-66 At Oregon Jan. 23, 2003
24 86-62 Gonzaga Dec. 3, 2004
22 96-74 At UCLA Dec. 31, 2006
22 98-76 At Washington State March 1, 2003
22 82-61 At UNLV Nov. 30, 2003
20 82-62 At Oregon State Jan. 25, 2003
20 97-77` At Gonzaga Dec. 9, 2006
Source: UW sports information

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