Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman
SEATTLE - Senior Night 2. It sounds like a bad slasher flick, except this time the Washington Huskies are looking to play the part of the psychopath that goes nuts. The last time they played the Oregon Ducks, the Ducks were the ones that handled UW like the token blonde that screams bloody murder right before they get their head lopped off.
It really was that bad. The 82-57 dismantling of the Dawgs in Eugene prompted UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar to say that even if the Huskies won four national championships in the interim, five years from now people would be saying, 'What about that Oregon game? What happened there?'
"We were beat very soundly," Romar said Monday as the Huskies prepare to host UO Tuesday night for the right to travel to New York to play in the semifinals of the 75th National Invitation Tournament. The game is set for a 6 pm tipoff, and will be telecast on ESPN.
"It makes for a good storyline - can't wait for revenge‚ but when you get beat like that you're always asking yourself why?"
At the time, Romar dismissed it as a one-off, the result of bad luck (the team ran into a traffic jam that included a fatality that forced them to arrive at Matthew Knight Arena at least 30 minutes later than normal), a red-hot start by the Ducks (Garrett Sim reeled off eight-straight points before the Huskies had even tied their shoes), and their inability to show any poise and patience in the face of adversity on the road.
"When you look at that game, as a team we didn't do a good job," Romar said, summing it up nicely.
But what the game did do for Washington was re-focus their regular-season title aspirations to the point where they rattled off five-straight Pac-12 wins to take it all.
It ended up not being enough to get them to the Big Dance, but the NCAA is in the rear-view mirror and Washington is looking ahead to their last game at Alaska Airlines Arena with a renewed sense of purpose. That purpose was given an outlet Friday when the Huskies took another NCAA Tournament wannabe - Northwestern - apart, while Oregon beat another Big Ten team, Iowa, soundly.
And that's how the Huskies were given another shot at redemption. They were handed another chance at Oregon last year too after the two schools split their regular season, and UW beat the Ducks in the Pac-10 Tournament without breaking a sweat.
The way Oregon is playing right now - they've scored 90 or more points in their last four wins - Washington will have to pull out all the stops in order to add their own happy ending to the horror movie that started at the MATT.
"They have multiple guys that can score," Romar said. "Whenever you have three or four guys that can put the ball in the basket, that makes it hard to defend. They have a lot of weapons on that team, a lot of experienced weapons, and that makes it tough."
In the Ducks' 108-97 win over Iowa, UO had five scorers in double-figures, led by the 25 points of E.J. Singler and 22 of Olu Ashaolu. They shot nearly 60 percent for the game from the field and mixed in 42 points in the paint and 43 points off the bench to create a powerful combination the Hawkeyes couldn't overcome.
In Seattle, Washington held Oregon to one-point off their regular season low as they won 76-60 on New Year's Eve to help kick off their Pac-12 campaign with a home sweep of the Oregon schools.
"We followed the scout well, we played as a team," said freshman guard Tony Wroten of the first UW-UO game. "We were firing on all cylinders."
And then the game that shall not be named happened. While the Huskies can't erase it from the record books, in their minds they can right a horrible wrong, and they can do it on their own home court - where they've only lost two games all season. And win or lose, it's the last time they'll be playing at Hec Ed, which is why it'll be Senior Night all over again for guys like Darnell Gant and Brendan Sherrer.
So what do the Huskies get for hosting Oregon one more time? They get to watch the film that will undoubtedly make their skin crawl and give them the heebie-jeebies. Yeah, it's film of that game played in Eugene, arguably one of the sickest game tapes of all-time if you are a fan of the purple and gold.
"The coaches are going to show it, and it's going to make guys mad again so they can play harder," said Gant.
At the same time, when the NIT bracket first came out and both teams saw that this could be a potential quarterfinal showdown, it's what these Huskies wanted. Call them sadistic, call them incentivized; Washington wanted this opportunity, and now they got it.
"Everybody on the team wants to play Oregon to redeem ourselves," said guard Terrence Ross, who went off for a career-high 32 points in UW's 76-55 win over Northwestern. "I think it's going to carry extra motivation. I think we're going to come out, ready to go. We have a lot more on the line. We know that. We just don't want to play the same way we did last time. We've been playing so well lately, it should just carry over in the effort and our intensity."
So what's the scout? What does UW need to do this time around to repeat the 16-point New Year's Eve win? Romar knows it's as much about defense as it is about offense, but more than anything it's about the Huskies just doing what they do best. That means Ross and C.J. Wilcox score points; that means Wroten and Abdul Gaddy make the extra pass to the shooters and stay within themselves; that means Gant and Aziz N'diaye dominate the paint, defend with a purpose and force the Ducks out of their comfort zone.
"Whatever you do, bring that in this game," Romar said, matter-of-factly. "You don't need to be Superman; whatever you do - do it this game."