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WSU ready for the road


COUGARS

The Huskies may be well down the Pac-10 standings, but, other than an inexplicable loss to Oregon, have been a force to reckon with at home. That's the subject of our advance for tomorrow's S-R. The unedited version is on the link, so read on.
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• Here's the story ...

SEATTLE – There are lots of tales in literature of two-sided beings, from Janus in Roman myth to Two-Face in the Batman comics.

But there isn't better example of a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality in Pac-10 Conference basketball than the Washington Huskies.

At home, the Huskies play as if they want to rip off your hide. On the road, they're more like Heckle and Jeckle.

And no one, not even coach Lorenzo Romar, knows why UW is 13-1 in Hec Edmundson Pavilion – the lone defeat to Oregon – and 0-6 everywhere else.

"It's hard to totally put our finger on it," Romar said this week. "We have not defended on the road. At times we have not shared the ball as well.

"I think we can't fake who we are at home. We play at certain way. If we weren't the team we are at home, you can't make that up, you can't manufacture it. You either have it or you don't. And we have it."

If Romar can't clarify exactly what UW has at home, maybe he'll take the explanation offered by the coach of today's opponent, Washington State's Ken Bone.

After all, Bone spent three years as a UW assistant and took his Portland State teams into Hec Ed the last three seasons, so he's seen the home-court advantage from both benches.

"They are able to play much more physical at home," Bone said. "On the road, I don’t think they get away with playing with that physicality. To me that’s the biggest difference. When you can do that, there is certainly an advantage."

An advantage Bone's Portland State teams couldn't overcome, losing three times. And the first-year WSU coach knows it will be difficult for his Cougars to improve on their 14-6 overall and 4-4 Pac-10 marks today.

"They are a team that is as good as any team in the conference, maybe in the country, on playing on their home court," he said of the Huskies, 3-5 in Pac-10 play. "They are absolutely relentless there."

As are their fans.

"It's a real tough place to play," said WSU's Marcus Capers, a sophomore from Florida who experienced the rivalry for the first time last year. "The fans know more than they should about some of our players."

And then there was the action. The Huskies won 67-60 – snapping a three-game WSU win streak at Hec Ed – in a game featuring a confrontation between Overton and Rochestie.

"Last year, Venoy (Overton) and Taylor got into it, I don't know who initiated it, but they head-butted each other at the 3-point line," Capers said. "That's just the rivalry. That's just what we're going to have to get ready for."

Overton might be the poster boy for UW's aggressive play at home. The 5-foot-11 junior guard attacks the dribbler relentlessly, inciting the fans and spurring his teammates to even greater defensive efforts.

"He gets away with a lot of stuff at his court," said the 6-4 Capers, who is the Cougars' best perimeter defender. "A lot of hand checks, I've seen that on the video."

Speaking of video, the only ones Bone has shown to his team were filmed in Hec Ed.

"At home this team is different than they are on the road," he explained. "And we are preparing for Washington at home, on their home court. ... My concern is that they are very, very, very good at home."

Romar agrees.

"I think we really feed off of our crowd at home because our crowd is really good," he said. "We haven’t been able to muster up that same energy on the road."

"On the road, their energy drops a little bit," Capers agreed. "At their home court, they're upbeat, up-tempo and they're really ready to play.

"It will be a fight as soon as we come in there. That's what we've got to understand. They're not going to let us win. They own that court. We're going to have to compete."

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• That's all for now. We'll be back in the morning with our usual post. Until then ...




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