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Huskies excited to face Long Beach State in NIT

Washington’s Noah Dickerson scrambles for a loose ball in the Huskies’ Pac-12 Tournament game against Stanford. (Associated Press)
Washington’s Noah Dickerson scrambles for a loose ball in the Huskies’ Pac-12 Tournament game against Stanford. (Associated Press)
Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – Lorenzo Romar did not watch the NCAA tournament selection show on Sunday. Once the Washington Huskies were eliminated from the Pac-12 tournament, Romar went on the road to recruit, and he was driving home from the airport when the show aired on Sunday afternoon.

Of course, the UW coach didn’t need to watch the insufferable two-hour program to know that Washington would not be selected. The Huskies knew that when they lost to Oregon on Thursday in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, they would be relegated to the National Invitation Tournament.

So when the NIT selection show revealed UW’s fate on Sunday night – the Huskies are a No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Long Beach State at 6 p.m. Tuesday – there was “wasn’t a whole lot of cheering at all,” Romar said.

This isn’t where the Huskies want to be. But it’s where they knew they were headed after failing to win enough games to qualify for the big dance. And Romar hopes they’ll make the most of it.

“I think our guys are excited to go and continue to play,” he said Monday.

“You get to compete at a high, high level. You get to play for a championship. Our fifth-year senior, Andrew Andrews, gets to play more games. And then our younger players get more game experience. It’s a home game, so we have a chance to let our people come out and watch us play again, and we get to play in front of them, so we’re ready to go.”

Romar said the team practiced Sunday night after the announcement, and that “our guys had a lot of energy.”

Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, will finish his collegiate career without an NCAA tournament appearance. But he said at this point, he’s simply looking forward to playing more games with his teammates. And he agreed with Romar’s assessment of Sunday’s practice.

“You would think we would come down kind of feeling sorry for ourselves, but we had a really good practice,” Andrews said. “One of our actually best practices of the year. Coaches weren’t on us as much, especially for the circumstances that took place. It was a really good practice. Everyone seemed upbeat and excited to play.”

Romar is trying to do his part to get fans excited, too. He purchased all available tickets in the Dawg Pack – UW’s student section – so that students can attend free of charge.

The gesture is “a token of appreciation,” he said, for what he felt was stronger support from the student section this season.

They won’t get to see a big-name opponent, though Long Beach State is stout in its own right. The 49ers came just two possessions short of advancing to the NCAA tournament, losing 64-60 to Hawaii in the Big West tournament championship game, and Romar describes them as “very, very scrappy.”

LBSU (20-14) faced three Pac-12 opponents this season – UCLA, Oregon and Arizona, all on the road – and lost to each. But the 49ers do shoot 36.9 percent from 3-point range, and they have three rotation players who shoot 38.6 percent or better.

“Just about everyone that they put on the basketball floor can shoot the ball,” Romar said. “It’s one thing to say they shoot a lot of 3s and it’s generated by a couple of guys, but just about everyone they put on the floor can knock that 3 down, so that makes it difficult.”

But if the Huskies play like they want to be there – not always a given in the NIT – this isn’t a game they should lose.

“I think we’re excited to get back on the court, excited to have more games,” Andrews said. “It wasn’t what we wanted, but any time you get into a postseason tournament that you accept, it’s exciting to play another game.”

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