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February 21, 2011

Huskies hope Arizona game left impression

Venoy Overton has never seen his team so overcome with emotion after a painful loss.

Saturday's game against Arizona, when the Wildcats won 87-86, has been a hard pill for the Huskies to swallow, and also dashed any remaining realistic hopes of winning the Pac-10 Conference regular season title.

"We battled in the second half," Overton said of his team's will to win. "After the game, it was probably the longest we ever sat in our locker room without moving. Everybody just sat there and nobody showered. It was a tough loss."

Washington is now 18-8 overall and 10-5 in the Pac-10, and with only four games left, the Huskies are motivated to finish their regular season strongly.

Head coach Lorenzo Romar, who acknowledged the one-point loss as being "hard to handle," still believes his team has reason to make its presence known, despite recent shortcomings.

"We're out trying to be the best team that we can be, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like that's going to translate into a Pac-10 championship, but it still can't take away from our goal of playing to our potential," Romar said.

Saturday's loss to Arizona, which aired on national television and has been hailed by many as being the best game of the Pac-10 this season, may prove oddly beneficial for the Huskies in their quest to get to the NCAA Tournament.

Other than the automatic bid that goes to the Pac-10 tournament champion, all other conference teams will have their NCAA Tournament fate decided by the selection committee.

Romar hopes the game that slipped through his team's fingers will at least provide Husky basketball with some valuable on-air exposure.

"That was a great college basketball game," he said. "I think when you watch those two teams playing out there it has to cross your mind that they're going to be very competitive in postseason play. It's one thing to read about it, but to actually see it will impress people more."

In the meantime, however, the Huskies are taking it day by day and treating each upcoming matchup as equally important, including Tuesday's non-conference game against Seattle University at KeyArena.

Freshman C.J. Wilcox, who made a splash off the bench making 8-of-17 3-point attempts during the Arizona road trip, doesn't feel any less pressure to win when the Huskies face Seattle University. The Huskies lead the all-time series, 21-4.

Even though the Huskies are expected to win, Wilcox understands that the Huskies can't let their guard down when they face their cross-town opponent, a relative newcomer to Division I basketball.

"We have to treat every game the same," he said.

Romar agrees.

"The focus in how we approach each game remains the same," he said.

Perhaps giving the Huskies a final boost of energy is the fact that three of their top players won't be coming back next year, and they want to make their final games count.

As the regular season comes to a close, the realization that their time sporting Washington jerseys is nearly over is slowly sinking into the seniors on the team: Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Overton.

"I was talking to Holiday about that," Overton said of their dwindling time playing for Washington. "We're just trying to finish the season the right way and go out with all wins."

Regardless of class standing, the pressure to salvage a postseason appearance is unanimously being felt by all Huskies - freshmen and seniors alike - and there is no more room for error.

"We can't stumble right now," Romar said. "We have four games where we don't leave Seattle before the Pac-10 Tournament, and we need to take advantage of that."

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