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UW Looking to Reconnect With Their Identity in Husky Classic Tournament

The play of University of Washington center Regina Rogers figures to play a prominent role in this weekend's Husky Classic tournament. <em>Photo via <a href="http://jlindstr.smugmug.com/photos/709090136_R3dZ5-XL.jpg">jlindstr.smugmug.com</a></em>
The play of University of Washington center Regina Rogers figures to play a prominent role in this weekend's Husky Classic tournament. Photo via jlindstr.smugmug.com

Last weekend, the University of Washington Huskies went to Spokane, Washington to play in-state rival Gonzaga University and suffered a disappointing 81-52 loss in which they shot 30%, turned the ball over on 30% of their possessions, and were dominated on the boards.

"We had a lot of just mental lapses in the game," said Jackson. "And it’s unfortunate that we go on the road against a pretty tough talent in Gonzaga and just didn’t have the necessary focus that we needed. All of a sudden we’re taking shots that just didn’t look like the Huskies. it really radiated on the video – so we spent time yesterday watching that video -- and seeing that that just is not us. I don’t know if it was anything that Gonzaga did it was just something that we went in not making that our primary focus."

Early in her comments during Tuesday's media day, it became apparent that Jackson is not dismissing the Gonzaga game as a justifiable loss against a quality opponent – she is redirecting the focus squarely on what her team can do to get back on track.

"We had to let the game come to us," said Jackson during media day on Tuesday. "For those who weren’t present, you would think that they pressed us the entire game and that’s how we had our turnovers. We didn’t. We had our turnovers doing things that weren’t Husky-like: penetrating into the zone, forcing that habit and it was something that just wasn’t us.

"As far as their pressure, they did press us, but we had no turnovers versus their press. It was in their half-court defense that we struggled a little bit. It was more looking to go one-on-one, forcing the action, and we did that more than not. And we needed to do more of the not of that versus the alternative."

So going into this weekend’s Husky Classic tournament at the Bank of America Arena in Seattle, their focus is on starting to "look like the Huskies" again as they prepare to play Eastern Washington University on Friday and Sacramento State on Sunday.

"We’ve really gotta embrace this opportunity at home, give the fans something to be extremely excited about for when we return," said Jackson. "And that’s a real important focus for us. But more than anything it’s about finding who we are – reconnect with who we were before we left to go to Gonzaga."

Facing two smaller teams this weekend, part of reconnecting with who they are will likely entail looking into the post a bit more often to get Laura McLellan and Regina Rogers going.

Post presence is "nice to have"

It has been difficult to ignore Jackson’s excitement about sophomore transfer Regina Rogers throughout this season.

This weekend, Rogers’ inside presence – along with McLellan’s -- figures to play a prominent role in this weekend’s tournament against teams with neither the height nor bulk to match up. 

"It’s nice to have just a low post presence, period," said Jackson in response to a question about Rogers’ 12 point performance in Spokane. "I don’t know if you remember this but my first year we played four guards and a post and it was really more of a forward instead of that legitimate Regina type low post presence."

While Rogers had one of her more impressive scoring performances of the season against Gonzaga, she also had five turnovers and only one rebound. Rogers’ need for development time makes McLellan’s presence on the roster even more important. Thus far, McLellan – who had four points and four rebounds in 14 minutes of play -- has not only embraced the role, but it may also be helping her diversify her game, according to Jackson.

"We’re not taking away from her game, we’re just adding to it," said Jackson in reference to McLellan. "That you can be the face up post player in addition to using your strength and being a low post presence as well."

The post combination could be the difference in this weekend’s tournament.

Scouting Eastern Washington University (2-1)

From looking at game film, Jackson tells us that Eastern Washington is likely to apply pressure and aggressive rebounding.

"We know we’re going to see a lot of man to man pressure against Eastern Washington," said Jackson. "We know we’re going to see some aggressive rebounding. Like I said, balanced scoring – I think every time they play players, they all score. So we know that no matter who’s coming into the game for them, they’re going to look to put the ball up when they see fit."

Looking at the numbers against a common early season opponent – Corban College – reinforces Jackson’s assessment.

Granted, Corban was over-matched by both teams, but the ways in which they beat them might say something about Friday’s matchup. While UW did more thoroughly discomfit Corban in their matchup, Eastern Washington University, a look at the number confirms much of what Jackson said.

While everyone contributed baskets to UW’s 106 points against Corban, guard Sami Whitcomb was clearly the focal point of the offense, scoring 23 points in 23 minutes. In contrast, in their game against Corban, Eastern Washington had eight players with between six and eight field goal attempts and four players in double figures for a much more evenly distributed scoring attack. As Gonzaga showed, shutting down Whitcomb can spell disaster for Washington. EWU might not have one focal point.

Second, although UW ran up 106 points against Corban, EWU forced turnovers more often: Corban turned the ball over on 44% of their possessions against EWU vs. 34% against UW.

However, those things might not matter because the biggest point of separation between these two teams in an evaluation of their wins against Corban is their offensive rebounding percentage: while EWU outrebounded Corban at a rate of 44% of the available offensive rebounds to 37%, UW outrebounded Corban at a rate of 62% to 17% for Corban.

Given UW’s size in the post, the most likely explanation for that difference is one of sheer size. That figures to play out this weekend as well.

Sacramento State (1-2) lacks the size to matchup

Sacramento State is an even smaller team than EWU, starting three forwards and relying primarily on perimeter shooting as evidenced by their 31 three-point shot attempts in their first victory against of the season against Seattle University on Wednesday night (click here for a game analysis).

Similar to EWU, Sacramento State relies on well-rounded offense and hustle.

"They have a very scrappy team, they play hard, they’re good shooters," said Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini.

With the majority of their rotation 6'0" and under, Sacramento State is probably going to try to push the tempo under first year coach Jamie Craighead, as they did so successfully against an undersized Seattle University team. The question is whether that style of play will be as effective against a bigger, more talented University of Washington team.

Forward Charday Hunt, who led Sacramento State in scoring on Wednesday night with 22 points and 10 rebounds, scored primarily on jumpers, both contested and uncontested. While she did get herself to the free throw line often, she also had a tendency to force shots when things weren’t going well for her team. However, when she gets hot, she’s dangerous – during a game-deciding 14-2 stretch in the second half against Seattle University, Hunt scored 11 points from a variety of spots on the court.

Starting forwards Emily Christensen and Seattle native Erika Edwards, combined to shoot 7-14 from the three point line and it will be interesting if they can stay hot against Washington as well.

UW’s opponent doesn’t matter as much as finding themselves

Ultimately, the difference in this tournament might be in the matchups– neither EWU nor Sacramento State appears to have a player the caliber of guard Sami Whitcomb nor do they have the size to match up with players like Laura McLellan or Regina Rogers.

As such, the focus is not on the opponent, but on the Huskies doing what they do best.

"And we’ve really gotta focus on making it about us and less about that opponent," said Jackson. "Not to degrade the opponent in any way -- it’s just we lost ourselves this past weekend so the focus going into this weekend is that we find ourselves."

Related Links:

Sacramento State's Craighead Gets First Win in Three Point Shootout Against Seattle University
http://www.swishappeal.com/2009/11/26/1175126/sacramento-states-craighead-gets

Washington Looks To Rebound At Husky Classic
http://www.gohuskies.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/112509aac.html

UW vs. Corban College
http://www.swishappeal.com/2009/11/10/1125185/activity-vs-achievement-what