|No. 17 Washington wearing bullseye|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 30 December 2009 22:24|
``We're going to be wearing the bullseye - the biggest, reddest bullseye on our backs, chests, ankles, everywhere there can be one,'' Washington's lone senior said while looking forward to Thursday night's league opener against Oregon State. ``We're going to be ready.''
Not only are the Huskies (9-2) starting the defense of their first outright conference championship since 1953, they are the Pac-10's only ranked team. It's a difference from 12 months ago, when no one expected Washington to win the Pac-10.
Pondexter, who actually studies sociology, should feel particularly targeted.
He leads Washington and is 11th in the nation with an average of 21.9 points. With second-leading scorer Isaiah Thomas, last season's Pac-10 freshman of the year, in a shooting slump and missing practice time this week with a sore ankle, the burden on Pondexter has increased.
Not that he minds. He's been waiting for four years, first behind Spencer Hawes and then Jon Brockman, to be Washington's top dog.
``Now, it's money time,'' Pondexter said Sunday. ``Now, if (we) lose it's an upset in the Pac-10 because people think that we are going to do a great job this year.
``We have to approach games a little more maturely.''
The Huskies have the luxury of starting their quest for the first back-to-back outright conference titles in school history at home, and against two teams that struggled with inconsistency in the nonconference season. On Saturday, Oregon (8-4) comes to Seattle.
Washington has won all nine of its games at Hec Edmundson Pavilion this season - its only losses are at Texas Tech and in Anaheim, Calif., against Georgetown. The Huskies have won six straight over Oregon State (6-5) in Seattle dating to 2003.
M-Corpus Christi and Illinois-Chicago.
Oregon State presents a challenge for the high-flying Huskies with its uncommon schemes, such as an active 1-3-1 zone defense that often turns games into halfcourt grudge matches. Offensively, the Beavers use coach Craig Robinson's ``Princeton offense,'' a series of back picks and backdoor cuts that Robinson ran while playing at Princeton.
Pondexter's main worry - whether Washington is facing the Beavers, Ducks or the rest of the conference - is Thomas regaining his swagger and status as a scoring threat.
Thomas missed his first seven shots Sunday against San Francisco and is 4 for 22 in his last two games. Coach Lorenzo Romar likes that Thomas is being more of a well-rounded guard.
Criticized at times during his first two college seasons for keeping the ball while double-teamed and forcing shots, Thomas has 19 assists and just five turnovers in the last three contests.
``For whatever reason in the last few games Isaiah really hasn't been knocking his shot down,'' Romar said. ``If he had been shooting 50 percent these last three games he would have been phenomenal, because he is distributing the basketball, making great decisions.''
Yet Pondexter would rather Thomas leave the passing to freshman point guard Abdul Gaddy or shutdown defender Venoy Overton.
``I don't think he's a player that necessarily needs to pass the ball. We need him to score,'' Pondexter said, referring to Thomas. ``We are going to do a better job of finding ways to get him the ball and easier baskets, because we need his production on the offensive end.''