Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is not pleased with the direction his team is heading. Oregon coach Dana Altman likes what he's seeing from his squad.
The No. 20 Huskies look to avoid a season-high third straight loss Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena, where they'll face a Ducks team trying to build on its most lopsided Pac-10 victory in nearly five years.
Since opening 7-1 in conference play for the first time in 24 seasons, Washington (15-6, 7-3) has dropped two straight road games to fall into a second-place tie with UCLA.
The Huskies have scored 68.0 points per game in those two contests - 17.2 fewer than their league-best average - and shot 34.7 percent from the field. Romar, though, is also concerned with Washington's play at the other end of the floor.
"If we're not disciplined on defense, that is on me. It's my fault," he said following a 68-56 loss to Oregon State on Thursday. "I have to get our guys to play better defense. We're capable of doing it, we've done it before, but we've gotten away from it lately."
Romar's team gave up a season-high point total in an 87-80 defeat to Washington State on Sunday. The Cougars shot 48.4 percent.
Junior guard Isaiah Thomas averages team bests of 16.7 points and 5.8 assists, but he's struggled in the previous two contests. He shot 5 of 24 in that span and committed a career-high seven turnovers in each contest.
"It starts with me. I'm the point guard of this team. I take the blame," Thomas told the school's official website. "It feels like if I play good, the team plays good, that the way I go, so goes the team."
Thomas has fared well against Oregon, averaging 21.2 points in five career matchups. The 5-foot-8 guard scored 20 points - including his first college dunk - with nine assists and six boards in a 87-69 home win over the Ducks on Jan. 6.
That was Oregon's fifth loss in a six-game skid, but the Ducks (11-11, 4-6) have improved dramatically at the defensive end in winning four of six since that slide. They have allowed 62.5 points and 40.7 percent shooting during that span after surrendering 75.0 points and allowing opponents to hit 48.9 percent in their first four Pac-10 contests.
"We are a lot different team than a month ago - we have made lots of progress," Altman said after the Ducks held Washington State to 25.9 percent from the floor in a 69-43 home win Thursday. "The guys are working well with each other, we're a better team, but we still have to win."
The win over the Cougars gave Oregon its biggest margin of victory in Pac-10 play since it beat Washington State 67-37 on Feb. 18, 2006.
Washington, winner of two straight and four of six in Eugene, may need big efforts from center Aziz N'Diaye and forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning on Saturday. Oregon forward Joevan Catron has averaged 18.0 points and 7.7 boards in the last three games.
The Ducks senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds Jan. 6, but his team managed one field goal in a nearly nine-minute span of the second half.
Freshman Terrence Ross started in place of the injured Abdul Gaddy in that matchup and finished with a season-high 25 points for Washington.
The Huskies have won 11 of 14 versus Oregon and lead the series 184-103.
This is the teams' first matchup at the new Matthew Knight Arena.