Washington ready to defend the Pac-10?

Washington guard Isaiah Thomas raised both arms in the air toward the crowd at Bank of America Arena during Sunday's 15-point win against the San Francisco Dons as if to say, "finally."

Not as in, "Finally we're done with our nonconference schedule and can get down to the business of defending our Pac-10 conference championship."

Actually, Thomas was simply relieved that finally, he had made a field goal. His eight other attempts in the game missed, and the sophomore has been in a shooting slump of late. Oh, and Thomas probably didn't get that Bentley he asked for this Christmas, either.

Expectations are low for the Pac-10 this season, and ready or not, conference play begins later this week with the Huskies as the only team that's ranked.

In Joe Lunardi's first in-season bracket of the year, Washington is projected to be a No. 5 seed. Cal gets a No. 9 seed. And with apologies to USC, that's all for the Pac-10 so far.

Starting Thursday with Oregon State, Washington gets its chance to beat up on Pac-10 opponents that didn't exactly help the conference's national reputation.

But concerns remain even with a 9-2 record, as Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar has had to play Whac-A-Mole with his team's struggles at times.

Before the game against USF, he warned the Huskies of it being a trap game and put an emphasis on sharing the basketball and keeping up a consistent defensive effort.

The Huskies went out and couldn't maintain its rhythm against the low-level WCC team, only leading the Dons 47-43 with 11:43 to go before pulling away. Tyreese Breshers came off the bench and blocked four shots to go along with12 points. Washington didn't turn over the basketball much, but was also out-rebounded for the game.

Thomas, meanwhile, found a way to make a difference despite his recent shooting woes. He entered the game scoring 18.8 points per game but only scored a season-low of four against USF. He did manage six assists against the Dons and had seven rebounds last week against Texas A&M.

Guard Quincy Pondexter, the team's lone senior and unquestioned team leader, is doing his part as the nation's 12th-leading scorer at 21.9 points per game. He's also looking for more out of his team.

"I think as a team, and the coaches, we were really disappointed by our lack of concentration," Pondexter told reporters after the game. "We really wanted to play a lot better than we did tonight. Going into the Pac-10, you want to build up some momentum."