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February 15, 2007 at 4:55 PM

Defending Dentmon (slightly, anyway)

It’s easy to point to Justin Dentmon’s 0-5 shooting in the final three minutes of the game as UW went scoreless and pin the whole loss on him.
But I reviewed the game on tape this afternoon, specificially the end, and decided that Dentmon might be getting just a little bit more heat than is maybe deserved.
This isn’t to defend his play for the season — he is now down to 41.4 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from the three-point line, and has only 97 assists against 77 turnovers, none of which are close to good enough.
That said, let’s review those five shots Dentmon took at the end.
The first was an off-balance three-pointer as the shot clock was running out and 2:35 left on the game clock. It was a tough shot to make, but he had no choice but to take it. This shot came after the whole team basically passed the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds finding nothing else open. As the PG, Dentmon shares responsbility for that, no doubt. But as for the shot itself, hard to see what else he could have done there. Maybe he could have driven to the hoop, but he seems pretty out of options by the time he gets the ball.
Dentmon then got the offensive rebound and put back a little finger roll that was short. You could blame him for hurrying that shot, maybe, but on the other hand, he’s a couple feet away from the basket. It was as high percentage a shot as the Huskies were likely to get there considering the way WSU was playing defense. The fault there, it seems, is in the execution, not in the decision.
His third shot then comes at the end of the sequence. After Dentmon missed his putback, Brockman missed a putback but Oliver got the rebound and UW called time out to set up a play.
Here, things fell apart a little bit. Brockman jumped out high to get the ball at the top of the key, but nothing was open and Dentmon ended up with the ball near the three-point line with the shot clock at eight seconds. He then shot a jumper that missed.
On the telecast, Bob Weiss says that both Brockman and Appleby were open, and Appleby does appear to have been wide open a few seconds earlier but Dentmon didn’t get him the ball. This is the first shot were Dentmon deserves healthy blame, in my estimation, for both exection and decision, the latter of which is the most critical. With eight seconds left, he still had time to find someone else, or even better, drive to the hoop and create something. But in his defense on this point, no one else was doing anything, either. This was another possession where the ball was basically passed around for 25 seconds before Dentmon finally decided to do something.
Dentmon’s next shot comes with 23.8 seconds left, a drive to the hoop after UW called time out, still down 62-61. Dentmon misses the shot and it goes out of bounds off UW. Both Dentmon and Romar thought he got fouled by Robbie Cowgill, and in looking at the replay, I’ve certainly seen less contact called. Weiss even says at first it’s a foul before backtracking when he sees the replay. On execution, you can maybe fault him for not being stronger to the hoop. But as a decision, it wasn’t a bad one and with how quickly he went to the hoop, was likely one of the main options on the play.
Dentmon’s final shot is a 3-pointer with seven seconds left after WSU had taken a three-point lead. This is the play where Hawes originally pops out to the three-point line, likely ready to take a three — as he had done successfully against USC — only to be well covered by Ivory Clark. This entire play seems a little messed up, however, as it seems rather late developing all the way around, the reason Clark was able to quickly get up on Hawes. By the time Dentmon got the ball, there was little else to do but fire up a three and hope, and that’s what he did.
My point, I guess, is that I would really fault Dentmon for his decision to shoot on only one of the five shots — the jumper with eight seconds left on the shot clock. One came at the end of the shot clock, another was a close-in putback on a rebound, the other is the drive to the hoop where a foul certainly could have been called, and then the three-pointer at the end.
The only other shots in the 3:31 span were the putback by Brockman, the missed three by Oliver with 1:19 left and then the three-pointer by Appleby with three seconds left after WSU went ahead by four.
Interesting to note in all of his is how the Cougars kept giving UW chances. WSU was 0-1 from the field with two turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds from the 4:03 mark until there were 17 seconds left.

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