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Husky Men's Basketball

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February 10, 2008 at 7:07 PM

UCLA post-game

So everyone who really saw this one coming raise your hand?
Thought so.
To my minor credit, I did write that the Huskies would give a “more combative effort,” which probably wasn’t the best way to word it. But it was pretty easy to assume that the Huskies would show a lot more life than they had against USC on Thursday if only because it would have been pretty hard to have shown any less.
But it was hard to know that the Huskies could do enough to beat UCLA no matter how hard they played.
Instead, the Huskies proved a lot of us wrong by winning today (71-61) and proved their coach right when he has insisted all year that this team has the capability to be an NCAA tournament contender.
“I felt,” Lorenzo Romar said later “this is what we are capable of doing.”
The obvious question is why UW hasn’t been doing it all season, one several of them admitted later is one they are asking themselves.
“There’s still a question mark to ask of ourselves — why couldn’t we play like this a while back?,” said guard Justin Dentmon, saying thinking of the lost opportunities for UW this season makes the Huskies “sure to be sick.”
And maybe this was just the perfect trap against a UCLA team that has been rolling but was coming off a tough game in Pullman and had sat around for two days and probably figured this one would be easy.
Dentmon said he thought the Bruins overlooked the Huskies “because are at the bottom of the Pac-10.”
No one disputed that UW played like it wanted it more.
“‘They did a really good job playing physical and playing tough,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland. “They outplayed us.”
Maybe there’s simply something about playing the Bruins in Seattle. UW has now won four in a row against UCLA at Hec Ed, also winning by 10 points against a No. 2-rated Bruins squad last year.
Dentmon said the matchup was a good one because UCLA plays physical and the Huskies figured the refs would let a lot of stuff go.
“We just felt that the refs were going to let us play,” he said. “Lately the refs haven’t been letting us play our physical game. Tonight we knew they were a physical team so that allowed us to go out and play more physical.” (Brief aside — interesting that several of the Huskies seemed to like the way the game was called when I’m sure all 10,000 here thought it was a horribly officiated contest).
And somehow, it all worked.
Romar had openly questioned his ability to reach this team during a teleconference with reporters on Friday, the kind of thing that makes you think this team had reached a real desperate state.
But coaches and players insisted afterward the last few days following the USC debacle weren’t really that out of the ordinary.
Romar said the team simply came back to practice Friday ready to work, the way it has all season after tough defeats.
“Great attitude,” he said. “When we came back and were together in practice, I felt good about our team.”
Players said they simply talked about playing as hard as possible for 40 minutes.
“We played tough, that was the biggest thing,” said Tim Morris. “We played tough through the whole game, not just 5-10-20-30 minutes. We had some pride.”
They also had some aggression as guys like Dentmon and Quincy Pondexter took it to the basket as hard as they have all season.
Dentmon was an obvious key, scoring 20 points — his most since getting 22 against Long Beach State on Nov. 26 — and also helping hold Darren Collison to three points.
Artem Wallace did a good job limiting the touches of UCLA center Kevin Love, though Love also complained later that he thought he was open but that his teammates didn’t do a great job of getting him the ball.
Jon Brockman, who says his groin is getting a little better, had 17 rebounds to lead a tenacious effort on the boards as UW outrebounded UCLA 44-36, just the third time this year UCLA has been outrebounded.
It was a true team effort with guys like Justin Holiday coming off the bench to play nine solid minutes of defense on Josh Shipp, Matthew Bryan-Amaning scoring six points in 18 minutes and also getting two steals and Venoy Overton coming back from an early benching for jogging back a little too leisurely on defense to turn in a couple of big plays.
It may not have been enough to save the season, but it sure made it a lot more interesting. Seven games left to see if this is the start of something or just a flash-in-the-pan.
We’ll have more coverage of the game on-line and in the paper tomorrow.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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