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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

January 31, 2009 at 6:22 PM

ASU post-game

There was no going cold for this season in the Arizona heat for the Huskies.
Instead, the Huskies got the bounceback win they needed today in Tempe after the stumble in Tucson on Thursday night, beating the Sun Devils 84-71. (Here’s the game story with a lot of the nuts and bolts of what happened).
And it means that at the halfway point of the Pac-10 season the Huskies are tied for first with UCLA at 7-2, something Husky coach Lorenzo Romar said isn’t necessarily a surprise.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you I thought there’s no way we could be in first place at this point,” he said. “You assess your team (in the pre-season), you meet as a staff, you look at what you have and try to put a team out there you feel can be successful. When we put our team out there and looked at it, we thought if everything came together we would be at the top somewhere.”
And the reasons why Romar thought that were evident all game long today as UW got its 16th win of the season — tying its win total for all of last year.
Not only does this team have more offensive weapons than the last two years — Justin Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas combining for 55 points on a day when Jon Brockman wasn’t really need much to score — but it also has more versatility everywhere.
As much as Dentmon and Thomas were the story for their offense, so were Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday for their defense on James Harden, who was held to 15 points, seven below his Pac-10-leading average, and just five through the first 25 minutes of the game, by which point the Huskies led by 19.
Romar decided to use Gant due to his size and ability to move all over the floor. Romar said he felt confident in the move after seeinig how Gant defended guards when the Huskies played Oklahoma State earlier this year, a team that started four guards.
“He’s a guy who can guard 3-4 positions and do a good job,” Romar said.
Gant said he was excited at the chance in part because he has known Harden since the sixth grade — each grew up in Los Angeles.
“I just had to do what the coaches asked me,” he said. “They told me to deny, and if he does catch the ball, back up a little, but if he gives it up, pressure up and don’t let him get it back. That was the main objective.”
Holiday, meanwhile, is emerging as the team’s defensive stopper, and also chipped in with a team-high 10 rebounds today.
Holiday said he wanted to send Harden to his right and make him give the ball up. It worked as Harden took just two shots in the first half.
Harden said later that it wasn’t UW”s defense, just the fact that he was trying to get his teammates into the game.
“It was just one of those days,” he said. “It wasn’t their defense.”
Whatever, it worked for UW as ASU’s other guards continued their shooting struggles, notably a 2-14 day for PG Derek Glasser.
Dentmon and Thomas, meanwhile, were unstoppable, combining to hit 15-26 shots overall, 5-10 three-pointers and 20-26 free throws.
“They give us something we haven’t had the last couple of years, that when we just can’t get anything going, it gets stagnant, (they are) someone who can just make a play,” Romar said.
At the moment, getting UW halfway to a Pac-10 title.
Here are some other notes:
— Thomas had a little exchange with ASU center Jeff Pendergraph in the second half that he said was just “heat of the battle stuff.” But he added that “he was talking a little mess, but I wasn’t backing down.”
— Dentmon scored 53 points in the two games here, going 15-26 from the floor and 11-19 from the three-point line. We’ll have to wait and see, but that gets him into Player of the Week territory again.
— The Huskies again used four guards for significant portions of the game. Romar noted that ASU is a small team, often using four guard-swingman type players around Jeff Pendergraph, so it made sense matchup-wise, and that he also wanted ballhandlers on the floor for the end of the game.
— Harden did heat up a bit in the middle of the second half, scoring 10 points from the 15:00 mark to the 5:59 mark. But the Huskies then went to a zone and that helped slow him down. Romar said if the Huskies hadn’t done that “he might have scored 20-25 points and we wouldn’t have come out with the win.”
— Another good FT shooting game for UW as the Huskies hit 26-34, 76.5 percent, the fourth time in give games at that percent or better.
— Romar on where the team is now: “I think we can compete with any team in the league, there is no doubt about that. But we obviously still have some difficult challenges, some tough road games.”
— Brockman and Dentmon each finish their careers 4-0 at ASU. Brockman said this win was huge with two more road games next weekend in the Bay Area and following the UA loss. “It’s huge getting a split here,” he said. “You come out and don’t play your best basketball on Thursday and to be able to bounce back on the road, it’s a tough thing to do, and the guys showed a lot of maturity. JD really just put us on his back tonight and led the team.”
All for now.

Comments | Topics: top 25, UCLA

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