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Husky Men's Basketball

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

February 21, 2009 at 7:54 PM

USC postgame

The Huskies had a feeling this might be a good day as they got prepared at their team hotel in downtown Los Angeles, a few miles away from USC’s Galen Center.
As they began getting taped and into their uniforms, they watched on TV as Washington State beat UCLA.
“I could hear guys in their rooms, cheering,” said UW forward Jon Brockman.
Said Quincy Pondexter: “I would look at the score after halftime and it was like, ‘Man, those guys are going to beat them.’ It was like, ‘God is helping us out. God is helping us out,’ and he definitely did.”
If not God, it was definitely Cougars guard Taylor Rochestie, who scored 33 points as WSU beat UCLA 82-81, a result that the Husky players instantly realized gave them another opportunity to put their own stamp on the Pac-10 race. Then, once at the arena, they heard that Cal had lost to Oregon State, further clearing out some room at the top.
“We got two gifts today,” Brockman said.
And after a little bit of struggle, the Huskies finally took advantage, beating USC 60-51 here in front of 7,325 and again taking command of the Pac-10 race.
“It’s definitely getting close,” Brockman said of a Pac-10 title. “Real close.”
Indeed, all the Huskies have to do is win three games at home, where they are 14-1 this season, and the title will be theirs. Of course that’s easier said than done since the three in question are Arizona State, Arizona and Washington State.
But the Huskies proved again Saturday that there’s no reason anymore to doubt the seriousness of their approach.
They didn’t shoot well (22-58 and 1-10 on three-pointers), had a season-low four assists and lost 16 turnovers.
But when it mattered most, the Huskies simply willed their way to the win, outscoring USC 16-3 in the final 7:28.
And when it was over, UW coach Lorenzo Romar said it was one of the most satisfying wins in years.
“When the chips were down, like they were tonight with so much at stake, and you see your team rally up like that, just rally up and come together and say, ‘We will not put up with losing this game,’ that’s great to see as a coaching staff,” Romar said.
Or as Pondexter said: “The way that we hustled and scrapped the entire 40 minutes and stuck together the entire time helped us come out with the win.”
It also helped that Pondexter had what might have been his most important game as a Husky. With the Trojans determined to keep Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas from beating them, it was left to Pondexter to fill the void.
“There are only so many people you can game plan for,” Romar said. “You’ve got to pick your poison. That’s why it’s great to have multiple guys averaging double figures.”
So Pondexter was the weapon the Trojans were willing to let UW have, and ultimately he killed USC, hitting 10-13 shots, scoring eight in a row in the final minutes as the Huskies rallied. Several came on jumpers as Pondexter looked more confident with his perimeter shot than he has maybe his entire UW career, not seeming bothered at all by the defense of DeMar DeRozan, allegedly a lottery pick though suddenly looking like someone who should stay around a while.
“It was one of those games where everything falls into place,” Pondexter said. “This whole second half of the season, everything is falling into place brick-by-brick, like building a house. It’s just a tremendous feeling.”
Take Pondexter out and the rest of the Huskies were 12-45 shooting — Thomas had a career-low four points, guarded heavily all day long by Dwight Lewis and a collapsing USC defense in the middle, and Dentmon was 2-10.
But there were lots of other gritty performances such as Brockman’s 14 rebounds despite still battling strep throat; Overton coming off the bench to put the clamps on Daniel Hackett and score seven points with three steals; Darnell Gant hitting a big jumper during the key run and also grabbing five rebounds with his usual stellar defense in 22 minutes; and Matthew Bryan-Amaning showing some signs of life with seven points in 19 minutes.
“I’m just ecstatic we were able to find a way to win,” Romar said.
And throughout, they admitted that the looming possibility of a regular-season title proved movitating.
Dentmon said that during a time out with 1:31 left, Romar talked of the possibility of the title, telling the players that “we’ve got the championship on the line.”
Romar acknowledged he’s being more open about it now with his players, saying “we see that it is within our reach if we take care of business.”
When the game ended, Dentmon and Brockman shared a hearty hug, realizing that they might eventually look back at this game as the one that got the Huskies over the hump.
“One of the best feelings in this game at this level is to go on the road and be down against an opponent that is just physical and talented and scrappy and a heck of a defensive team and strap it on and come back in a physical contest and come out on top,” Romar said.
OTHER NOTES
— Romar said Overton was “the catalyst” for the team’s rally in the first half after the 22-11 deficit. It was an interesting day for Overton as he was a target of abuse from the USC student section all night, especially after an air ball on a three-pointer early in the second half, which brought the inevitable “air ball” chant the rest of the game. Overton said he heard from some of them about how he was a commit to USC for a while before changing his mind, “so they kind of still hate me. And I was talking a lot of head just getting hyped trying to hype myself and my team, and they didn’t like the way I hyped my team up so they started saying bad things to me.”
— As mentioned above, Overton’s biggest contribution might have been slowing down USC PG Daniel Hackett. Hackett had seven points before the game was 10 minutes old but scored just four the rest of the way. “He’s been playing a significant role for us the last two, three weeks,” Romar said.
— Pondexter said later he might call and thank Rochestie for his efforts in beating the Bruins today. He said he’s gotten to know him the last few years and considers him a friend. “But I know he’s going to try to do the same thing to us in two weeks,” he said, referring to UW’s home game with the Cougars March 7.
— USC coach Tim Floyd said UW’s defense was the difference. “They changed the game by pressuring us up there,” he said. “We really struggled with it. They took advantage of us on the boards (UW led 40-30). They pounded us on the offensive glass and got second opportunities. Credit their effort. They are long and quick. … They got 22 baskets off of four assists, so that was put back baskets and manufactured plays. Pondexter took over the game and we couldn’t stop him.”
All for now.

Comments | Topics: top 25, UCLA

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