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Husky Men's Basketball

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March 7, 2009 at 10:24 PM

WSU post-game thoughts

I was almost thinking about breaking from blog tradition here and naming a Player of the Game for this one in the post-game entry.
Then I realized that singling out a Player of the Game is pretty much anti everything this team has stood for all season.
Who would you name?
Venoy Overton, whose offensive aggression was as key as his defensive work?;
Jon Brockman, who tied a career-high with 18 rebounds and took a key charge late in the game, among all the things he always does?;
Quincy Pondexter, who kept UW afloat offensively for much of the first half with 10 points and finished with a team-high 16?;
Justin Dentmon, who despite a not-so-great night overall, scored nine of his 12 points in the second half?;
Isaiah Thomas, who had just six points but saved two of them for his drive and dispy-do lay-in with 1:50 left that put UW up six?
All were performances or moments UW might not have won without making it fitting that in the game the Huskies had to win to get the outright Pac-10 title, it was another team effort that got it done.
“We just keep getting better at playing as a team,” Brockman said afterward.
So for that, the Huskies are Pac-10 regular season champs.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said later today’s win and this season tops the 2005 conference tournament title, signifying as it does dominance over an 18-game schedule.
And he made clear later that he wanted his players to enjoy it — that’s what the halftime speech about the scissors was all about, letting his players know there was a celebration ahead if they could complete the hard work.
“Today, in terms of the conference, it (the work) ended,” he said. “That’s the time to celebrate — for now.”
Indeed, Romar made it clear he sees this as only the beginning of what he hopes is a long March.
But there was much reason for celebration today.
This was a team that finished eighth last season, and was fifth in the Pac-10 pre-season poll. As Romar said later, no one outside the UW locker room really thought what happened Saturday would happen at all.
As the game ended, the four coaches engaged in a long bear hug.
This was sweet redemption for all of them, as well, after the dip of the last two years had some questioning where the program was headed. Romar always kept the faith, confident that some added experience and maturity along with an infusion of youth would do the trick.
Still, some wondered. I remember hearing people talk before the season that Romar had yet to prove he could build a winner on his own, the previous Sweet 16 runs having come in large part with players he inherited.
That criticism can’t be leveled at Romar anymore. Everything about this team is his, from the style of play to the style of the players.
Romar’s little impromptu dance, and the emphatic fist-pumping of assistants Jim Shaw and Cameron Dollar as they cut down the nets was proof of what this title meant to all of them.
But as is always the case in sports, the celebration won’t last long. The Huskies will return to practice Monday and leave Wednesday for the Pac-10 Tournament, where they will suddenly have a bull’s-eye on their collective back. It’s hard to win both the regular season and conference tourney titles in the same year — it’s only happened three times in the seven tournaments held since it was born again in 2002.
Romar said later that winning the regular season title won’t diminish the team’s hunger for the tourney crown — they want as much as they can get this year.
Saturday was another day when the Huskies made it clear it’s dangerous to doubt them.
— Pondexter has now scored 10 or more in 10 straight games, the longest stretch of his career.
— Overton’s 14 points were a season-high — his career-high is 19 last year against Arizona.
— Brockman has 10 or more rebounds in seven straight games, his best stretch of the season.
— It was another game where UW won despite not shooting all that well, finishing at 43.6 percent overall and 2-10 on three-pointers. UW has shot 46 percent or worse in its last four Pac-10 games and 11-52 on three-pointers in those same four games. You’d think that might be a little worrisome going forward, but UW won all four of those games, showing it’s figured out how to survive off-shooting, a handy trait come tournament play.
Darnell Gant somewhat quietly had one of his better games of late with six points and six rebounds in 21 minutes, his most of either stat since the Cal game Feb. 5.
— UW had just five assists, second-fewest of the season but also had just 11 turnovers, tying the fewest of the season, and only three in the second half.
All for now.



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