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Husky Men's Basketball

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March 21, 2009 at 7:53 PM

Purdue post-game

As happens whenever a team loses a game that ends a season, there’s a lot to chew on.
I won’t try to do it all here, saving looking at next year and all that for the next few days, other than a couple of notes, though that was a big topic in the locker room afterward, in part because it’s our last chance to talk the players as a group for a while.
For now, I’ll concentrate on today’s game (though I’ll leave the nuts and bolts details to the game story, which you can find here).
And as also happens after heartbreaking season-enders, there’s a lot of anger out there. A few of you have already sent me notes blaming it all on the officials. Those of you in that group likely won’t be soothed to know the official who called a number of the fouls out front — such as the ones on Venoy Overton — was Tom O’Neill, who works the Big Ten and Big 12 primarily during the season.
Overton said later he thought the officials called it too closely. UW coach Lorenzo Romar noted mostly that it seemed to be called tight out front but loose underneath, where a lot of contact was allowed.
But the Huskies know they couldn’t blame all of this one on the officials. As Jon Brockman said “the smarter team won.”
Purdue was also the more confident team early — one observer close to the team said the Huskies seemed jittery in the opening stages, a contrast to a Purdue team that had been to the second round the last two seasons, as well.
Then once the Huskies got behind was the worry over keeping everyone in it mentally.
“It seemed like some people weren’t thinking we were going to win and come back,” said Darnell Gant. “People’s heads were down.” Romar’s constant cajling on the sidelines helped get them up and back in the game.
But there were other factors, as well. Purdue outrebounded UW most of the game, in large part because their guards seemed to be a step quicker getting to long rebounds — Keaton Grant had 10.
Purdue’s guards also didn’t get flustered in the heat of UW’s pressure defense as the Boilermakers had just 11 turnovers, one of the lower totals of the season against the Huskies.
Romar also said he thought the Huskies again fell victim in the first half to a common trait in losses of not being patient enough offensively and rushing shots while also struggling against Purdue’s pressure defense. “I didn’t think we handled it well in the first half,” he said. “I thought in the second half we handled it much better.”
But while UW got close, the Huskies just couldn’t ever get the tie or the lead. With a favorable crowd on hand, the momentum seemed ready to run about a dozen times, but Purdue always answered with a stop or a basket to take it back.
“It just came down to the fact that they made plays and we couldn’t get stops when we needed to get them,” said Jon Brockman.
So one of the more memorable seasons in Husky history ends a bit too soon — there’s such a difference in perception between losing in the second round and getting to the Sweet 16 in terms of a season’s ultimate legacy, though the Pac-10 title and 26 wins will always make this a special team.
“I’m just proud of these guys and thank them that they were able to get me back to this tournament my senior year,” Brockman said.
OTHER NOTES
Jerry Brewer says in his column that Purdue matched UW’s toughness.
— This might have been the greatest concentration of points in just three guys UW has had all season as Brockman, Thomas and Pondexter combined for 64. That’s probably not the kind of balance that serves UW best. Romar said later that UW just didn’t click real well on offense the last few weeks of the season. Sadly, Justin Dentmon’s dropoff is hard to ignore as a factor in that. He was 2-8 for just five points in the game and was 3-14 for nine points.
— Pondexter, however, had a great tournament with 43 points hitting 16-32 shots. Said Romar: “He finished this year becoming one of the better players in the country, I think.”
— I wrote about Overton’s tough day in the notebook, which you’ll be able to find here soon. In a nutshell, he said the officiating negated his ability to play his usual pressure defense and ability to impact the game the way he had.
— UW got just three points from its bench. The only time UW had fewer was two points in the win at WSU when Elston Turner was injured.
— I thought a big play was the end of the first half when Purdue got the offensive rebound and turned it into a dunk to go up 11 at the break. If UW had gotten the rebound, maybe the Huskies are down just six or seven. Kind of felt like the opposite of the Thursday game when Pondexter had the three-point play right before the half.
— Romar said later he expects all the 2009 recruits to be eligible and arrive as scheduled. He will hold end-of-season meetings with players in a week or so — the school is now on spring break. The biggest issue is Joe Wolfinger, who said this week he doesn’t expect to be back, though nothing is official on that until he meets with Romar.
The road home awaits, so all for now.

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