Huskies beat No. 5 Bruins, end losing streak
Seattle Times staff reporter
Maybe it was hearing the talk around town, after Thursday's rollover against USC, that the season was finished for the Washington Huskies.
Maybe it was reading comments like the one from ex-Husky Will Conroy questioning players' toughness and attitude.
Or maybe it was seeing their coach take the unusual step of benching a starter 57 seconds into the game for jogging back on defense.
No one was really sure exactly what it was, they just knew they liked what happened next — a 71-61 win over No. 5 UCLA in front of 10,000 at Edmundson Pavilion that revived ghosts of seasons past and put life back into this one.
"I think a lot of people were ready to shut the door on this team," UW forward Jon Brockman said after the Huskies improved to 13-11 overall, 4-7 in Pac-10 play. "And we're not going to let that door close."
The win snapped a four-game losing streak, including three in a row at home, and came in a game in which the Huskies were nine-point underdogs, the largest point spread against them in Seattle since before the program's rebirth under Lorenzo Romar in 2004. The latest indignity had been a 73-59 loss to USC on Thursday.
"Our pride was tested," Romar said. "Our manhood was tested. And we rose to the challenge."
Indeed, the Huskies took the game to the Bruins all day, outrebounding the leading rebounding team in the conference 44-36, holding the Bruins to 21-of-61 shooting (1 of 16 on three-pointers) and appearing to win every battle for a loose ball or tipped rebound. It was the fourth consecutive loss in Seattle for UCLA (21-3, 9-2).
"We didn't match their intensity today," said UCLA freshman center Kevin Love, who was held to 13 points, his lowest total since getting 11 against the Huskies on Jan. 10 in Los Angeles, thanks largely to a great defensive effort from Washington's Artem Wallace.
And intensity, as much as anything, was the battle the Huskies most wanted to win.
After the USC loss, coaches simply appealed to the team's pride. There was no extra running in practice, no unusual closed-door meetings. Just a call to arms.
"We start to hear people talk about what's wrong, saying we're not playing the way Husky basketball is supposed to be played," Romar said. "If you keep hearing those things and you have any pride, you respond to them."
Said Brockman: "One of the main keys on the board today before the game was to come out with passion and energy and leave it all out on the court for 40 minutes. That's something we haven't been showing the last few games."
And just in case they needed one final reminder, they got it when Romar noticed Venoy Overton not running as hard as desired to get back on defense in the first minute and immediately motioned for Dentmon to take his place.
Romar said it's something he had done earlier in the season but had gotten away from, thinking the team had earned a little rope. But after the USC game, he decided the message needed to be sent that "that is something we are not going to tolerate anymore."
Said Overton: "He said if someone is jogging back on defense, that's like a loser's attitude. After that I think everybody responded well to it and played well."
Washington took the lead with 10:05 to go in the first half and never gave it up. As UW led 35-28 at halftime, Dentmon and Ryan Appleby each had eight points and Quincy Pondexter seven, all showing an aggression on offense missing too often of late. Dentmon also helped bottle up UCLA guard Darren Collison, who finished with eight turnovers and a season-low three points.
UCLA cut the lead to three four times in the second half. But the Huskies never buckled, and Dentmon all but sealed the game with a layin that put UW up nine with 2:04 left.
UCLA cut the lead to four, but the Bruins got no closer. Appleby happily dribbled away the final seconds as Pondexter exhorted the crowd.
Romar hopes his team remembers those moments.
"It has to be etched in stone in our guys' minds that this is how much fun you have when you do this," he said.
Brockman, however, was left with mixed emotions.
"It's good to enjoy this win, but at the same time, we should all feel just horrible and sick and stupid for playing the last four games the way we played," he said. "After seeing what we can do when we really play together with effort and with intensity and have a good game, you can look back and just kick yourself."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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