Dec. 5, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) -Enough with the preliminaries. Bring on Gonzaga.
Deposed starter Ryan Appleby scored a career-high 24 points and heralded freshman Spencer Hawes added a season-high 21 in No. 13 Washington's 87-72 victory over Southern Utah on Monday night in what Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said was his young team's best game yet.
"That was the game we've been looking for, to put it together for all 40 minutes," Romar said.
And it was at the perfect time. The Huskies (7-0), with nine freshmen and sophomores on their 12-man roster, get their first true test Saturday in their first road game of the season at No. 18 Gonzaga. The Zags hold the nation's longest home winning streak - 44 games.
The matchup has been anticipated for months, largely because the contract between the instate rivals to play annually ends Saturday. Washington has lost seven of its last eight against Gonzaga, the only win being last December in Seattle.
The Huskies' last win at Gonzaga was in 1944, which was six games ago.
"I expect it to be wild," sophomore point guard Justin Dentmon said of his first game at the three-year-old McCarthy Athletic Center, where the Zags have never lost.
Dentmon had a career-high 11 assists Monday before leaving the game late with cramps in his leg and back.
Justin Allen scored 20 points to lead Southern Utah (6-3), which opened its season by upsetting Utah on the road. The Thunderbirds led the nation in 3-point shooting last season at 43 percent. But they were just 1-for-5 from long range during Monday's decisive first half.
Appleby could have helped that.
Replaced late last month as a starter by freshman Adrian Oliver, the blonde, mop-haired bombardier scored 21 points in the first half on 8-for-9 shooting - including 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
"A shooter is a shooter - he's got to keep shooting no matter what. I'm glad I did," said Appleby.
The junior, who transferred before last season from Florida, continually beat the Thunderbirds into the front court to create open shots for himself and teammates. By halftime, he already had career highs in points and shots made.
His final 3-pointer of the opening half was a deep fallaway with 32 seconds left that swished to give Washington its largest lead to that point, 49-35.
"Appleby just goes nuts in the first half," Southern Utah coach Bill Evans said, adding he tried all sorts of defenses against him.
"If he would have just been average, it might have been a different game."
Hawes, who sat out much of the first half with two fouls, got hot when Appleby finally cooled against more aggressive perimeter defense. Hawes scored three of Washington's first four baskets to begin the second half to push the Huskies' lead to 15.
"When you get that kind of balance on offense, it makes us tough to defend," Hawes said.
Appleby then kept Southern Utah down with yet another rainbow, this one from about 6 feet behind the 3-point line. His first points of the second half put the Huskies up 68-52 with 11 minutes left.
The Thunderbirds briefly cut the lead to 75-66 with 6:50 left on a 3-pointer by Allen. But Hawes answered with a left-handed scoop shot in the lane and then a free throw to repel Southern Utah's last charge.
Southern Utah led early, 10-6, behind six points from the quick, hard-driving Allen - while Washington was attempting just two shots and had seven turnovers in the first 5 minutes.
But then Appleby took over.
"When he shoots the ball like that, you don't think he's ever going to miss," Romar said. "Like ever. Like the kids say, 'Infinity."'